Microsoft has an answer for why its number of women has decreased

18 Nov 2016

Microsoft store. Image: Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

At a time when Silicon Valley is trying to change its image as a male-dominated industry, Microsoft is seeing the number of women employees drop. However, it believes it has an answer for this.

Microsoft is just one of many tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the world trying to combat decades of sexism and increase the levels of diversity, by hiring more women and racial minorities.

Yet over the course of the past year, the company has seen the number of women drop by 1pc from 26.8pc to 25.8pc.

This is unlikely to go down well with campaigners calling for greater parity between the genders in companies like Microsoft, but the company’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, Gwen Houston, has said there is a reason for the decline.

“This decline was largely due to the business decision we shared last year to restructure our phone hardware business, which resulted in the closure of some factories outside the US,” she said in a blog post.

Finding silver lining in the cloud

This restructuring that she referred to was the winding down of its Nokia handset factories, which saw 1,350 people let go at its plant in Finland.

Trying to find a silver lining in a stormy cloud, Houston said that outside of factory work, the percentage of women at Microsoft actually increased by 0.4pc.

She also cited the fact that representation of women in technical roles increased 0.6pc, while the representation of women in leadership roles has increased at the same rate, with three of the company’s 11 board members comprising women.

“While we are disappointed in the overall decline in the representation of women at the company, we know why it happened,” Houston said.

“We are encouraged by the modest gains we’re seeing in female representation in technical and leadership roles, and even more significantly, by the hiring trends of the past year that resulted from our efforts to recruit top-notch female talent.”

Microsoft store. Image: Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic