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

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."
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

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."

Editorial standards