Teaming up to help journalism thrive in the digital age

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Three women receiving ICFJ training
ICFJ training in the field.

As part of our mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, Microsoft recognizes not just the fundamental need for a free press, but also the fundamental need for the free press to adapt to how people seek information.

Technology has empowered citizens to find, create and share information in unprecedented ways. How can we help journalists around the world tell stories, from sports updates to watchdog investigations, in ways that promote transparency, understanding and engagement?

Today, we’re proud to announce the Microsoft Modern Journalism grant program in collaboration with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). Based in Washington, D.C., ICFJ has a track record of fostering news innovation, building investigative networks, running exchange programs and promoting diverse voices. Its global mission — to build the expertise and digital skills that journalists need to deliver trustworthy news essential for vibrant societies — has so far created a community 100,000-journalists strong in 180 countries.

Sharon Moshavi, ICJF’s senior vice president of new initiatives, shares their view and vision about our new partnership this way:

“We’re thrilled to partner with the Microsoft Modern Journalism Initiative to support reporting projects focused on data analysis and immersive storytelling. Through these projects, we aim to highlight innovative ways that journalists can enhance news coverage and connect more deeply with audiences.”

The grant program will operate in two phases: The first will award funding and hands-on data journalism training to two alumni of ICFJ programs. Data journalism grounds stories in fact, makes the information transparent to its audiences, and distills the essential pertinent narrative from what could otherwise be an overwhelming swamp of information. By honing the journalist’s digital skills, we’re addressing what ICFJ has defined as a “perilous” gap in newsrooms.

The second phase will award grants for funding and training journalists need to pioneer storytelling using immersive technologies like livestreaming and mixed reality. While data invites fact-based exploration on a large scale, immersive storytelling can be remarkably intimate. It is in these shared experiences where knowledge may become understanding, observation may engender empathy, and learning may translate into action.

We look forward to announcing our winners in March. In the meantime, we encourage you to see, support and join in the kind of work that ICFJ does, be it a sobering virtual tour of the largest slum in Karachi, Pakistan, the fifth most populous city in the world, or a heartening partnership of a global conglomerate and environmental and social nonprofits to safeguard water quality in Nairobi. These stories the world over remind us of the challenges that face all of us, and how much we depend on sharing stories in ways that touch us, educate us and, most importantly, inspire us to act for the best.

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Microsoft at NRF: Delivering on the promise of intelligent retail

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A few days from now, retailers from around the world will converge in New York for the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show, the world’s largest retail conference. Every year, this event feels like a fresh beginning for retailers; just off their busiest time of year, they’re ready to not only celebrate but also reflect on what went well and improvements for next year. And every year, it feels like the stakes have never been higher – changing consumer demands combined with a retail model that’s constantly in flux creates an urgency to figure out what’s next.

I love coming to NRF. I joined Microsoft about five months ago, but I’m a retailer at heart. I literally grew up in retail, spending weekends at grocery stores with my dad rearranging coffee cans as part of our family business. Later I ran CRM and digital marketing for Gap Inc.’s brands. Now, I’m feeling even closer to retailers today than ever because I’m working for a company committed to building and maintaining retailers’ trust, working together to deliver intelligent solutions that help retailers delight shoppers, empower their employees, transform their supply chains and reimagine their businesses.

Given my retail background, I particularly appreciate Microsoft’s commitment to be a good partner by recognizing that retailers’ customers, employees and data belong to them. We want to put retailers in control of the pieces they need to make their businesses wildly successful for years to come.

So how is Microsoft delivering on that promise?

Bringing customer-first innovation to market

At Microsoft, we look to bring to market products and services that work seamlessly together to help retailers do more and take advantage of the latest technologies like AI, machine learning and IoT across the entire organization. Leading retailers are already using the Microsoft Cloud as a competitive differentiator, from using AI to create transformative customer and employee experiences, to embracing IoT to leverage their supply chains for maximum customer impact, to using cloud-based business applications to manage everything from the customer journey to operations. In an industry experiencing accelerating change, Microsoft and its partners are creating the solutions to help our customers keep up.

Empowering employees with the right tools is an area I think is especially ripe for innovation. For example, Firstline Workers, such as retail associates, are the first point of contact between a company and its customers or products, and are the lifeblood of the retail industry. They represent a retailer’s brand and need better access to resources and expertise to deliver great customer experiences and drive the bottom line. There’s also a huge opportunity to give these employees a more streamlined experience at work by modernizing some of the busy work that takes time away from customer service, such as scheduling and task management.

