Diversity problems plague Silicon Valley

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Diversity Problems Plague Silicon Valley

By Christina Farr

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc on Tuesday released a report on employee diversity, and its numbers are similar to those of other Silicon Valley companies, prompting Chief Executive Tim Cook to say there is still work to be done.

Diversity problems plague Silicon Valley
Members of the media review the new iPhone 5c during a new product announcement at Apple headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, in Cupertino, Calif. Apple’s latest iPhones will come in a bevy of colors and two distinct designs, one made of plastic and the other that aims to be “the gold standard of smartphones” and reads your fingerprint.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 02: Apple CEO Tim Cook walks off stage after speaking during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Tim Cook kicked off the annual WWDC which is typically a showcase for upcoming updates to Apple hardware and software. The conference runs through June 6. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
People walk into Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Monday, Aug. 20, 2012. On Monday, Apple set a new record for the most valuable company at $621 billion, beating Microsoft's 1999 high. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 09: Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., attends the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 9, 2014 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Many of the worlds wealthiest and most powerful business people from media, finance, and technology attend the annual week-long conference which is in its 32nd year. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 09: Tim Cook (L), chief executive officer of Apple Inc. and Eddie Cue, senior vice president of internet software and services at Apple Inc., attend the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 9, 2014 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Many of the worlds wealthiest and most powerful business people from media, finance, and technology attend the annual week-long conference which is in its 32nd year. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2011 file photo provided by Apple Inc., Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks to employees at a celebration of Steve Jobs' life, at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Jobs died Oct. 5 after battling pancreatic cancer. Apple is allowing the general public to get a look at a heartfelt and star-studded memorial service it held for employees to celebrate the life of Steve Jobs at its Cupertino headquarters last week. (AP Photo/Apple Inc., File)
A man walks past an Apple store employee which was closed off by a white curtain in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011. Apple closed a number of its stores for a memorial service for co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs. The service took place at company headquarters in Cupertino, and was also webcast to employees worldwide. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
An advertisement about iPhone is shown before an announcement at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Apple workers walk to a memorial service for Apple CEO Steve Jobs at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
The exterior of Apple headquarters is photographed in Cupertino, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011, after Apple co-founder Steve Jobs announced his resignation on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Exterior view of Apple Computer headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Friday, Aug. 4, 2006. As the stock option cloud over Apple Computer Inc. darkened, investors tried to determine Friday whether the company's popular products are powerful enough to overcome the potential accounting and legal risks facing the maker of the iPod and the Macintosh. The possibility that the improper handling of employee stock options might erase some of Apple's past profits or, even worse, plunge its renowned CEO, Steve Jobs, into a legal morass spooked some investors. Apple shares shed $3.40, or 4.9 percent, to $66.19 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
In this image provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, the headquarters for Apple Computer in Cupertino, Calif., is seen in this image, date unknown. Internet sleuths discovered that anyone using Microsoft's new "Virtual Earth" Web site for a birds-eye view of Apple's corporate headquarters saw only a grainy overhead photograph of what appears to be a single, nondescript warehouse and deserted parking lot, not Apple's sprawling campus with 11 modern buildings surrounding a plush courtyard. Microsoft said Monday, July 25, 2005, it's new mapping service was still in its testing phase and includes some older, black-and-white photographs from October 1991 for the neighborhood around Apple's headquarters
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The employee survey comes on the heels of recent reports from technology companies Google Inc and Twitter Inc, but it is unique in one significant way. It alone is accompanied by letter from a company CEO, in which Cook stresses the company's commitment to being "innovative in advancing diversity."

Blacks and Hispanics make up about 18 percent of Apple's workforce, a ratio that is about triple of those of most other tech firms. Nine percent of its workers did not disclose their ethnicity.

Apple breaks down the numbers into three categories: leadership, technology and non-technology. The technology category, which is 80 percent male, includes Genius Bar employees and engineers.

The numbers include its large contingent of store management employees. Apple runs 254 retail stores in the United States and 427 globally, according to its most recent quarterly report.

"As CEO, I'm not satisfied with the numbers on this page," he wrote. "They're not new to us, and we've been working hard for quite some time to improve them."

But Cook noted that Apple's definition of diversity goes beyond traditional categories such as race and gender. "It includes personal qualities that usually go unmeasured, such as sexual orientation, veteran status and disabilities," he wrote.

The diversity reports have spurred a national debate about the lack of diversity at Silicon Valley's tech companies and how to improve the ratio. At Google, some 70 percent of employees are also male, and 61 percent are white. Twitter's overall employee population is 70 percent male and 59 percent white.

While Apple's numbers are similar to those of its competitors, some experts say that the company is a step ahead of the rest.

"Apple will do everything it can to make their workforce look more like the population they serve," said Fred Sainz, vice president of communications and marketing at the Human Rights Campaign. For 13 years running, the HRC has awarded Apple a perfect score on its corporate equality index, which rates American workplaces on LGBT equality.

After taking the reigns, Cook promoted Cuban-American Eddy Cue to a leadership role at Apple, and brought on former Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts. The company also recruited Lisa Jackson, the first African American to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, to run its environmental efforts.

In recent years, Apple executives have spoken out publicly in support of a variety of social and environmental causes, including diversity, accessibility and human rights. Cook made an appearance at the San Francisco Pride Festival for the first time this summer to cheer on thousands of employees and their families who showed up. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/29/usa-gay-tech-idUSL2N0PA0IW20140629)

(Reporting By Christina Farr; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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