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Apple pushes diversity, but progress is slow

Despite minor improvements, the tech giant's US workforce remains overwhelmingly white and male.

Apple has stressed that improving diversity will take time.
James Martin/CNET

Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly stressed the importance of workplace diversity, but new numbers about the tech giant's workforce show little change.

The company made small gains over the past year in the percentage of its US employees who are Hispanic, Asian and black, according to an annual report to the US government. Apple's US workforce also includes a larger percentage of women: 30 percent in 2015, compared with 27.7 percent in 2014. Despite minor improvements, the Cupertino, California-based company remains primarily white and male.

Apple's numbers are similar to those from other large tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, and highlight the industry's lack of diversity. Tech companies are still dominated by men, with women filling about 15 percent of tech jobs on average. Silicon Valley giants have also come under increased scrutiny over the treatment of women and minorities, with some companies facing high-profile lawsuits and charges of discrimination.

The report, released over the weekend, reflects Apple's 72,494 US workers as of August 1, 2015. It shows that 8.7 percent of employees were black and 11.8 percent were Hispanic, compared with 8 percent and 11.5 percent in 2014, respectively. Employees of Asian origin saw the biggest gain at 17.4 percent in 2015, up from 16.3 percent the previous year.

Women made up a larger percentage of Apple's US workforce in 2015 over the previous year, but the share of women among the company's top ranks -- 7,356 managers and senior executives -- fell from to 27.1 percent in 2015 from 27.7 percent a year earlier.

In July, Apple's head of human resources stressed that improving diversity will take time. The "diversity challenge...didn't happen overnight so it's not going to be changed overnight," Denise Young Smith, Apple's vice president of worldwide human resources, said during a conference.

Apple said in a note on its diversity page that it doesn't consider the EEO-1 form the best measure of its progress. "The EEO-1 has not kept pace with changes in industry or the American workforce over the past half century," reads the note. "We believe the information we report elsewhere on this site is a far more accurate reflection of our progress toward diversity."

The company declined to comment further on the filing.