That is why I’m excited to announce new capabilities in Microsoft Teams for Firstline Workers. A new customizable mobile Teams experience makes it easy for them to connect with anyone in the organization and access just the apps and services they need while on the job. It includes features like the ability to share location and a smart camera.  We are also announcing a new API to connect Teams to workforce management systems so employees no longer need to login to different systems, but can access everything in Teams as a hub for their workday. Finally, a new Praise tool makes it easy for managers and employees to recognize their peers and build a culture of teamwork.

Microsoft built all this innovation to help retail employees and other Firstline Workers get out of the backroom and onto the store floor, interacting with customers, creating great experiences and building loyalty. As always, it all comes back to the customer.

Putting our trusted business model to work for our customers

I’m proud to say retailers are already realizing the value in working with us and our partners to drive success. Just in the past few months, we’ve announced incredible partnerships with some of retail’s biggest names, including Starbucks, Walmart and – one that’s particularly close to my heart – Gap, Inc. And just this week, we announced a partnership with Kroger to power a new connected-experience store pilot and jointly bring digital solutions to market that will empower other retailers to transform their own operations and create their own amazing customer experiences.

For each of these customers, we’re bringing to bear our technology and our brightest retail minds to help them build a foundation for success in this ever-changing market.

We don’t just sell another commodity to retailers. Our superpower is bringing together our global network of partners to work side-by-side with retailers and understand their greatest challenges and opportunities. Together, we go beyond simply finding solutions – we’re redefining categories and establishing new business models. This is how we’re enabling intelligent retail – by offering the best-in-class solutions and industry expertise that’s helping retailers know their customers better, empower their people in new ways, deliver on an intelligent supply chain and reimagine retail.

I’m excited to highlight many other retail brands in our booth at NRF that are working with Microsoft and our partners to embrace intelligent retail:

  • On the heels of this week’s news, I’m excited to showcase Kroger’s Microsoft Azure-powered Retail as a Service (RaaS) offering to NRF attendees. The solutions are not only enabling Kroger to transform the grocery experience for its customers with a personalized guided shopping experience, but are also opening a completely new revenue stream for Kroger, as they partner with us to market the solutions to other retailers. Centered around Kroger’s EDGE Shelf, which uses digital displays instead of traditional paper tags to indicate everything from prices and promotions to nutritional and dietary information, RaaS connects the shelf to the company’s Scan, Bag, Go® to create a unique guided shopping experience for customers.
  • Starbucks is using Azure Sphere within select equipment to enable its partners (employees) more opportunity to engage with customers. This includes everything from beverage consistency, waste reduction, the management of energy consumption and predictive maintenance.
  • Arts and crafts supply store Michaels is working with Microsoft partner TokyWoky to identify potential ambassadors online and leverage their knowledge and expertise to build a digital community of makers. Using Microsoft Azure, Azure AI and Power BI, TokyWoky’s 24/7 chat technology helps retailers like Michaels provide their customers with a human, personalized experience that’s not restricted by the size of its customer service workforce. TokyWoky’s platform encourages customers to assist and answer questions from other customers, all within the Michaels site, resulting in four- to six-times more questions being answered than before. The solution also creates continuous user-generated content across michaels.com, which helps to drive trust and conversion.
  • Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona (GCNA) partnered with DXC Technology to implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 as its retail management and Point of Sale (POS) solution. DXC’s Dynamics-based solution enables GCNA to collect detailed information on the items it sells. This is combined with category detail on items its stores produce from donated goods (collected from a GCNA proprietary and custom application) to maximize revenue. This is especially important for GCNA, whose revenue directly funds its mission – to empower individuals, strengthen families, and build stronger communities, and move towards its vision – to end poverty through the power of work.
  • Italian luxury lifestyle brand Stefano Ricci is using partner SBSoft’s Dynamics-based CRM4Retail solution to give employees a high-level view of information to help them provide the white-glove experience its shoppers expect. Online, the database produces recommendations based on how customers are navigating the website. The application for stores helps retail employees understand and anticipate customer needs and answer customer questions in a matter of seconds. It also assists in the development of targeted, data-driven campaigns and promotions.
  • Wine and liquor store BevMo! has partnered with Fellow Inc. to use its Fellow Robots to connect supply chain efficiency with customer delight. Delivered using Power BI and powered by Microsoft Azure, Azure AI and Azure Machine Learning, the robot provides perfect product location using image recognition and utilizes suggestive selling to offer customers different types of products and integrate point of sale interactions. A new integration point from Fellow to the “My Retailer app” of each retailer helps customers locate their favorite items in the store and suggests other items the customer may like. BevMo! is also using Microsoft’s intelligent cloud solutions to empower its store associates for better customer service.
  • Retailers such as children’s clothing brand Polarn O Pyret is turning to the Unified Commerce Alliance(UCA) solution – powered by Azure AI and data platform and Dynamics 365 for Retail, in addition to partner-driven solutions from Avensia Storefront, Episerver and InRiver PIM – to help them reimagine retail by joining and sharing data and business logic from different systems and channels through a single, secure and scalable system in the Azure cloud. The UCA cloud solution provides one source of truth across all retail functionality – POS, pricing, campaign, stock and warehouse management. This one-stop shop provides everything a retailer needs to manage all digital store experiences, online and offline.

