The Diversity Report Gap: Without Specific Goals, No Accountability

The diversity reports are back. Yesterday Yahoo became the most recent tech company to tell us how painfully similar its diversity numbers are to those it reported last year.

In an effort spurred by Google, every major tech company released a diversity report last year. Releasing the first reports last year was an important step for tech. It allowed the industry to realize the scope of its diversity problem and prompted public discussion about it. The companies should be applauded for taking that first step toward transparency and accountability.

But now a year later as the second diversity reports are released, it seems that accountability piece is missing.

Reporters are saying surprise, surprise, these companies still aren’t diverse. Companies are responding with vague commitments to do better and initiatives to fix the long-term issue of the gender and minority gap that exists in the talent pipeline. Those promises are good, but they’re not enough.

Rather than churning out the same multicolored graphics from year to year, companies should instead disclose their more short-term diversity hiring goals. Each company has, or should have, internal goals for how many women and minorities it plans to hire in a given year. If the public knew whether or not it was hitting those goals, stockholders and consumers could have a better sense of whether or not a company is following through on its commitments.

Look at Yahoo’s recent report. From reading it, we can see that the company’s demographic makeup has changed little over the past year, with the percentage of female employees consistent with last year and its ethnicity breakdown remaining relatively the same. The company highlights that its leadership team is 24 percent female, which seems to be a slight improvement over the 23 percent figure it reported last year.

But these numbers tell us little. How many women and minorities did Yahoo hire this year? How many did it lose? Rather than giving us the same breakdown, Yahoo and other companies releasing their second round of diversity reports should tell us how many women and minorities it realistically wanted to employ this year, and whether or not it exceeded or fell short of that number.

The goal with these diversity reports should be for one day to see the breakdown in Silicon Valley mirror what we see in the country’s total workforce. But until we get there, we need the companies to outline more specific goals so we can see if we’re on our way or not.