Microsoft, Google refuse to disclose U.K. female employee counts

Microsoft, Google refuse to disclose U.K. female employee counts

Summary: Despite Google celebrating International Women's Day with its own home page 'doodle,' both Microsoft and Google have refused a U.K. politician's request to disclose female employee counts, citing "confidentiality."

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Microsoft and Google have refused to disclose to a prominent U.K. member of Parliament how many female employees they have on their employee roster.

It comes on the day that we celebrate International Women's Day, in which we collectively highlight the advancements and challenges women still face in this liberalized day and age in areas of politics, education, employment, and equality.

According to Chi Onwurah, Labor MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, out of the ten technology and engineering companies surveyed, both Microsoft and Google cited "confidentiality as the reason for refusing the data," speaking to ComputerWorld U.K.

She said: "That suggests that either Google and Microsoft do not know how to aggregate and anonymise such information in which case one might be legitimately concerned about their involvement in Big Data, or alternatively that they have so few women employees it is impossible to anonymise the data."

Despite refusing to disclose the figures, Google has its own 'doodle' on its search engine front page commemorating the day.

Some companies were more forthcoming than others.

According to some of the research, looking at the major IT players out of the ten surveyed:

  • BAE Systems, which has a booming IT infrastructure as a result of the defense technologies it rolls out to global military divisions, has an 8 percent slice of its U.K. engineering workforce as female, with 5 percent of the executive engineering community.

  • ARM, a British chip designer, said 5 percent of its U.K. engineering unit is female, though it doesn't have any female members in senior management. The company noted that while other firms were hiring above the national average, the chip maker's "percentages are higher outside the U.K., especially in India."

  • Ford, which continues to bring technology to its automotive divisions—such as in-car technology, has 16 percent of its U.K. IT staff as female, with one female member of the Ford of Britain board.  

Google said that it has a number of schemes in place to mentor female computer science students or related degrees, with more than 200 students from 46 U.K. universities applying. It also has the Anita Borg Scholarship, a scheme for women in the technology field, which has helped more than 800 female technology students since it began.

Microsoft did say, despite its refusal to participate, that its number in IT professional roles is "significantly higher" than the national average of 14 percent. It's also mandated its managers to ensure that every succession slate has at least one woman, and to ensure that interview teams include at least 1 woman.

In a separate post on ComputerWorld U.K., Onwurah stated: "Right now women make up only 12 percent of professional engineers and 15 percent of those applying for computer science degrees." 

"Also striking was the fact that the two companies that refused to release any numbers were Google and Microsoft. Both are in IT, and are relatively young when compared to the likes of Shell, BP, Ford and Rolls-Royce."

Topics: IT Employment, United Kingdom

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  • Minor correction

    "Google said that it has a number of schemes in place to mentor female computer science students or related degrees, with more than 200 students from 46 U.K. univerisities applying. It also has the Anita Borg Scholarship, a scheme for ASSIMILATING women into the technology field, which has helped more than 800 female technology students since it began."
    Non-Euclidean
    • Truly hilarious

      I spat out my coffee. I hope you're pleased with yourself. :)
      zwhittaker
  • Why should any company disclose that type of info?

    At that point you open yourself to outsiders deciding what is "the appropriate amount" of women you should have in your employ, and deciding what action should be taken against you to get that number up to what they decide is appropriate.

    Now you're forced to hire based on that, as opposed to a person's qualifications.
    William Farrel
    • Fact is, I work in a very unbalanced industry.

      There are no women in my department. The last woman we had was a university student fulfilling an internship over he summer. When I go on training courses, it is either mostly men or all men.

      This does need to change. However telling my boss that the next person he hires has to be female is not the way to achieve this. The gender breakdown of our applicants for our summer internship was probably 90% male.

      Telling companies they have to hire someone based on gender, age, race, sexuality, favourite colour or whether they are a dog or cat prerson is rediculous. Equality has to come from treating people equally.

      It may be convenient for the government to force companies to sort out it's problems and look as though they have solved inequality, but the inequality remains, exasperated by not treating people as equals to start with.

      Particularly within the IT industry more has to be done to interest women in continuing an interest in computers past compulsory education, or make it easier for women looking to retrain in the IT sector to be able to do so, and that is the governments job.

      When I studied at school, my maths class was around 1/3 female, my IT class had two girls in it.
      At university, out of around 90-100 people on my course, I can think of 3 women off the top of my head. It's those numbers that need to change for the future of our industry, not the demographic of our office.
      MarknWill
  • Interesting to note...

    ..the Bing Desktop picture of the day is of people releasing paper lanterns in Russia to commemorate International Women's Day.

    As for Ms. Onwurah's quote: "That suggests that either Google and Microsoft do not know how to aggregate and anonymise such information in which case one might be legitimately concerned about their involvement in Big Data, or alternatively that they have so few women employees it is impossible to anonymise the data."

    Considering you`re lumping Google (the kings of data mining) in that statement, it is likely not the former. Could possibly be the latter, however I suspect that neither of these companies are *that* lacking of female employees that the scenario is all that likely, either.

    It is probably the answer behind door number 3: Neither company considers responding to the survey to be a particularly valuable use for their time or effort.

    In fact, if I were an HR manager asked by a politician to provide that information on my employee records, I`d probably respond with a quick answer of `suck it`with a generous helping of `don`t let the door hit you on the way out`on the side. And then I`d get back to work - you know - providing those employees (male and female alike) a reason for being employed.
    daftkey
  • Tell them

    to search their taxpayer database if they really need to know.
    timspublic1@...
    • But that would mean...

      Ms. Onwurah would have to do the work herself (or have a staffer do it)!

      MUCH easier to get a person paid by someone else to waste their time.
      gevander
  • Our vision about Microsoft

    its not a great move
    Natty Pangolin
    • What's that supposed to mean?

      "It's not a great move"? As in not telling?

      Since when should private info be made public?
      William Farrel
  • Some Employees Don't Want It Disclosed Whether They're Male Or Female

    Some feel their sex is a private matter.
    ldo17