Connect with us at NRF

Microsoft will have a big presence at NRF including 20 solution demos in our booth, sessions led by our retail experts and tours of our own Microsoft Store to show how Microsoft runs on Microsoft – and if you plan to be there, come see us! Visit us in booth #3301 to experience for yourself the solutions and customer stories I mention above, or attend one of our sessions on the show floor – I’m leading a Big Ideas session where I’ll talk about what we learned over the holiday season and chat with retailers you know and love about how they’re working with Microsoft to create amazing experiences for their customers. In addition, myself and my colleague Alysa Taylor, Corporate Vice President for Business Applications and Industry Marketing, will be one of several “women rocking retail” to participate in The Girls’ Lounge at NRF (Microsoft is also a sponsor!) And don’t miss Chris Capossela, our Chief Marketing Officer, as he leads a session on Tuesday highlighting the importance of brand. And of course, you can visit Microsoft’s NRF page to keep up to date on the latest news developments.

Despite retail’s breakneck rate of change, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a retailer. I’m excited to be a part of it, bringing Microsoft’s solutions and trusted business model to my retail colleagues around the world. And I’m here to tell every retailer: if we don’t have a solution for your business, we – along with our hundreds of global partners – will build it for you. I can’t wait to see what we’ll create together.

 

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Announcing the Female Founders Competition winners

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Earlier this year, our corporate venture fund, M12, took an important step in helping identify promising women entrepreneurs and accelerating their access to capital. Partnering with EQT Ventures and SVB Financial Group, we launched the Female Founders Competition, awarding $4M to two women-led companies building innovative software solutions for the enterprise.

Those following this industry are well aware of the hard truths women founders face when seeking funding: just 17 percent of all startups boast a single female founder; and of that small percent, only 2.2 percent of total global venture capital funding went to female founders over the past two years. While the numbers clearly indicate there’s a need to do more, many investors struggle with where to start.

There are plenty of women entrepreneurs focused on solving enterprise technology challenges, but we needed a better way of finding them. With the previous success in sourcing incredibly promising portfolio companies from our Innovate.AI competition, we decided to try a competition again, but this time focused on surfacing female founders. And the results spoke volumes.

We received hundreds of submissions from female founders building enterprise solutions that spanned a multitude of industries and countries. This competition, while a small step to shift how we sourced deals, not only showed us that there is more than one way to effectively discover talent and expand networks, but it’s our responsibility as venture capitalists to begin leveling the playing field so those companies receiving funding are a truer reflection of the world in which we live.

Today, it’s my pleasure to share the results of the Female Founders Competition, and the stories behind the two incredible women whose companies will now join our portfolio.

Acerta

Greta Cutulenco, CEO and co-founder of Acerta, began her journey as a software engineering student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, where she developed an interest in robotics and autonomous vehicle systems. While working on a research project with Sebastian Fischmeister, a professor at the university, she became fascinated with recent developments in connected and autonomous vehicles, sparking a career that led her to work with and learn from automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier-1 manufacturers before returning to her roots in research. Cutulenco, Fischmeister and another colleague, Jean-Christophe Petkovich, would go on to create Acerta, using machine learning to provide real-time malfunction detection and failure prediction in vehicles. To commercialize their work, Cutulenco spent time in local incubators and attending business and sales courses before securing Acerta’s participation in the Techstars Mobility accelerator in Detroit. Just over two years later, Acerta has grown from a team of three to nearly 20, with Greta recently being named to Forbes 30 under 30 for Manufacturing and Industry, the company gaining traction with some of the largest auto manufacturers as customers, and now becoming a winner of the Female Founders competition.

