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Racial Equity Initiative: A year of progress on our commitments

It has been one year since we outlined a set of actions and commitments our company would take over the next five years to address racial injustice. These commitments stem from a belief that the work we must do as individuals and as an organization toward justice and equity is urgent and requires intention and sustained…

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It has been one year since we outlined a set of actions and commitments our company would take over the next five years to address racial injustice. These commitments stem from a belief that the work we must do as individuals and as an organization toward justice and equity is urgent and requires intention and sustained engagement. It’s critical that this not be something we only care about at one time of year, or for one year in a lifetime – but instead that we commit to the ongoing exploration needed to help us be as informed, effective and sustainable as possible in how we approach change.

Our approach combines financial investments, technology and intellectual capital to make meaningful progress to improve the lived experience at Microsoft, as well as driving systemic change in the United States. These commitments include three efforts:

  • Increasing representation and strengthening inclusion. We are building on our diversity and inclusion momentum, funded by an additional $150 million investment. We will strengthen our culture of inclusion and double the number of Black and African American, and Hispanic and Latinx people managers, senior individual contributors and senior leaders in the U.S. by 2025.
  • Evolving our engagement with our supply chain, banking partners and partner ecosystem because we know a stronger and more productive ecosystem requires better representation of the diversity in our communities.
  • Strengthening communities by using data, technology and partnerships to help address racial injustice and inequities of the Black and African American communities in the U.S. and improve the safety and well-being of our employees and their communities.

We know our employees, customers and partners continue to want to understand our journey — where are we making progress, what are we learning — so I want to represent the work of many by sharing where we are across our three efforts. We will continue to report our progress with updates and resources available here.

Increasing representation and strengthening inclusion

Accountability for progress: Specifically on our commitment to double the number of Black and African American and Hispanic and Latinx people managers, senior individual contributors and senior leaders in the U.S. by 2025, we are well on our way to achieving that number.

  • For Black and African American people managers (below director level), we are 64.0% of the way to our 2025 commitment.
  • For Black and African American directors+ (people managers and individual contributors), we are 35.7% of the way to our 2025 commitment.
  • For Hispanic and Latinx people managers (below director level), we are 20.9% of the way to our 2025 commitment.
  • For Hispanic and Latinx directors+ (people managers and individual contributors), we are 20.4% of the way to our 2025 commitment.

Over the last five years, Microsoft has increased representation for all demographics and levels reported in the 2020 Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Data Disclosure and Report, and we will publish the 2021 D&I Data Disclosure and Report in fall 2021.

But we know that such a commitment goes beyond the numbers, to the meaningful and sustainable ways we drive individual, culture and systemic change. Here are some additional updates on our commitments.

Culture of inclusion: We are seeing more than 92% completion rate for the required D&I learning courses on allyship, covering and privilege in the workplace we mandated this past year. We have begun pilots of the executive D&I conversations focused on corporate workplace experiences of those who are Black and African American, and we will begin the pilots for conversations on Hispanic and Latinx workplace experiences within the year. These are the beginning of executive discussions on dimensions of identity, community and geography which we will continue to expand in the future.

And we hosted Include 2021, our internal and external D&I event on March 17 and 18, with more than 110 sessions and 70,000 registrants from 185 countries. We also shared event content for on demand viewing as part of the launch of a new Microsoft Inclusion Journey site. This site also supports our commitment to share some of our internal D&I learning courses with our larger ecosystem including partners, customers, vendors and developers. We will continue to add new content and conversations in the coming months.

Career planning and talent development: We have launched 20 cohorts of our mid-level and senior-level leadership development programs, with further staged cohorts planned for next year and beyond. Differentiated development programs have positive effects on employee experience and career development because they provide psychological safety for learning and growth but are only one offering in the larger suite of learning and development programs for all employees. The programs are opt-in and require managers of all participants to also participate in a parallel track to support and grow how they understand and support their employees.

