Tag Archives: TECHNOLOGY

Intel Is First to Share Detailed Pay Disparities. It’s Not Flattering.

It’s not really a surprise that white and Asian men dominate the top pay tiers among Intel’s U.S. workforce. That’s been true in the tech industry for years. What’s unusual is the excruciating level of detail about pay disparity the chipmaker is releasing Tuesday to the public—information it could have kept secret.

In addition to its annual update on the outlook for women and people of color at the company, Intel on Tuesday released the results of a new report it sent to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that gives unprecedented pay, race and gender data for about 51,000 U.S. workers. Intel is the first company to release the otherwise private data.

The results are not flattering. Among 52 top executives at Intel, who all earn more than $208,000—the top pay band the EEOC tracks—29 are white men, 11 are Asian men and 8 are white women. The remaining tally is 1 each for Asian women, black women and black men, with no Hispanic men among executives in that top tier.

The ratio was similarly skewed across manager, professional and technician job classifications, with white and Asian men dominating top pay groups and women and people of color clustered in the lower bands. One in four white men at Intel are in the top salary tier, earning at least $208,000, a higher share than any other group. Rates are far lower for women and underrepresented minorities; less than 10% of black employees are top earners.

“It’s difficult to really fix what you aren’t being transparent about,” said Barbara Whye, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and a vice president in human resources. The chipmaker is making itself “very vulnerable,” she says, to “do the right things,” and she hopes her peers will follow and share pay information, too. “These are industry-wide problems,” Whye said. “They are going to require industry-wide solutions to resolve them.” So far, no other companies have said they’ll do the same. 

Intel joins a small but growing number of companies that have released gender and racial pay data, often under pressure from investors. The transparency may be laudable, but it is often overshadowed by what is revealed. Annual diversity reports from the biggest tech companies from the last half decade have shown scant progress in advancing the numbers of under-represented workers.

Companies that choose to release this kind of information risk backlash. Citigroup this year faced criticism after it voluntarily released median pay data that showed women at the bank earn 29% less than men do.

Intel’s report finds that within job types—not just at the top—white men dominate the highest salary band. Two-thirds of employees fall into a job group called “professionals,” which includes includes non-managerial office workers and programmers. Nearly all earn at least $80,000 per year, but white and Asian men have the highest salaries. Black, Hispanic and other minorities are overrepresented in the bottom half of the pay ranges. 

Even if the numbers look bad, companies will ultimately benefit more from leading on disclosure than they would from dragging their heels, said Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital, which pressures companies to disclose gender pay data. The point is not to beat up on organizations for telling the truth, she said. “It’s much more important to have an accurate reflection of reality than to glaze over the simple truth,” she said. “These companies are not as diverse and equal as they could be.”

In 2015, Intel set a goal to have women make up at least 26% of its workforce by 2020. The company met that last year and is working to increase the percentage of women among top executives now to 26%, too, Whye said. Intel says representation among its total U.S. workforce and for technical employees has improved—underrepresented workers make up 15.8% of the company up from 14.6% last year. Women as a percentage of the workforce fell slightly to 26.5% from 26.8%.

Overrepresentation of white men in the highest-paying jobs contributes to the nation’s wage gap: American women earn 20% less than men do, and the gap is even wider for women of color. Intel’s disclosure shows that these disparities can’t be fixed simply by raising the salaries of women and minorities. Whye said the company’s task is to help underrepresented groups get promoted into more lucrative roles and keep them there. 

The data provided to the EEOC covered 2017 and 2018 and was collected from nearly all U.S. companies for the first time this fall under an initiative started by President Barack Obama. By law, the forms stay private unless a company makes them public. 

This could be the only time the EEOC collects worker pay broken down by race, sex and ethnicity, making Intel’s disclosure a unique window into company compensation, and how it results in wage gaps. The agency has been soliciting the data since July and could continue to do so until January under a federal judge’s order. But the EEOC has said it won’t pursue future collections in this form. 

In the U.K. where companies are required to publicly report wage gaps between male and female workers, the disclosures have shown the benefits and limits of transparency, said Harini Iyengar, a lawyer who advocates for equal pay in Britain. “A lot of members of the public who don’t pay an interest generally in labor market issues are quite shocked at the scale of the pay disparity,” she said. “So that’s been very positive because people are genuinely shocked.”

But so far the nation-wide initiative has not resulted in measurable change, she said: “What I’m seeing is collective hand-wringing about, ‘Oh no, this is not good enough. But look everyone else in our industry sectors is in the same boat. So that’s all right then.’”


U.S. Retail Sales Exceed Estimates, With Some Signs of Cooling

 U.S. retail sales rose more than estimated in October on gains from auto dealers and gas stations, though declines in categories including clothing and furniture stores tempered the advance.

The value of overall sales increased 0.3% after an unrevised 0.3% drop the prior month, Commerce Department figures showed Friday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.2% advance.

Sales in the “control group” subset, which some analysts view as a more reliable gauge of underlying consumer demand, increased 0.3% as projected. The measure excludes food services, car dealers, building-materials stores and gasoline stations.