“We are thrilled for the opportunity to work with M12, EQT Ventures, and SVB Financial Group,” said Cutulenco. “The funding and ongoing support will bring a big boost to the company’s long-term growth.”

 Greta Cutulenco, CEO and co-founder of Acerta

Greta Cutulenco, CEO and co-founder of Acerta

Mental Canvas

Julie Dorsey, founder and chief scientist of Mental Canvas, trained as an architect before becoming a world-class computer scientist specializing in computer graphics. Her appreciation for, and expertise in these two disciplines inspired her to create the core technology behind Mental Canvas, which reimagines sketch for the digital age by augmenting it with spatial strokes, 3D navigation, and free-form animations. As supported by its early customers, Mental Canvas is a platform that addresses a wide and varied market, with early customers spanning a variety of industries from architecture, concept development for movies, animation and games, product design, education, and scientific illustration. Dorsey is also a professor of computer science at Yale University, and previously was on the faculty at MIT, where she held tenured appointments in the departments of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and Architecture. She is an inventor on more than a dozen awarded and four pending patents, and for the past two years, has devoted herself full-time to her vision of enhancing visual communication by fundamentally elevating the way people draw.

“It is a great honor to be recognized in this way,” said Dorsey. “Of course, we are pleased with the funding, but even more, we are thrilled by the recognition and affirmation this prize provides. It says to me and our team that the technology Mental Canvas is developing to bring sketch into the digital age is groundbreaking and impactful. We look forward to working with M12, EQT Ventures and SVB Financial Group to make our company’s vision a reality.”

Julie Dorsey, founder and chief scientist of Mental Canvas

Julie Dorsey, founder and chief scientist of Mental Canvas

This afternoon, I’ll join the next generation of female leaders at a forum focused on building and nurturing this community and preparing them for what’s next. While it’s a great way to welcome our winners to the M12 portfolio, it’s also an opportunity to continue this journey – one that is very personal to me – of doing our part to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table.

 

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Empowering every developer to achieve more at Microsoft Connect(); 2018

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As we share our new innovations for every developer at Connect(); 2018 today, I’m reminded that now, more than ever, we’re moving towards a world of ubiquitous computing where technology is responsible for transforming every consumer and business experience. For developers, the opportunity to use technologies like AI, IoT, serverless compute, containers and more has never been greater. I’m excited to share some of the latest things we’re working on at Microsoft to help developers achieve more when building the applications of tomorrow, today.

Tools for every developer

As a company built by developers and for developers, we understand the opportunities and challenges that developers face every day. Today, we are continuing to deliver developer tools and Azure services that help you be more innovative and productive than ever.

I’m excited to announce the general availability of Azure Machine Learning service, which enables developers and data scientists to efficiently build, train and deploy machine learning models. Using Azure Machine Learning, you can automate model selection and tuning, increase productivity with DevOps for machine learning, and deploy models with one click. With its tool-agnostic Python SDK, Azure Machine Learning service can be used in any Python environment with your favorite open source frameworks.

Over 12 million developers around the world use Visual Studio to build new applications and enhance existing ones. Today, Visual Studio 2019 Preview and Visual Studio 2019 for Mac Preview are available for download. With numerous improvements to capabilities like IntelliCode for AI-assisted IntelliSense, expanded refactoring capabilities and smarter debugging, developers can spend more time focusing on writing code. Developers can now collaborate in real time with Live Share and the new GitHub pull request capabilities. And developers using Azure will find better support than ever, whether you’re modernizing with containers or building cloud-native solutions with serverless technology.

.NET Core 3 Preview is now available, bringing the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Windows Forms application frameworks to .NET Core. This enables more flexible deployment with side-by-side and self-contained EXEs, better performance and the ability to use native Universal Windows Platform (UWP) controls in Windows Forms and WPF applications via XAML islands. On the server side, check out composable UIs with ASP.NET Core using Razor Components, which provide full-stack web development with .NET for the first time.

