Amazon’s Diversity Report Is Another White-Male-Dominated Tech Story

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Amazon is the latest tech company to drop diversity figures, quietly slipping them out on Friday, the day of choice for entities hoping to roll bad news into the rush of an impending weekend.

So what was Amazon keen not to shout about? It’s another lack-of-diversity-in-tech story. Of which there have been many already this year. (See also: Google’s diversity report from MayFacebook’s from JuneTwitter’s from July, eBay’s from JulyApple’s from August, and Pandora’s and Indiegogo’s, also from August.)

The big unsurprise is that, globally, Amazon’s workforce skews toward white men, with an overall workforce that’s 63 percent male to 37 percent female. The e-commerce giant has an especially heavy skew at the managerial level, with 75 percent of Amazon managers being men versus just a quarter being female. (Reminder: women make up about half the population of Planet Earth, although you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise at many a tech event.)

Amazon’s U.S. race and ethnicity numbers are similarly white dominated. Overall its U.S. workforce is 60 percent white but this rises to 71 percent of U.S. managers. Tellingly just 4 percent of U.S. Amazon managers are black, although 15 percent of the U.S. Amazon workforce is black.

Amazon diversity

Notably Amazon is not breaking out gender or ethnicity for technical job types — as several other tech companies have. Typically, levels of diversity shrink even further for pure-play technical roles. 

And considering Amazon’s business has a large number of warehouse fulfillment jobs it seems likely that a relatively large proportion of its black and hispanic workforce are actually employed in these less well paid, lower skilled roles. 

Comparing the diversity figures that Amazon has shared with other tech giants’ figures illustrates that it’s not the worst offender — certainly when it comes to gender imbalance.

Google’s overall diversity data for January pegged its gender imbalance at a horribly skewed 83 percent male. Meanwhile Apple and Twitter reported employee ratios of 70:30 in favor of men. While Facebook’s workforce was a not much better 69 percent male.

But on the overall U.S. ethnic minority employee front, Amazon comes out a little less diverse than some of its tech peers, including Twitter (59 percent white) and Facebook (57 percent).

Amazon being headquartered in Seattle, rather than in the more diverse cauldron of Silicon Valley, might be playing a role here. Although demographic census data for Seattle indicates the city has a larger black and Hispanic population than is being reflected in Amazon’s managerial workforce.

The largest minority ethnic group employed by Amazon at the U.S. managerial level are Asians who make up 18% of its managerial workforce. However only 4 percent of Amazon managers are black, and a further four per cent are hispanic.

The company employs some 150,000 staff worldwide.

“Amazon has hundreds of millions of customers who can benefit from diversity of thought,” is the line the company chose to kick off its 2014 diversity report with. Unfortunately its current workplace demographics suggest it’s risking the opposite kind of highly homogeneous thinking, owing to a glaring lack of diversity across its workforce, most especially in leadership positions.