Environmental, Social & Governance4 min read

Representation Counts, Especially at the Top

Jecoby Carter

As a global innovation leader, the high-tech industry transformed how we:

  • Communicate and access information.
  • Distribute products and services.
  • Address critical societal problems.

Unfortunately, the percentage of Black professionals in tech management positions remains in the low single digits.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Diversity in High Tech Report, African Americans make up less than 5% of the technology industry’s workforce in Silicon Valley. And the percentage of African Americans that occupy executive positions in the industry may be as low as 1%.

In a concerted effort to shine a light on Black talent in upper management, the Black@VMware employee resource group (ERG) highlighted 10 tech professionals within the company in a two-part panel series.

Bridging the Leadership Representation Gap

Research shows that Black women are among the most educated demographics in America. Yet despite graduation rates in high percentages, the deck is stacked against Black Women in the tech space. More specifically, Black women in senior management roles looking to advance their careers.

The EEOC requires companies to define executives as people within two reporting levels of the chief executive. Of the 25% of women working in tech, Black women account for only 3%. Of the 3%, the number of Black women holding senior management titles and above is less than 0.5%.

The absence of Black tech executives is, in some ways, part of a vicious cycle for tech firms. But there’s an opportunity for allyship on behalf of underrepresented groups.

Targeted Investments: Finding New Ways to Identify and Hire Underrepresented Talent

During the discussion, several panelists made it clear that the racial divide is not synonymous with Black women, nor is it a new idea. But after 2020, the appetite for change may be shifting. Black Lives Matter protests renewed focus on disparities in pay, opportunity, and success.

While tech leaders often point to a “pipeline problem,” panelists said companies have an opportunity to rethink the way hiring is done to make sure they don't pass over candidates they need to build products that appeal to a broad customer base.

To combat this, VMware set specific and measurable goals around increasing representation for women and underrepresented minorities (URMs). As such, all vice presidents (VP) and above were assigned Diversity, Equity & Inclusion goals to:

  • Improve the representation of women globally.
  • Improve representation of US URMs.
  • Ensure all interview slates have at least one woman or URM candidate.
  • Improve culture through leadership actions.

Ongoing pay equity commitments also boast proud results. The company continues to see women earn 99% of their male counterparts’ salaries globally. Racial and ethnic minority employees earn 100% of their white counterparts in the U.S.

We have a lot to celebrate at VMware. Our community and culture is strong. However, we know there is more work to do, so we are continuing to take an agile approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). We view transparency as one of the keys to improving our culture.

Shanis Windland, vice president, diversity and inclusion, VMware

The work to create a diverse and inclusive environment is never done. And it’s constantly evolving.