Engaging our ecosystem In regard to updates specifically around meeting our goals to engage our ecosystem, including using our balance sheet and engagement with suppliers and partners to foster societal change:

Suppliers: We have realized growth in our Black- and African American-owned supplier base and have received positive feedback on the overall supplier experience. We have implemented a confidential voluntary workforce representation survey and are also introducing a Diversity Equity & Inclusion maturity framework to understand suppliers’ diversity programs. We continue to refine our procurement policies and practices to increase inclusion of diverse suppliers in the buying process.

Banking: In the past fiscal year, we have more than doubled the percentage share of transaction volumes with Black- and African American-owned financial institutions. In addition, we have increased our deposits with Black and African American-owned Minority Owned Depository Institutions (MDIs), enabling increased funds into local communities. We’ve also made investments including:

  • Clear Vision Impact Fund investment with Siebert Williams Shank, which will invest in small- and medium-sized minority-owned companies​
  • Entrepreneur Backed Asset Fund investment to increase capital to MDIs and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)​

Partners: In the past fiscal year, we have seen rapid growth in Black- and African American-owned technology partners in the Microsoft Partner Network. We have also built active partnerships with technology communities such as: Black Women Talk Tech, Black is Tech, Black Men in Tech, AfroTech/Blavity, and Black and Brown Founders.

In addition, we’ve launched the Black Channel Partner Alliance community to support partners onboarding to the Microsoft Cloud and unlock partner benefits for co-selling with Microsoft. And finally, we have launched programs to provide financing through extended payment terms to help with cash flow needs and no interest loans backed by Microsoft to provide broader access to capital.

Strengthening our communities

We’re focused on strengthening communities by using the power of data, technology and partnership to improve the lives of Black and African American people across the U.S. The work we do is grounded in how we empower others to drive forward scalable solutions across efforts such as:

Justice Reform: Through a five-year, $50 million sustained effort, we are working alongside communities to advance a more equitable justice system, with a specific focus on policing, alternatives to incarceration and prosecutorial reforms. Through these efforts, we aim to decrease the number of persons entering the justice system unnecessarily or unfairly, reduce disparities within the system, and help create safe, thriving communities.

Broadband: To support participation in the digital economy, we are expanding our Microsoft Airband Initiative to eight U.S. cities where Black and African American communities face some of the largest broadband gaps. In addition to working with internet service providers and other partners to deliver affordable broadband, we are collaborating on programs that provide access to affordable devices and champion digital skills initiatives.

Skills and education: As part of our global skills initiative, we are providing grants to community-based nonprofit organizations led by and serving Black and African American communities aiming to equip more people with the digital skills needed for the jobs of the 21st century. We will also expand computer science and data science curricula for Black and African American students in high schools and universities, through our Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program and continued partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Nonprofits: By rapidly scaling our Nonprofit Tech Acceleration (NTA) initiative, launched in the fall of 2020, we are expanding technology support for community-based nonprofits providing critical human and social services to the Black and African American community. NTA provides nonprofit grantees with cloud technology, training and concierge support to ensure they can be successful with modern solutions.

As we said one year ago, we are committed to addressing racial injustice and inequity by taking a holistic response to a systemic challenge through these three areas of effort. While we have been unwavering in our broader, ongoing focus to advance diversity and strengthen inclusion at Microsoft, we also understand that we have the opportunity to be more precise in where we accelerate progress, and these commitments are holding us accountable to that.

We will continue to be unrelenting in our work — informed and led by employees and leaders across our company. At Microsoft we know that we can only achieve our mission when everyone is included. We approach these efforts with a commitment to be candid about our progress and accountable to our ambitions.

 

Photo credits: Clockwise, from top left, courtesy of Diana Navas-Rosette; courtesy of Shelley McKinley; courtesy of Vickie Robinson; photo by Dan DeLong; photo by DV Photo Video; photo by Dan DeLong.

