Apple Store Employees Are Diverse, But Their Silicon Valley Co-Workers Lag Behind

An Apple employee stands next to a display at a new Apple Store in Brooklyn, New York. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MARK LENNIHAN

Apple is Silicon Valley’s most diverse tech giant. According to the company’s mint diversity and inclusion report released Wednesday, Apple has been able to significantly increase its number of female and minority employees since 2014.

Women make up 32 percent of Apple’s employees worldwide, up two points from 2014. Apple’s report also boasts that racial and ethnic minorities consisted of 54 percent of new hires in the United States since June 2015. But those boosts largely come from hires in Apple’s retail stores — not tech workers in Cupertino, California.

Racial and gender diversity in retail has jumped since 2014. Seventeen percent of Apple store employees are Hispanic or Latino and 12 percent are black — a 4 point and 2 point increase respectively. Asians have much lower representation in retail stores at 7 percent, but make up 27 percent of the company’s tech employees.

CREDIT: Apple

The percentage of white employees is steady at 59 percent, which could indicate that even as Apple continued to grow its retail workforce, diversity was a priority in the hiring process. Women still only make up 32 percent of their retail employees, but that is a slight improvement over two years ago, when they were just 30 percent of their staff.

The retail industry is more inherently diverse than tech industry at large, and Apple’s numbers are on par with that: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women hold 31 percent of jobs in electronic stores, while blacks make up 14 percent, Asians represent 9 percent, and Hispanics hold 19 percent of those jobs. But Apple is also one of the only tech companies with any significant retail presence, meaning their overall diversity numbers benefit in ways that most other Silicon Valley giants do not. Apple employs more than 30,000 retail employees in the U.S., where the company has more than 250 stores, double the number of their next closest competitor Microsoft.

CREDIT: Apple

On the tech side, gender diversity has improved by 3 percentage points since 2014, with 23 percent of tech jobs filled by women. The number of Asian workers has ticked up 4 points since 2014, with the number of blacks increasing 2 points. Hispanics in tech saw a marginal increase from 6 percent in 2014 to 7 percent in 2016.

The transformation of Apple’s workforce from a white, male dominated company to one that is more reflective of society as a whole is a slow process, but Apple’s report is heartening. CEO Tim Cook has been outspoken and proactive about the tech industry’s need for diversity of all kinds, including religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, some of the company’s most visible — and perhaps most laudable — improvements have been in its outward representation.

Apple has been more inclusive during their signature product launches, putting more women and people of color on stage during big events. Apple Music VP and head of global consumer marketing Bozoma Saint John was the highlight at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The native Ghanaian, who joined Apple in 2014, is the brain behind Apple Music’s hit 2015 Emmy awards commercial featuring black entertainers Mary J. Blige, Taraji P. Henson, and Kerry Washington casually singing and dancing to tunes.

Incremental changes, such as increasing recruitment from historically black colleges and universities, are noteworthy. But while Apple can’t change Silicon Valley’s make-up in a year, the company is working to change the face of the brand. Those changes will hopefully reverberate, not only within Apple’s tech sector, but the industry overall.