For the last two years, CNN has been investigating the hiring practices of several top Silicon Valley technology companies, and attempting to look into their workforce diversity data. But they discovered a few things:

  • Most companies blocked their EEO information from being released
  • The government wasn’t willing to cooperate
  • There’s still a lack of diversity (duh)

During their first attempt in 2011 as part of the “Black In America” series, they reached out to 20 tech companies to ask about the sex and race of their staff:

Only Dell (DELLFortune 500), Ingram Micro (IMFortune 500) and Intel (INTC,Fortune 500) played ball. Intel, in stark contrast to the rest of the tech industry, actually makes its employment diversity information public on its website.

“Intel believes that transparency with our data is the best way to have a genuine dialogue,” Intel chief diversity officer Rosalind Hudnell told CNNMoney last week. “We are tech companies and data drives our business; we need to get beyond our fears that the numbers are a poor reflection on our individual organizations and work together to address the issue collectively. “

CNN figured the best way to get the remaining data would be through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which would be able to grant them access to EEO-1 reports. Any company with over 100 employees must file yearly EEO-1 reports to the government.  The EEO-1 categorizes U.S. workers by their race and sex and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, collects the date to monitor hiring practices.

But here’s where CNN ran into issues:

We sent the EEOC a FOIA request on Aug. 18, 2011, and three weeks later it was denied. The EEOC said it is legally prohibited from releasing EEO-1 reports.

Second attempt: After consulting with experts and CNN’s legal team, we learned the Department of Labor has access to EEOC data for some companies — and unlike the EEOC, no federal statute bars the DOL from releasing the reports.

We re-filed the FOIA request to the Department of Labor on Nov. 1, 2011. It took more than a year for that request to be processed.

On Dec. 7, 2012, we finally received the data, but for only five companies: Cisco(CSCO, Fortune 500), Dell, eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500), Ingram Micro and Intel.

What happened to the other 15 companies’ information is complicated.

The Labor Department has no authority to release EEO-1 reports for companies that aren’t federal contractors. That knocked out 10 companies: Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500), Facebook, Groupon (GRPN), Hulu, LinkedIn (LNKD), LivingSocial, Netflix(NFLX), Twitter, Yelp (YELP) and Zynga (ZNGA).

But even contractors may block the release of their data. Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500),Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500), IBM (IBM,Fortune 500) and Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) all submitted written objections, successfully petitioning the Department of Labor for their data to be excluded on the basis that doing so would cause “competitive harm.”


When you look at the data that was received, it doesn’t show you anything that you wouldn’t already expect.

For example, at Cisco, you can see the breakdown of the total number of black employees based on job classification:


But when you break it down to black women, it’s even more dismal:

cisco women

Although Cisco and 4 companies willingly supplied their data, hopefully this will be a wake up call that urges them and other companies to actually diversify their hiring practices, as well as removing the veil of secrecy surrounding them. Because it doesn’t matter how well we prepare and encourage black teens to choose careers in technology and science, if companies aren’t willing to change their hiring practices.

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  • Tiffany

    I will also add that this article is timely during March Madness — the only time the US cares about black college students…

    • Nic

      Yep, they love us when we can throw or catch some dang balls…forget it when you can do math or code.

  • Purple Rain

    The issue is much more complex. There are not enough African Americans pursuing the undergraduate and graduate degrees needed to enter these fields. Computer science and engineering degrees are very demanding and require an advanced grasp of both science and math – studies that most domestic students fail in consistently. And let’s not talk about how this education disparity is WORSE in African-American students when compared to the general populace. Because of this, you have foreigners (mostly Asian) flooding the field because for some reason they excel in these areas of study. If this isn’t any indication that our education system is broken, I don’t know what is….

    • Nic

      If you think those companies even bother to look at the black students who do have the right credentials you are sorely mistaken.
      And when you get there, you have to deal with microagressions and people who want to act like your black skin makes you stupid in comparison to them and other people.
      Don’t think that it’s a level playing field for those of us who do the work and have the right degrees.

    • Nic

      And as someone who is in a big Silicon Valley tech company, the average employee actually isn’t as smart or tech savvy as you’d think.
      If you are from the area and were around during a hiring boom, you got a job. There are white folks without 4 year degrees, or with humanities degrees. A lot of them get hired when they go to the right school, but we will get skipped with the same or better credentials.

    • Mademoiselle

      There are more than just computer & engineering functions at IBM, Dell, Apple, etc. Every company needs an HR dept, a finance dept, training dept, customer retention, supply chain management, compliance, marketing, sales, functional managers, business development, administrative assistance, facilities management, risk analysts, accountants, legal counsel, research and design, etc. etc. etc. It’s a fallacy to think that the only reason black people don’t have a presence at these companies is because black people don’t have the right degrees.

      No company runs on one functional area alone — not even the ones that we consider “tech” companies. The industry they’re categorized in only describes the product/service they sell, not the entirety of its operations. Black people aren’t at these companies because they don’t value black labor, and that’s the beginning and end of the story.

  • Nic

    Although not all of these companies are headquartered in the Silicon Valley, all of them actually do have locations there and many of them are expanding their footprint in the area since it is seen as the heart of tech. No one is moving their headquarters, but it’s not erroneous to lump them together in this case.

  • Using,statistics wow anyhow beginning at college level besides career day what about enrollment admit this. Majority non-Black what level of discrimination where fully aware and care to speak of bigotry apparent. Black applicants once, they interview majority face hurdles “cultural fit” not personality heritage. Above “placid”
    appearance […] then disgruntled response we can’t use you or over qualified did expect otherwise nice try. Lies of “liberal American technology sector biggest sexist towards women France large ratio of experience women in technology majority chemical and computer science majors women. Seldom do read in USA of respect not of gender knowledge doubt men as EU” senior management preference. Men how women get around in EU either purchase shares then get women hired but many are conservative refuse assist the moment! Paradox what about Blacks employed “Tech industry” not decrying or denying racism looking at impartially how career and economically. True, admit this “HBCU” needs to expand science and engineering curriculum because there losing potential students whom rather attend HBCU then ACC going to happen. Chances of Blacks students getting selected to enroll or interview non-HBCU is dismal why those ivy league experience. Jay Z and Dr.Dre ownership of technology could or would support diversity scholarships? Awaiting somebody to listen there not sorry!