For developers looking to build cloud-native, data-driven applications, Azure Cosmos DB offers a fully managed, globally distributed database which supports NoSQL workloads and guarantees less than 10-millisecond low latency and high availability. Today, we’re announcing the general availability of Azure Cosmos DB Shared Throughput Offer with a lowered minimum entry of 400 request units or $24 per month — a 25 times lower entry point — which makes Azure Cosmos DB more accessible to developers who have databases with multiple ‘Azure Cosmos DB containers’.

Microsoft <3 open source

At the heart of great developer innovation is community, and that’s why to open source is so important. We’re committed to empowering developers at every stage of the development lifecycle — from ideation to collaboration to deployment. Our announcements today are not only about open-sourcing more of our own products for community collaboration and contribution, but how we are also actively investing in collaborating on initiatives with others.

Modern container applications often include a variety of components such as containers, databases and virtual machines, and therefore need an easy way to package and maintain the apps in different environments. Today, I’m excited to introduce Cloud Native Application Bundles (CNAB), a new open source package format specification created in close partnership with Docker and supported by HashiCorp, Bitnami and more. With CNAB, you can manage distributed applications using a single installable file, reliably provision application resources in different environments and easily manage the application lifecycle without having to use multiple toolsets.

A year ago, we introduced Virtual Kubelet,Virtual Kubelet (VK), providing a pluggable architecture to extend the Kubernetes API to deploy and manage containers in compute environments like serverless and edge. Since then, a number of VK providers have been added, enabling integrations with multiple services such as Azure Container Instances, AWS Fargate, Alibaba ECI and Azure IoT Edge. Today, we are donating the Virtual Kubelet project to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). By working within the CNCF, we can encourage even more participation and innovations in the community to integrate Kubernetes orchestration with more environments.

I’m also happy to share that we’re delivering on top requests from the .NET community by open-sourcing Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Forms and WinUI XAML Library (WinUI). The initial commits add many namespaces and APIs, with more in the coming months. We look forward to receiving your contributions to these repos.

Easier access to technology enables freedom of choice for developers to select the best solution for the project at hand. Today, we’re announcing that the Azure Database for MariaDB service is now generally available. This enterprise-ready, fully managed service for MariaDB community edition provides built-in high availability and elastic scaling, as well as flexible pricing.

Serverless for all

We’re excited to bring the benefits of serverless computing to every app pattern. Whether you are building event-driven functions, running container workloads orchestrated by Kubernetes or simply managing APIs implemented on any platform, you can do it all without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.

Powered by the open source Virtual Kubelet technology, the Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) virtual node public preview enables serverless Kubernetes. With this new feature, you can elastically provision additional compute capacity in seconds. With a few clicks in the Azure portal, you can turn on the virtual node capability and get the flexibility and portability of a container-focused experience in your AKS environment without worrying about managing the additional compute resources.

Azure Functions enables you to build serverless, event-driven applications in the language of your choice, including .NET, JavaScript and Java. Today, we extend this further with Python support to Azure Functions. Build Linux-based functions using Python either as code or as a Docker container, while enjoying an end-to-end development experience — build, debug/test, publish — using local tooling such as CLI and Visual Studio. Python support brings the serverless approach to machine learning and automation scenarios.

These are just a few of the new tools and services we announced today. I encourage you to look through all the updates and join the live interactive coding sessions at Connect(); 2018. Tune in online today or watch on-demand, explore the code samples shown throughout the event and share what you think on social media (#MSFTConnect). I can’t wait to see what you will build next.

 

 

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Microsoft acquires FSLogix to enhance the Office 365 virtualization experience

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The way Microsoft 365 enables customers to shift to a modern desktop experience puts it at the heart of workplace transformation. A modern desktop with Windows 10 and Office 365 not only offers the most productive and most secure computing experience, it also saves IT time and money, and allows for a focus on driving business results. For many companies, their specific needs require a modern desktop be virtualized.

To help extend our virtualization capabilities and provide an even richer experience for Microsoft 365 customers, we are excited to announce the acquisition of FSLogix.

A company logo for FSLogix

FSLogix is a next-generation app-provisioning platform that reduces the resources, time and labor required to support virtualization. From small businesses to very large global enterprises across numerous industries, FSLogix solutions enhance customer experience and productivity, while reducing support requirements for IT departments.