Tags: diversity, inclusion, Racial Equity Initiative

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Facebook: Recognizing Global Accessibility Awareness Day

As an avid outdoor enthusiast and firefighter, Carly P. has always loved being active. After a life-changing injury paralyzed her from the waist down, she felt lost. Carly recaptured her passion for being outside and found a community of people like her through the nonprofit organization Catalyst Sports. Now, she uses Catalyst Sports’ Facebook page…

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As an avid outdoor enthusiast and firefighter, Carly P. has always loved being active. After a life-changing injury paralyzed her from the waist down, she felt lost. Carly recaptured her passion for being outside and found a community of people like her through the nonprofit organization Catalyst Sports. Now, she uses Catalyst Sports’ Facebook page to spread awareness and share local recreational opportunities for people with physical disabilities.

In addition to providing community to people with disabilities, we’re also working to make the digital world more accessible. 

We will demonstrate our latest accessibility features today at our annual Accessibility Summit. Join us at 10:00AM PT for this livestream on the Meta Accessibility Facebook Page. In addition to product demos and updates, we will host an interview with Molly Burke, a digital creator and blind advocate.

Through a video series on the Meta Accessibility Facebook Page, we’re highlighting how people with disabilities connect and build communities through our technologies, much like Carly. We’ve created both the captioned and audio described versions of these stories.

Today, we’re recapping advances we’ve made over the past year to make our technologies more inclusive. 

Meta Quest

  • Audio Accessibility
    • Audio balance: This option enables you to adjust the balance of the left and right audio channels for comfort, and to better match your ability to hear in each ear. 
    • Mono Audio enables you to hear the same audio from both the left and right speakers on your headset. 
    • You’ll find both features under the Accessibility tab in your headset’s Settings menu.

Product mock of audio accessibility on Meta Quest

  • Adjust Height  
    • This feature allows you to experience VR from a “standing” vantage point even while reclining or seated. This can improve the VR experience for people who use wheelchairs, have limited mobility or are unable to use the Quest headset while standing. 
    • We first introduced this as an experimental feature (called Raise View) last June and have now made it permanent after receiving positive feedback from the disability community. 
    • You can find this feature in the Accessibility tab in Quest’s Settings menu.

Portal

  • Video relay service (VRS)
    • In December, we began supporting video relay service (VRS) applications on Portal  for people who use American Sign Language (ASL), through a collaboration with ZP Better Together.
    • Through the ZP apps on Portal and human interpreters, people who use American Sign Language can now easily communicate in both English and Spanish. 
    • Portal’s unique AI-powered camera always keeps you in frame and in focus, even when you’re moving, so your face and hands can always be seen.
  • Captions
    • We’ve also added customizable closed captions for streamed content on TV and Touch, as well as added support for live captions into integrated work productivity apps Zoom and Workplace Live.

Instagram

  • Auto-generated captions for Feed videos
    • In March, we introduced auto-generated captions for Feed videos on iOS and Android in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, Italian, German, Turkish, Russian, Thai, Tagalog, Urdu, Malay, Hindi and Japanese to start. 
    • More importantly, captions are automatically turned on by default when a creator uploads a video to their Feed. Over 140 million videos were created with auto-generated captions in the last 30 days.
    • Creators retain the ability to turn captions off when they choose and viewers can turn captions on or off using on-screen controls.

Product mock of Instagram auto-generated captions

Stickers on Facebook and Messenger

  • We added alt text descriptions to the more than 10,000 stickers available on Facebook and Messenger, making it possible for people who are blind and visually impaired to understand and use them. 

Avatars

  • Earlier this year, we introduced the ability to have your same avatar across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Quest. 
  • There are also new avatar options, including over-the-ear hearing aids and cochlear implants in addition to more face shapes, skin tones, expressions, and stickers. 
  • Wheelchairs are now available as stickers on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger so your avatar can better represent who you are or who you want to be.

Product mock of accessibility features of Avatars

Open Source

  • Lexical is a JavaScript framework built to improve text editing on Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Workplace, with accessibility as a priority. 
  • In April, Lexical was released into open source to allow the rest of the world to benefit from these improvements. 
  • With this new framework, people can express their ideas in text via dictation, and readers can experience character-by-character navigation — a feature previously unavailable in similar editors.

