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One year after pledging to do more against racial injustice, Microsoft releases progress report

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One year after pledging to do more against racial injustice, Microsoft releases progress report
Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington. campus in December 2020 when most employees were working from home. (Photo by GeekWire / Todd Bishop)

Almost a year after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a promise To step up its game in the fight against racial injustice, the company has launched a report sharing your progress.

The Redmond-based cloud and software company launched a broad initiative following the assassination of George Floyd, setting goals to increase the racial diversity of its employees, working to support racially diverse business associations and suppliers, and empowering black communities in the whole country.

The report released Wednesday, titled Racial Equity Initiative: Strengthening Our Communities, focuses more narrowly on the company’s accomplishments in that last piece aimed at communities. He named four main areas:

  • Helping justice reform: Microsoft has to five-year, $ 50 million program to work on justice reform and projects include research and data sharing on justice issues and advocacy best public politics. Last year, it facilitated the publication of decades of arrest data and helped launch violence prevention programs in 20 cities.
  • Greater access to broadband and devices: Initiated programs to increase access to broadband, devices, and technical support in eight racially and ethnically diverse cities; and started a funding program to help bad credit customers buy digital devices.
  • Strengthen education and technological training: Microsoft provided $ 5 million this year to 16 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), provided support for K-12 computer science programs, and awarded $ 15 million to help with workforce training and other programs provided by 50 Black-run nonprofit organizations.
  • Provide funding and technical support for black-led nonprofits: Of the companyIt brought together 1,000 community-based organizations for technical support, awarded $ 1.8 million in grants, and created a database of 36,000 black-led nonprofits that could be partners in the future.

Fred humphries, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of US government affairs, is helping lead the effort. He is grateful for the company’s response to the murder of Floyd and other African Americans.

“It was a moment for me personally,” Humphries said, “as an African-American man who worked at Microsoft for 20 years, to see how not only the Blacks at Microsoft, which is an employee resource group, but also to see Microsoft community in general, a lot of people… saying, ‘Hey, we have to do something.’

Some of the measures announced a year ago built on existing programs and expanded. Microsoft has been working for many years to increase the ethnic, racial and gender diversity of its company. While progress has been slow and even regressed in some areas over time, the company has been recognized as a leader in the space and has been given credit in particular for its transparency.

“As noted in the Microsoft report, social inequality is deeply ingrained in our society. If companies are silent on the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, they are likely contributing to social inequality, ”he said. Elizabeth umphress, a professor at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, by email.

Last week, Fortune appointed the Top 20 Fortune 500 companies for diversity and inclusion, analyzing 14 metrics, including board and employee diversity. Microsoft was in the first place. The region’s other tech giant, Seattle-based Amazon, was ranked 11th.

Fred Humphries, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of US government affairs. (Microsoft photo)

In April, Amazon released something limited data on the racial and gender composition of their workforce and plans outlined increase the number of black and female employees in the company. It is also promoting external efforts, with news this week of a initiative in Georgia to provide cloud computing training and education to 5,500 people over the next three years.

Despite high rankings among their corporate peers, both companies have faced allegations of discrimination in the past. In 2015, Microsoft was sued for gender discrimination and a series of new allegations of unfair treatment of female employees and sexual harassment emerged two years ago, prompting Nadella to promise to take action. Earlier this year, Amazon was sued by a Black manager for alleged racial and gender discrimination.

Microsoft has also faced challenges for doing too much to support diversity. In October, the company said that the United States Department of Labor under the Trump administration was investigating whether Microsoft’s goals of increasing the number of black employees in the United States were discriminatory. Humphries alluded to the fact that this was not an issue under Biden’s presidency and said his hiring policies were “complying with the law.”

The scrutiny examples from both sides highlight the importance of Microsoft’s actions.

“Companies like Microsoft have the potential to influence all aspects of our social, political and economic life,” he said. “In this way, they could have an influence similar to that of national or state governments.”

Celebrating the progress made so far in racial justice, Humphries made it clear that this was just the beginning and that the company was learning a lot from the efforts. One discovery that surprised him was the lack of broadband access for black and racially diverse communities, even within cities. Nor did he expect access to digital devices to be a challenge; About 17% of black adults in the US access the Internet only through cell phones.

“This is the first year,” he said of Microsoft’s initiative. “We have just started, we have more to do.”

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