In September 2018, we announced Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop – a Microsoft 365 service that empowers customers to run a modern desktop experience on Azure. It is the only cloud-based service that delivers a multi-user Windows 10 experience that is optimized for Office 365 ProPlus and includes free Windows 7 Extended Security Updates. With Windows Virtual Desktop, you can deploy and scale Windows and Office on Azure in minutes, with built-in security and compliance.

With this acquisition, customers will benefit in a number of ways. Through customer engagement, we know that Microsoft Office applications are some of the most highly used and most commonly virtualized applications in any business. Office 365 ProPlus is currently the best Office experience, and, with FSLogix enabling faster load times for user profiles in Outlook and OneDrive, Office 365 ProPlus will become even more performant in multi-user virtual environments (including Windows Virtual Desktop).

We are excited to welcome FSLogix to Microsoft, and we look forward to the impact its technology and its people will have on our customers’ virtualization experience.

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Diversity and inclusion update: The journey continues

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Earlier today, Microsoft released its fourth annual comprehensive workforce demographic report. This report reflects our commitment to continuous improvement, finding new ways of reaching diverse talent pools and continuing to evolve a culture of inclusion throughout every level of the company.

The takeaway from today’s report is this: We are seeing signs of progress, and some of the seeds planted in prior years are beginning to take root, but we know we have more ahead of us than behind us. We know that diversity for our employee population requires a long-term commitment and success will not happen overnight. We must also continue to foster an inclusive working environment that will enable all our employees to do their best work and serve the diverse needs of our customers around the world. In short, we need to build on the past year’s progress and recognize we have a lot of work still to do.
Consistent with last year’s disclosure, today we are sharing not only Microsoft’s numbers in a stand-alone fashion, but we are also providing a snapshot of Microsoft and LinkedIn’s representation in two key categories: women globally; and racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S.

Microsoft & LinkedIn
This year and going forward, we’ve aligned reporting of our workforce representation data with the end of our fiscal year; all year-over-year comparisons appearing in this post will compare June 30, 2018 to June 30, 2017.* As of June 30, 2018, the total combined percentage of women who work at Microsoft and LinkedIn stood at 28 percent, up one percentage point from the same time last year. The percentage of African American/Black employees at the two companies increased from 3.8 percent to 4 percent; and the percentage of Hispanic/Latinx employees saw a similar year-over-year increase from 5.5 percent to 5.7 percent. For a look at LinkedIn’s stand-alone workforce demographics, click on LinkedIn Diversity.

A Look at Microsoft’s Numbers

Women at Microsoft – Gains Along the Continuum

Our efforts to recruit, retain and grow the careers of women at Microsoft resulted in an increase in female representation at the company of 1.1 percentage points compared to last year, from 25.5 percent to 26.6 percent.
We’re seeing gains along the continuum, from early-in-career employees to women in more senior roles. For example, the percentage of female interns at Microsoft increased from 40.4 percent to 42.5 percent in the past year. In addition:

  • The representation of women in technical roles increased nearly one and a half percentage points – from 18.5 percent to 19.9 percent.
  • The representation of women in leadership roles increased almost a full percentage point, from 18.8 percent to 19.7 percent.

These increases in representation are important because they are one indicator of how our work to develop groundbreaking technologies and solutions across the company is increasingly informed by a wider range of perspectives and experiences. These figures also represent a longer-term trend of women in technical and leadership roles at Microsoft.

Women at Microsoft

Racial & Ethnic Minorities

In terms of race and ethnicity, we saw slight year-over-year growth in total representation as well as in tech and leadership roles.

The representation of African American/Black employees increased from 3.9 percent to 4.1 percent, and the representation of Hispanic/Latinx employees increased from 5.8 percent to 6.0 percent.

We saw modest increases for both African American/Black and Hispanic/Latinx employees in leadership and tech roles, as well:

  • African American/Black representation in tech roles increased from 2.5 percent to 2.8 percent
  • African American/Black representation in leadership roles increased from 2.3 percent to 2.4 percent
  • Hispanic/Latinx representation in tech roles increased from 4.2 percent to 4.5 percent
  • Hispanic/Latinx representation in leadership roles increased from 4.2 percent to 4.4 percent

Racial & Ethnic Minorities

We also pay close attention to leading indicators to see how we are doing at attracting new employees to come work at Microsoft.  In the past year, for example, more than half of our U.S. interns were women, African American/Black and Hispanic/Latinx.

