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Is Accenture leading tech industry diversity? A new report shows not by much.

Accenture via Facebook

Consulting firm Accenture's annual diversity report shows the company is doing better than most others in the tech industry, but one of its chief executives says the company still has a long way to go.

The report, released Tuesday, shows women compose 35.8 percent of the overall staff and, proportionately, make up 31.3 percent of executives (though three of the 19 C-level executives at the company are women, according to its website).

The racial representation of white people and people of color is almost 50:50 overall, while people of color make up 36.7 percent of executives.

In addition to gender and race, Accenture reported about 3 percent of its staff — 1,450 employees — self-identify as persons with disabilities.

A chart of racial and gender diversity among Accenture's overall staff.
A chart of racial and gender diversity among Accenture's overall staff.
A chart of racial and gender diversity among Accenture's executives.
A chart of racial and gender diversity among Accenture's executives.

This contrasts the typical image of tech that has been criticized in recent years for being overwhelmingly white, male, and able-bodied.

Twitter is one of the most notorious offenders on this front. In November 2015, Leslie Miley, a black manager-level software engineer, resigned, critiquing the company for failing to improve its diversity efforts, which affect staff and consumers. Black people make up 22 percent of Twitter's users but only about 2 percent of Twitter's workforce, according to 2014 figures.

"Twitter’s issues with growth and engagement and the issues with internal diversity are somewhat related," Miley wrote. "The over-reliance on a limited number of schools and workplaces for talent has caused a type of group-think to dominate. Any change would be approved by people who all think alike. There was very little diversity in thought and almost no diversity in action."

Last December, Twitter faced more controversy after hiring a white man as vice president of diversity and inclusion.

Aside from Twitter, the tech industry, whether we're looking at companies in Silicon Valley or New York City, fail on the diversity front. Accenture happens to be dealing with diversity slightly better than most.

Google released its own data in January 2015, revealing men make up 70 percent of company’s staff. On the engineering side of things, men are overrepresented at 82 percent. The same can be said of leadership, where 70 percent of the people with a seat at the proverbial executive table are (again) men.

Last July, Yahoo released a report showing a similar profile: Men held most of the technical and leadership roles, and white people represented 73 percent of those counted in the company's higher ranks.

Accenture is trying to lead in tech diversity, but concedes it can do more

The company isn't boasting about the report. Julie Sweet, Accenture's group chief executive for North America, recognized there is still room for improvement.

"While I am pleased with the progress we have made, we are not where we want to be," she wrote in an official statement. "We need to find new ways to make an impact. Just as we collaborate with clients to help them win in the market, we need to collaborate and connect more as an entire community to drive disruptive change."

One such improvement includes more equitable representation among people of color. Asian people represent most nonwhite employees at Accenture — at 33.6 percent, they account for more than twice the combined percentage (16 percent) of other people of color at the company.

Accenture isn’t unique in this situation. Asian employees are well-represented in the tech industry in lower roles, but they still often face a "glass ceiling" where they are shut out of executive roles.

At Accenture, Asian employees make up 26.5 percent of the company’s executives.

Nonetheless, other groups are severely underrepresented altogether. African Americans represent 13.2 percent of the US population, and Latino Americans represent 17.4 percent. Accenture’s report shows they only represent 7.4 percent and 6.3 percent of the company's staff, respectively.

The gap isn’t because there aren’t people from these backgrounds getting computer science and engineering degrees — USA Today found in 2014 that the numbers are increasing.

At the hiring stage, though, African Americans and Latino Americans in tech are faced with an implicit bias against them. The investigation found only half of graduates from these two groups were likely to be hired at major tech companies — interestingly, recent white graduates also faced a similar hiring setback, but not to the same degree.

Unrepresented minorities are getting the tech degrees but not the tech jobs.
Unrepresented minorities are getting the tech degrees but not the tech jobs.
George Petras via USA Today

Accenture knows that to better represent the world we live in, it and the rest of the industry would need to improve current hiring practices. But by continuing to create an atmosphere that is supportive for women and people of color, Accenture may very well achieve equitable diversity and set an example for the rest of the tech world.