Reality Labs Research

  • We’re exploring how improvements in audio quality can enable more realistic presence and perceptual superpowers in augmented and virtual reality— technological advancements that can also help us hear better in noisy environments. 
  • Our team of hearing scientists is also exploring how to reencode sound and present it through closed captioning.
  • While this is still early research, we are excited to learn more about how emerging audio technologies can improve the lives of people with hearing loss. 

Image showing audio research

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Facebook: Announcing New Products to Make Business Messaging Easier

The way people and businesses communicate is changing. One billion people message with a business each week on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct — whether it’s DMing brands, browsing product catalogs, asking for support, or interacting with stories. This consumer behavior is accelerating and it’s changing how business gets done. Today at Conversations, our inaugural…

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The way people and businesses communicate is changing. One billion people message with a business each week on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct — whether it’s DMing brands, browsing product catalogs, asking for support, or interacting with stories. This consumer behavior is accelerating and it’s changing how business gets done. Today at Conversations, our inaugural business messaging event, we discussed how messaging is transforming interactions between people and businesses, and announced new products to make conversations easier.

Introducing Cloud-based API on the WhatsApp Business Platform

Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced we’re opening up the new, cloud-based version of the WhatsApp Business Platform, hosted by Meta, to any business across the world. With this new API, we’re offering free, secure cloud hosting services so businesses and developers can easily access our service within minutes, build directly on top of WhatsApp to customize their experience and increase their response time for their customers. So now, whether a business wants to work with one of our 100+ partners or access our service directly, it will be much faster to get up and running on WhatsApp.

When growing a business, you need smart, robust and easy-to-use conversation tools. For smaller businesses using the WhatsApp Business app, we’re building tools so it’s easier to handle an influx of chats as they grow their customer base. 

Launching Recurring Notifications on Messenger

Today we’re announcing a new way for businesses to keep the conversation going with Recurring Notifications. As businesses acquire new customers and begin to scale operations, there’s incredible opportunity to build loyalty and trust — and we believe this is where the value of messaging really shines. This new capability makes it easy to re-engage people right in the messaging thread and deliver tailored messaging at the best time for customers, whether to hear about special promotions, new product drops or tips and tricks.

You can choose the topics you’d like to let people opt-in to, how often customers can hear from you and shape your content, so your messages are always on-brand and relevant. Recurring notifications will also be available for businesses on Instagram this fall.

We also highlighted our click-to-message ads to help customers immediately start conversations with businesses, our CRM platform Kustomer and Meta Business Suite for higher volumes of messages across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Read more about our product investments in business messaging on our Meta for Developers blog.

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Facebook: Introducing New Members of the Oversight Board

Today, Meta welcomes the newest members of the Oversight Board who have just been appointed — Paolo Carozza, Khaled Mansour, and Pamela San Martin. Per the Oversight Board Bylaws, we worked together with the board to identify and select these members over the last few months. Over the next few months we will continue to…

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Today, Meta welcomes the newest members of the Oversight Board who have just been appointed — Paolo Carozza, Khaled Mansour, and Pamela San Martin.

Per the Oversight Board Bylaws, we worked together with the board to identify and select these members over the last few months. Over the next few months we will continue to support and work with the board to select additional members. The new members reflect a wide range of views and experiences, and will bring a variety of perspectives to the board’s existing expertise.

The Oversight Board represents a unique model for social media governance. From its inception, we knew its impact would come not just from its decisions on individual cases, but also from broader recommendations on how we can improve our policies and processes. In the time since they began hearing cases and issuing decisions and recommendations, they’ve been playing a bigger role in setting precedent and direction for our content policies and how we enforce them.  We look forward to welcoming the new board members into this process.

We will update this Newsroom Post as additional members are appointed. We are grateful to all board members for lending their expertise to our content moderation efforts.

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