Board of Directors and SLT Representation

Our board of directors remains among the most diverse of any company in the technology industry with six of 14 board members either being women or ethnic minorities. Our 15-member Senior Leadership Team includes three women and three racial or ethnic minorities.

The Road Ahead – The “How” Behind our Efforts to Improve

Anyone who has followed the issue of diversity in tech over the past several years knows that impacting workforce demographic numbers – particularly in large companies – requires persistence and a long-term commitment to improve.

There are no quick fixes. True, long-lasting change can only come from dedicated, intentional efforts throughout the entire technology ecosystem – such as building an early appreciation for technology as a fulfilling academic or career path, inspiring talented people to consider joining the technology industry, investing in the ongoing development of our talent, building more connections for a sense of belonging, and increasing the skills of managers and leaders to better support the growth and success of their employees.

Whether it is enhancing our inclusive hiring practices, embedding inclusion into our DNA as a company, or holding leaders accountable for diversity and inclusion within their own organizations – all of these things factor into how we are approaching our D&I efforts at Microsoft.

Broadening our Aperture: Finding Talent in New Ways

We know that there is great talent and potential in our world. We’re continuing to push ourselves to engage in developing the pipeline, while also challenging our assumptions on where and how best to identify talented employees. We’re investing in a wide range of initiatives and programs to identify great people who can help Microsoft grow and innovate. Here are a few examples:

  • DigiGirlz gives middle school and high school aged girls opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops.
  • Black Girls Code helps provide girls of color ages 7-17 exposure to computer science and technology so they can start seeing themselves in and working towards roles in tech.
  • The Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program led by Microsoft helps high schools build and grow sustainable computer science programs. Approximately 53,000 students have participated in a TEALS class since 2009, 30 percent of whom have been female and 30 percent of whom have been a racial or ethnic minority. The number of girls and minority students participating in a TEALS program has grown over 400 percent in the past five years.
  • We continue to be a leading funder and board member of Code.org which works at-scale across the country and has made diversity in computer science a major priority. This past year, 45 percent of the students in Code.org’s K-12 classes were female, and 48 percent were minorities.
  • Our strategic partnership with the National Center for Women in Technology’s (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing program has channeled more than 13,000 high school girls into the computer science pipeline.
  • The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy provides military service members and veterans with critical technology skills and job opportunities as they transition into the civilian workforce.
  • Our Military Spouse Training Academy is a new pilot program that provides spouses with technology skills training.
  • Our engagement in tech apprenticeship programs helps identify and develop talent for the industry through curriculum and on-the-job training. Microsoft is one of the founding hiring partners for Apprenti, a registered apprenticeship program recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • We also created our own immersive apprenticeship, called the Learning Engineering Acceleration Program (LEAP), to develop as software engineers and technical program managers for Microsoft’s core engineering groups.
  • Through our Inclusive Hiring program, we are innovating new approaches to recruit people with disabilities. Our Autism Hiring Program is just one example of the promise and potential of these programs.

As we pivot to new technologies like AI, the Cloud and Quantum computing, we need to have a real-world approach to finding talent wherever it may exist, not just in computer science classrooms at four-year universities. The world around us is growing each day with advances in technology and industry, so too must our approach to finding, growing and advancing talent.

Inclusion as a Core Priority

Our efforts to expand the talent pipeline and grow our inclusive hiring practices can be considered foundational to Microsoft’s overall D&I efforts. But we’re not content to simply rely on existing programs to get people into the company – we are pushing ourselves to treat employees like we are recruiting them every single day. Inclusion – the way we engage with and learn from each other and remind each other we belong here – is critical to what we’re building at the company. Our efforts to attract diverse candidates can only move us forward if we provide the opportunity for people to do their best work and feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.

We are deepening our commitment to building a more inclusive environment through programs like expanded parental leave, unconscious bias training and the continued support for and growth of our eight Employee Resource Groups.  More recently, we made Inclusion a “core priority” for all employees at Microsoft, which means that as part of the performance review and growth process, every employee is invited to deepen their learning about diversity and make inclusion a daily – and personal – part of their job.

Leader Accountability

We are also continuing to hold leaders accountable by tying a portion of their compensation directly to diversity progress within their respective organizations and increasing manager adoption of inclusive practices through targeted training sessions, learning/feedback solutions and toolkits.

