Melinda Gates wants tech philanthropy to focus more on gender gap

Less talk, more walk.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
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Erin Carson
2 min read

A new report calls for Silicon Valley to direct more philanthropy toward supporting women in tech.

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Tech companies pour millions into philanthropies, but a new report says the efforts to hire, retain and promote more women is getting short shrift.

A report out Wednesday called Rebooting Representation found that about 5 percent of the tech industry's philanthropy and social responsibility efforts support women in tech. And only 0.1 percent of all such money is focused on women of color. The report is a joint effort of Pivotal Ventures, which is Melinda Gates' investment and incubation company, and McKinsey & Co., a management-consulting firm. 

"Despite many leaders' stated desire to bring more women into the sector, most companies do not invest significantly in improving the gender diversity in tech through their philanthropy," the report said.

The report comes at a time when conversations about diversifying the tech industry butt up against the reality that the needle is barely moving. When companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple release diversity reports, the percentages tick up by a point, stay the same or, in some cases, actually fall backward.

Thirty-two tech companies, including Google, Snap, Microsoft and LinkedIn, participated in the new report's survey. Those companies accounted for more than $500 million in philanthropic giving in 2017.

Companies largely focus on supporting K-12 programs. According to the report, tech companies could do more in higher education to build up the pool they'll be hiring from. The companies in the survey also acknowledged that they don't have a firm grasp of the most effective programs to invest in. Forty-two percent said they use "self-guided online research to drive their giving strategy." Efforts within a company can also be scattered and disjointed among departments like human resources, corporate social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion.

The report makes several recommendations including concentrating on more than just primary and secondary education, as well as investing more into efforts to remove the hurdles that women of color, specifically, must overcome.

"Focusing on the experiences of those who face the greatest number of barriers will spur solutions that ultimately improve the inclusion of the tech sector for all underrepresented groups," the report said.

It also recommends rigorously tracking progress to figure out what works and what doesn't.

In related news, 12 companies, including Adobe, Intel and Microsoft, will form the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition and commit $12 million toward doubling the number of women of color earning computer science degrees by 2025. Right now, 4 percent of computer science degrees go to women of color.

"If tech as a sector can translate the energy around gender diversity into collective, sector-wide action," the report said, "it will move beyond incremental improvement to significantly transform the face of the industry." 

The report's authors declined to comment.

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