SAP, Intel, Others Sign White House Inclusion Pledge

Companies that are more diverse are more successful, research shows; 32 companies signed a White House pledge to turn that knowledge into action.

diversity at tech companies

SAP, Intel, GitHub and Airbnb are among the 32 companies that have signed a White House Tech Inclusion Pledge. By doing so, the companies agreed to take action to make the tech community look more like the rest of the country, and to make diversity a management priority and a business imperative.

While women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population, at Twitter and YouTube in 2015, they were approximately 30 percent of the population, according to this visualization from Information Is Beautiful. And while Blacks and Latinos together comprise 28 percent of the nation, at those two companies, they're a collective 6 percent.

Further, the pledge site notes that only 1 percent of capital-backed startups are led by African-Americans, and 88 percent of tech patents have male-only invention teams.

"It's no longer about our differences as 'accepted,'" SAP CEO Bill McDermott said in a June 22 statement on the company's embrace of the pledge. "This misses the point completely. It's the differences that define our world view. It's the differences that create the fabric of our culture."

SAP has pioneered a number of programs that are pro diversity and inclusion. It announced plans to build new capabilities into its HANA platform that can help companies identify and avoid human biases—related to hiring, promotion and compensation—that contribute to imbalances in diversity.

Earlier this year, SAP became the first tech company in the United States to receive the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) certificate, which was launched at the World Economic Forum in 2011 and sets a global standard for diversity that's recognized across all industries.

SAP also works with historically black colleges and universities to train and support young talent in tech; it has three times received a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) Corporate Equality Index and has signed the HRC Equality Is Our Business Pledge, which pushes back against anti-LGBT legislation; it supports and trains veterans for high-tech careers; and as part of another program, it integrates people with autism into the workforce, with the goal of having 1 percent of the SAP workforce represented by people on the autism spectrum.

"For me, it's simple: I can't imagine leading nearly 20,000 employees in North America without a culture that embraces the benefits of diversity and inclusion," Jen Morgan, president of SAP North America, told eWEEK.

"The question of whether a diverse and inclusive workforce is good for business and the bottom line is one that I, along with many if not all of my peers, view as long-settled—but it's even deeper than the bottom-line results," she added. "McKinsey research points to quantifiable data that gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform and ethnically-diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform."

Morgan also stresses the importance of pushing past what she calls "single-threaded" diversity.

"It's when you bring together diversity of all types—ethnicity, age, gender, experience, etc.—that you start to see the magic as a leader," she explained. And then added, "Let me be clear: Our work in this area is far from complete. But our business and culture is stronger for its commitment to diversity and inclusion and our future is brighter as a result."

The pledge was a focus at this year's Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), held June 22 to 24 at Stanford University.

President Obama, in a taped message on the State Department site plugging the event, said that since the Summit's beginning in 2016, "I've seen firsthand what a difference it can make for entrepreneurs. Especially for women and people from marginalized communities. To connect with each other and get feedback on their ideas. To build the networks that can help turn their dream for a business or a program or an app into a reality."

At the Summit, Barbara Whye, deputy director of Intel's Diversity in Tech Initiative, presented the findings of a new Intel report, Decoding Diversity: The Financial and Economic Returns to Diversity in Tech.

Among its findings are that "every incremental percentage point in African-American and Hispanic representation at NASDAQ-listed tech companies can represent a 3 percent increase in revenues and a potential $300 billion to $370 billion annual increase in revenue for the technology sector."

The full representation of racial and gender diversity, the Intel research also notes, can add an additional $470 billion to $570 billion, based on a combination of increased market values and higher revenues.

Whye and her co-author, Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president at Intel, wrote in their foreword to the report, which includes data from nearly 170 companies, that the data "shows correlations between more diverse tech company workforces and higher revenues, profits and market value."

They hope that information will "foster dialogue, discussion and tactical strategies with key stakeholders," Whye and Brown added.