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After self-criticism, Workday improves Black representation

Last year, Workday officials acknowledged that its Black employee community was underrepresented. Employee survey data suggests it has since made improvements.

At the height of the Black Lives Matters movement last year, Workday acknowledged a need to improve its representation of Black talent. Black workers made up less than 3% of Workday employees, yet 13% of the U.S. population is African American, the firm noted. Not only that, but Workday, headquartered in Pleasanton, Calif., trailed behind Silicon Valley firms in its percentage of Black employees. 

This month, Workday published its 2021 Global Impact Report, showing an uptick in Black representation from 2.2% in 2019 to 2.8% in 2021. Workday is a fast-growing, $4.32 billion HR systems provider, and its recruiting, hiring and diversity tools are used at many large firms around the world. 

However, what the percentage increase in Black representation means in terms of actual hiring at Workday is unclear. Similar to most firms, Workday doesn't provide a diversity breakdown of its U.S. versus overseas workforce. The firm employs 12,500 overall, but Workday's overseas hiring may be significant. 

'Proud of the progress'

Workday's career site lists 546 openings in the U.S. and about 512 in other countries, including 143 open positions in Ireland, 60 in Canada, 52 in Germany, and 39 in the U.K. In March, Workday announced plans to create 400 new jobs at its European headquarters in Dublin, increasing that workforce by 30%. The firm said then that its Dublin office "employs more than 1,300 people from all over the world." 

Workday made some specific diversity commitments last year, including increasing "the overall representation of Black and Latinx employees in the U.S. by 30% by 2023."

We're proud of the progress we've made and while we recognize there is more work to do, we are encouraged by the momentum.
Carin TaylorChief diversity officer, Workday

"We're proud of the progress we've made and while we recognize there is more work to do, we are encouraged by the momentum we're seeing and remain committed to taking action to create positive change," said Carin Taylor, Workday's chief diversity officer, in a written statement in response to questions from SearchHRSoftware. 

"A big driving force behind the increase are our commitments to support equity in our workplace and communities," Taylor stated, citing the firm's strategy called VIBE, or "value inclusion, belonging and equity." 

Workday previously reported its Black U.S. employee population at 2.4% in 2019, but the 2021 report adjusted that number to 2.2%. The percentages stem from employee surveys.

Why Workday lowered its earlier findings from 2.4% to 2.2% isn't clear, but the firm stated it looked anew at the employee data and said it found a way to improve the quality of analysis. The 2021 report includes a "declined to answer" metric as a new addition. 

The "declined to answer" option was previously available to employees but wasn't included in earlier diversity reports. In 2021, "we added it to further evolve and support our diversity data reporting," Taylor said. The metric "has remained pretty flat to date," she added.

Workday diversity breakdown 2021

Black representation in Silicon Valley  

Silicon Valley, where Workday has its U.S. headquarters, has had a longstanding issue with Black representation and gender diversity at tech firms. A 2018 study by the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found just 4.4% of employees at Silicon Valley firms are African American.

Oracle, which competes with Workday in the HR software market, also falls below the UMass benchmark. It listed the 2021 diversity of its U.S. workforce as 58% white, 19.1% Asian, 6.3% Hispanic, 3.7% Black, 2.4% two or more races, 0.3% Pacific Islander and 0.2% Native American. 

Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, who heads the UMass employment equity center, indicated that Workday's percentage gain in its Black employee population might not add up to that many hires. He used a figure of 5,000 domestic workers to illustrate the point. 

"For a company of 5,000 or so U.S. employees, this may represent as few as 20 new hires. Clearly, they have a lot of work to do if they are to leave the ranks of Silicon Valley employers with the fewest Black employees," he said. 

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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