Our approach is holistic. While each of these initiatives is designed to have some measure of individual impact, we look at them collectively and believe the whole is greater than the sum of their parts.

Final Thoughts

Seeing signs of progress with the state of diversity inside Microsoft should not be equated with being content, because we are anything but. The numbers we are sharing today tell us we are on the right path – but we know we’re still in the nascent stages of our journey. True success should be defined along a continuum that includes more than just point-in-time numbers.

While I have only been in my role for four months, I am energized by the challenges and opportunities in front of us. We are driven by a mission that is inherently inclusive: empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Employees at all levels and in all functions own the cultural transformation by their individual actions. And Microsoft’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is deeply connected to its purpose to create the technologies that will fulfill its mission to help all achieve more. Mission, culture, purpose – the right fuel for our ongoing journey.

*Disclosures in prior years were based on a September 30 reporting date.

The post Diversity and inclusion update: The journey continues appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

Microsoft introduces guidelines for developing responsible conversational AI

Written by admin_wp_f1. Posted in Parceiros

As more of our partners, clients and customers set out to design conversational interfaces such as chatbots and virtual assistants, they often ask us for advice on how to develop these technologies in a way that will benefit people while also maintaining their trust. Today, I’m excited to share guidelines that we’ve developed for responsible development of conversational artificial intelligence, based on what we have learned both through our own cross-company work focused on responsible AI and by listening to our customers and partners.

The field of conversational AI isn’t new to me or to Microsoft. In fact, I’ve been working on conversational interfaces since 1995 when we developed Comic Chat, a graphical chat service that was embedded in an early version of Internet Explorer. The lessons we’ve learned from those experiences, and from our more recent work with tools such as Cortana and Zo, have helped us shape these guidelines, which we follow in our own efforts to develop responsible and trusted bots.

These guidelines are just that – guidelines. They represent the things we’ve found helpful to think through, especially when designing bots that have the potential to affect people in consequential ways, such as helping them navigate information related to employment, finances, physical health and mental well-being. In these situations, we’ve learned to pause and ask: Is this a situation in which it’s important to make sure there are people involved to provide judgement, expertise and empathy?

In addition to these guidelines, we hope you’ll take advantage of other tools we offer, such as the offensive text classifiers in the Microsoft Bot Framework to protect your bot from abuse and Microsoft Azure Application Insights to build traceability capabilities into your bot, which are helpful in determining the cause of errors and maintaining reliability.

Photo of Lili Cheng leaning against railing inside a modern office building and smiling
Microsoft’s Lili Cheng (Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

In general, the guidelines emphasize the development of conversational AI that is responsible and trustworthy from the very beginning of the design process. They encourage companies and organizations to stop and think about how their bot will be used and take the steps necessary to prevent abuse. At the end of the day, the guidelines are all about trust, because if people don’t trust the technology, they aren’t going to use it.

We think earning that trust begins with transparency about your organization’s use of conversational AI. Make sure users understand they may be interacting with a bot instead of – or in addition to – a person, and that they know bots, like people, are fallible. Acknowledge the limitations of your bot, and make sure your bot sticks to what it is designed to do. A bot designed to take pizza orders, for example, should avoid engaging on sensitive topics such as race, gender, religion and politics.

Think of conversational AI as an extension of your brand, a service that interacts with your customers and clients using natural language on behalf of your organization. Remember that when a person interacts with a bot that represents your organization, your organization’s trust is on the line. If your bot violates your customer’s trust, then their trust in your organization may in fact be violated. That’s why the first and foremost goal of these guidelines is to help the designers and developers of conversational AI build responsible bots that represent the trust in the organization that they represent.

We also encourage you to use your best judgment when considering and applying these guidelines, and to also use the appropriate channels in your organization to ensure you’re in compliance with fast-changing privacy, security and accessibility regulations.

Finally, it’s important to note that these guidelines are just our current thoughts; they are a work in progress. We have more questions than we have answers today. We know we’ll learn more as we design, build and deploy more bots in the real world. We look forward to your feedback on these guidelines and working with you as we work toward a future where conversational AI help us all achieve more.

Related:

Read: Responsible Bots: Ten Guidelines for Developers of Conversational AI

Learn more about Microsoft’s approach to AI and take a look at our book, The Future Computed

About Lili Cheng, Corporate Vice President, Conversational AI

 

 

The post Microsoft introduces guidelines for developing responsible conversational AI appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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