Dell Technologies hasn’t made significant progress in increasing the number of women and people of color that it employs, according to its latest report on the diversity of its workforce.
The Round Rock-based company said on the second-to-last page of its annual “Legacy of Good” report that the number of women it employs company-wide in 2017 was 28 percent -- a number that hasn’t changed in the past three years.
Dell also reported that the number of people of color it employs within its United States operations is at 27 percent, which also has not changed significantly in the last three years.
The computer maker and IT solutions provider defined “people of color” as minority groups that include Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics. The report did not give separate employment data for each of those specific groups.
These diversity statistics, which most major tech companies have been releasing on an annual basis for several years, highlight the persistent challenge that the tech industry faces in trying to diversify its workforce.
Very few tech companies have made significant progress in doing so, despite launching various programs, setting hiring goals and publicly highlighting the need to promote diverse hiring and retention.
These numbers include the EMC Corp. workforce that Dell absorbed when it purchased the data storage company for $58 billion last year. Before the EMC purchase, Dell reported that its workforce was 32 percent female, so the merger led to a drop of 4 percentage points in the total number of women employed.
Dell's numbers are similar to those of other large tech companies. At the top 75 Silicon Valley tech companies, women make up 30 percent of the workforce, according to a report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The same report found that Hispanic employees made up 6 percent of the workforce at those companies and black employees made up 3 percent.
However, a Dell executive said the workforce data shows there is room for improvement in its workforce diversity.
“It’s certainly not something we’re satisfied with,” said Erin Kitchen, vice president of diversity and inclusion for Dell. But she said that with a total workforce of 140,000 people, it’s difficult to “move the numbers” from one year to the next. “To move one percentage point takes a lot of change,” she said.
Kitchen also pointed to an oft-cited reason for why tech companies struggle with diversity: the pipeline of potential employees.
Tech employers often say it’s tough to hire more women and minorities with small numbers graduating from science, technology or engineering programs. National Science Foundation data shows that fewer women are graduating with computer science and engineering degrees.
But a federal report on tech diversity highlighted that 9 percent of graduates from the top 25 computer science programs are black, Hispanic or Native American and yet only 5 percent of large tech firms employ people from one of these under-represented groups.
“The pipeline is an issue for us,” Kitchen said, adding that Dell is trying to address this by supporting efforts that encourage young girls to seek careers in technology.
Dell Technologies also published how many women and people of color are employed in management positions. Women made up 23 percent of management positions in 2017, a number that is down one percentage point from the year before and unchanged from two years ago.
But there was one notable area of improvement for Dell when it comes to the diversity of its workforce: there are more people of color in management positions in the U.S. than two years ago. Today, 20 percent of Dell Technologies managers are people of color, up from 18 percent two years ago.
Kitchen said she couldn’t point to one program or policy that caused this increase, but said the company has launched a raft of efforts to improve the diversity of its workforce, including recruiting at historically black colleges and universities and partnering with groups that promote women in technology, such as the Anita Borg Institute.
Throughout its “Legacy of Good” report, Dell does not list a specific goal related to the diversity of its workforce, which is what diversity advocates suggest that tech employers do.
Dell does cite wanting to make the “DiversityInc Top 50,” and have 40 percent of its workforce enrolled in an employee resource group. One of Dell’s biggest employee groups is geared toward women.
Kitchen said Dell has contemplated setting specific diversity goals, but company leaders chose instead to address it internally. Because some departments, such as human resources or finances, might be more gender-balanced than departments that hire more engineers or computer scientists, it didn’t make sense to have a company-wide goal, she said. “We certainly are looking at the data internally,” she said.
“We share it for transparency and accountability,” Kitchen said. “I think holding ourselves publicly accountable is part of how we track progress and strive for progress.”
According to an American-Statesman analysis of the diversity data from major tech employers in Austin, most tech employers report that women make up about a third or less of their workforce.
Dell Technologies is one of the biggest private employers in Central Texas. Though the company doesn’t disclose how many people it employs locally, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce estimates it is 13,000.
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