The reading signals consumers remain willing to spend, though at a slower pace than earlier this year, as the robust jobs market and solid wage gains offer reasons for Americans to remain upbeat. Consumers have driven the economy forward in recent quarters, and Friday’s data suggest the trend may continue in the fourth quarter.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated this week that the labor market is strong, following an October jobs report that showed payroll gains intact and the jobless rate still near a half-century low. Solid employment would continue to underpin consumer spending.

Mixed Signals

The report also included some signs that may point to consumers running out of steam, with seven of 13 major categories dropping. Sales at furniture and home furnishing stores fell 0.9% while food service and drinking places decreased 0.3%, both posting the steepest declines of this year.

Control-group sales have increased an annualized 4% over the latest three months compared with a 6.3% rate in the same period through September.

Nonstore retailers, which include online shopping, were a bright spot. They posted a 0.9% gain from the prior month and were up 14.3% from a year earlier, the most of any major group.

Filling-station receipts increased 1.1%, the report showed. The retail figures aren’t adjusted for price changes, so sales could reflect changes in gasoline costs, sales, or both.

Auto Dealers

Spending at automobile dealers climbed 0.5% after decreasing 1.3% in the previous month. That contrasted with industry data from Wards Automotive Group that previously showed auto sales slumped to six-month low in October.

Excluding automobiles and gasoline, retail sales edged up 0.1% after a decline the previous month.

Retail sales estimates in Bloomberg’s survey of economists ranged from a 0.2% decline to a 0.7% gain from the prior month.

The sales data capture don’t capture all of household purchases and tend to be volatile because they’re not adjusted for changes in prices. Personal-spending figures will offer a fuller picture of U.S. consumption in data due at the end of the month.

A separate Labor Department report Friday showed the U.S. import price index fell 0.5% in October from the prior month and 3% from a year earlier, the most in three years. Excluding petroleum, the index decreased 0.1% from the prior month.


Google Project Nightingale: tens of millions of health records gathered ‘without consent’

Google’s approach to privacy is under the spotlight once again after the company allegedly gathered tens of millions of health records “without consent”.

A report by the Wall Street Journal states that the search giant has partnered with US-based health organisation Ascension in a deal that allows it to access medical details of customers across 21 US states. 

The collaboration, known as “Project Nightingale”, is the search firm’s “biggest” attempt yet to catch up with the likes of Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, all of which are “aggressively” expanding into the health sector.  

But tech news site Android Police claims that Google has not gained the approval of Ascension’s patients to use their data. 

The company has allegedly accessed “confidential patient documentation, including names, dates of birth, lab results, doctor diagnoses, hospitalisation records, and other bits of data”, the tech site says. 

Ascension, however, is adamant that the deal is all above board.

“All work related to Ascension’s engagement with Google is HIPAA (the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliant and underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort and adherence to Ascension’s strict requirements for data handling”, it said in a statement. 

Why are Google and other tech giants chasing medical records?

The world’s tech giants have conquered the hardware, software and even entertainment industries, and they now appear to be turning their attention to health technology.

Apple, for example, has been keen to turn its Watch into a health monitor and establish its Healthkit software architecture as an industry-leading standard for medical data storage, notes Wired.

Many of the tech giants hope that their move into health technology will make accessing and using health data easier and more convenient. By introducing a technology ecosystem to the medical world, it could become far easier for hospital staff to find critical information about patients without having to trawl through various forms of software specifically designed for the health industry, the tech site says. 

In Google’s case, the company plans to build an artificial intelligence (AI) system that focuses on “individualised healthcare” and how the technology can be used to “suggest changes to patient care”, says ZDNet

This could put the tech firm in the position of launching a standardised system across the health industry, which the site says should “bolster Google’s foothold in the space.”

Plus, with Google currently in the process of buying fitness tracking firm Fitbit, it’s rumoured that the company will launch its own smartwatch to rival the Apple Watch – a key device in Apple’s push towards health tracking.

Is Google allowed to access patient data?
In a word, yes.

Company insiders claim that Ascension patients are unaware that their medical data is being shared. While this may raise concerns among privacy advocates, Forbes states that privacy laws ‘generally allow the sharing of patient data with third parties without notification if it is for purposes that “help it carry out its health care activities and functions.’”

Google has also stressed that its agreement with Ascension means that it can only use patient data for its medical-related algorithms.

“To be clear: under this arrangement, Ascension’s data cannot be used for any other purpose than for providing these services we’re offering under the agreement, and patient data cannot and will not be combined with any Google consumer data”, Google Cloud chief Tariq Shaukat wrote in a blogpost.


Nokia Staff Say Internal Politics Distracting Managers From 5G

When Nokia Oyj cut its outlook and halted the dividend last week — wiping out a quarter of its market value — analysts blamed the company’s underinvestment in research and development, execution challenges and exposure to a U.S. phone carrier that had paused spending. Add internal politics to the list.

Employees in Finland are frustrated because they believe that management at the telecom equipment maker has been distracted by disagreements over priorities and staffing since Nokia’s $18 billion takeover of Franco-American rival Alcatel-Lucent in 2016, according to Lasse Laurikainen, a worker representative for senior salaried staff at the company’s Espoo headquarters.

