Spotify ‘Gets Real’ About Improving Workplace Diversity

The entertainment company is building transparency into its diversity plan.
By: | July 16, 2018 • 2 min read

While efforts at improving workplace diversity are taking center stage in many companies, transparency in this process—one that is ongoing and could expose deficiencies—isn’t always such a priority. That’s a trend that streaming-music app Spotify is pushing back against.

Last week Spotify made public its Diversity Data Report for the first time, in an effort to “get real” about its data, according to Isa Notermans, global head of diversity and inclusion. Notermans said the public release was in line with a company-wide goal of “transparency and accountability.”

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The numbers illustrate significant growth in some areas, as well as shed light on where there’s room for improvement. When it comes to gender diversity in the workplace, about 38.7 percent of the Spotify workforce identifies as women, a 3.8 percent increase from two years ago. The company saw big jumps in the number of women leaders: There was a 33-percent increase in the number of women on the company board (to 33 percent), and a 14-percent rise in the number of women in the C-suite (28 percent). About 38.4 percent of managers are women, up about 3.4 percent from 2016, while the number of women in director positions dropped about 1.6 percent, to 31.9 percent.

In terms of ethnic diversity, about half of employees are white, a 15 percent decrease in the last two years. The biggest increase was among black employees, with a 3.6 percent increase to 6.1 percent. Other stats include a 9 percent jump in those who observe a religion (to 25 percent) and a 1 percent decrease in military members and veterans (to just 1 percent).

“We are proud of the strides we’ve made and even more committed to changing the areas we need to do much better in,” Notermans said, adding that the company has “some serious work to do.” Particular goals include:

  • increasing the number of senior women leaders;
  • upping gender diversity in the workplace, particularly the company’s tech sector;
  • diversifying the racial makeup of employees;
  • investing in intersectional experiences; and
  • ensuring the company is “welcoming to all.”

To that last aim, Notermans noted that, while improving workplace diversity—and tracking results—provides the company a baseline for growth, it has to go hand in hand with enhancing inclusion. Spotify has recently staged more than 100 unconscious-bias workshops at its global locations, doubled the number of its employee-resource groups, developed diversity-focused recruitment programs and built diversity into its advertising and marketing efforts.

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Spotify is certainly not the only company to be public about its diversity numbers—Google, Facebook and Apple have all released such reports in recent years, in response to ongoing diversity issues in Silicon Valley. However, it’s not a widespread practice; Fortune reported last year that only 20 percent of the companies on its Fortune 500 list released numbers about the gender and ethnic makeup of its employees. Only 3.2 percent of the Fortune 500 publicly shares their full diversity data that they report to the Department of Labor.

As more organizations focus on improving workplace diversity, perhaps transparency in diversity reporting will become more common. As Spotify said about its ongoing efforts to make its diversity stats public: Stay tuned.

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected]

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