Microsoft gender diversity gains erode in 2015

Microsoft's job cuts that affected women involved in manufacturing phones resulted in a reduction of the overall percentage of the company's total workforce in 2015.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

While Microsoft has made some gains in improving racial and ethnic diversity at the company over the past year, it also saw the percentage of women employed at the company decline overall in 2015.

Last year, Microsoft officials were crowing that the percentage of women in its overall workforce grew from 24 to 29 percent. This year, that number was 26.8 percent, according to the latest global diversity numbers released by the company on November 23.

Microsoft officials attributed the decline from the restructuring of its phone hardware business. Jobs at factories producing its Windows Phones were held by more women than men, and a number of those factories were closed as part of Microsoft's 7,800 job cuts this year.

"In short, a strategic business decision made in the longer-term interests of the company resulted in a reduction of jobs held by female employees outside the U.S.," said Gwen Houston, General Manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion in a blog post about the latest results.

Microsoft did achieve improvements in diversity outside of the overall percentage of women employed. In the U.S., the company saw "modest" year-over-year increases in nearly all racial and ethnic categories, Houston noted. GeekWire has a breakdown of the actual numbers of employees (not just percentages) by race and gender in the U.S., based on Microsoft's 2015 EEO-1 report.

Additionally, the percentage of women on Microsoft's Senior Leadership Team is now at 27.7 percent, an all-time high for the company, Houston said. (That translates to three women out of out of the 12 members): Kathleen Hogan, head of Human Resources; Amy Hood, Chief Financial Officer; and Peggy Johnson, head of Business Development.)

Microsoft also will have three women on its board of directors if shareholders approve the two pending female nominees to the 11-member board.

"I want to emphasize that we are not satisfied with where we are today regarding the percentage of women in our workforce," Houston said. "Our senior leaders continue to be deeply committed to doing everything possible to improve these numbers."

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