“Execution needs to be sharper,” Laurikainen said by phone. “It’s pure politics. And some are favoring their nationals and rejecting common ways of working.”

The profit warning showed Nokia is struggling to keep up with Sweden’s Ericsson AB and China’s Huawei Technologies Co. — its main rivals — on 5G, the next generation of mobile technology that equipment makers need to spur growth. Nokia’s expectations for higher profits from 5G have now been pushed further out, and the Finnish company plans to plow more money into research and development to try to catch up.

Chief Executive Officer Rajeev Suri said that integrating Alcatel-Lucent has been complicated, in an interview after the Oct. 24 announcement, because Nokia had to deal with product overlap and migration.

A representative for Nokia declined to comment, when asked to respond to the worker concerns about internal politics.

Nokia’s workforce roughly doubled with the Alcatel-Lucent acquisition, and was about 103,000 last year. About 85% of its European staff are located outside Finland.

“The entire idea of the merger was for the whole to be bigger than the sum of its parts,” said Mikael Rautanen, an analyst at Inderes. The “strategic logic” doesn’t look like it’s worked out at the moment, he said, pointing out that Nokia’s frequent management changes in its mobile networks unit show there have been problems. “Management isn’t changed if everything is OK and developing well.”


India’s Telecom Regulator Says ‘Market Forces’ Easing Price War

 India’s telecommunications regulator said that while courts have blocked its attempts to reign in “predatory pricing” by carriers, market forces are easing a tariff war that has left the country’s three big carriers saddled with debt.

In one signing of easing competition, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. earlier this month said it was imposing a charge on voice calls that were formerly free. The move reversed an offer that, along with cheap data packages, had accelerated a years-long competitive battle that pushed the market price for 1GB of data per month to less than a dollar.

“Market forces are working on predatory pricing,” Ram Sewak Sharma, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman, said in an interview.

Jio, which pushed its way into first place this summer after jumping into the market in 2016 with a promise of free voice calling for life, is raising prices just as rivals Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd. are posting losses and selling some assets to raise cash. Jio’s reversal on free calls could mark a turning point in their quest for profitability.

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea Jump After Jio Call Price Revision

For its part, the government said late Wednesday it will spend about 410 billion rupees ($5.8 billion) on two unprofitable state-run telecommunication companies to help them take on competition. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd., which provides services in Mumbai and New Delhi, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., that serves the rest of the nation, would merge under the plan, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a briefing in New Delhi. MTNL has reported losses in nine of the past 10 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

While Jio’s competitors have cried foul over its strategy of entering the market with free services, courts haven’t gone along with TRAI’s attempts to regulate pricing, Sharma said. Attention has focused again on the government as carriers prepare to upgrade networks to 5G. The government has said it may ask as much as $84 billion to license airwaves needed for the high-speed services.

The $84 Billion Dilemma Vexing India’s Three Telecom Tycoons

Carriers have said they need lower spectrum prices to make 5G affordable.

Sharma said the regulator sees prices set by the government for spectrum as “reasonable,” and that it’s up to carriers to take the next step.

“Government has done everything it needs to do for 5G,” said Sharma. He also said carriers should not have to pay up-front for spectrum licenses, but instead should pay two years first, then every year after that.

He said TRAI has already made its spectrum recommendations to the government and that he couldn’t comment further.


College-Scandal Movie Got Early Decision From Lifetime Network

Those riveted by the college-admissions scandal will get a double dose Saturday, when the Lifetime cable network airs a two-hour movie and hourlong investigative piece on the topic.

But another sort of drama happened behind the scenes: a flat-out sprint to produce a ripped-from-the-headlines film while viewers are still interested.

Even by Lifetime’s standards, “The College Admissions Scandal” came together fast. The female-focused network began working on the film just weeks after the scandal broke in March. Lifetime then compressed a process that typically takes 18 months into just seven.

It started when Lifetime executive Tanya Lopez emailed screenwriter Stephen Tolkin after hearing he was working on a pitch. “Get in here,” she said. The pair created a verbal outline of the story, saving time on back-and-forth drafts. The network wanted to get the story out before a new set of kids started applying to schools this fall. Shooting wrapped in August.

“That’s about as fast as you can get a movie done,” Tolkin said.

Lifetime, which is jointly owned by Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp., has long been a player in true crime — a genre that’s gotten increasingly popular, with entire channels and serialized podcasts devoted to it.

Lifetime has reason to be aggressive. Like other cable networks, it’s struggling to hang on to viewers who are defecting to streaming services such as Netflix. The overall audience at the channel has fallen 4% to an average of 689,000 viewers in prime time this year — slightly better than the industrywide decline.

With the college-admissions firestorm, the network found something with plenty of compelling angles: rich kids, desperate parents and federal crimes. But Lifetime had to navigate some delicate territory.

For Mastermind of Vast College Scam, Fat Fees Weren’t Enough

Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, both of whom perform in TV movies, were among the dozens of high-profile people caught up in the scandal. Loughlin previously appeared in the Lifetime movie “A Mother’s Rage,” about a woman terrorized while dropping off her daughter at college.

That meant the controversy hit close to home. Even though “The College Admissions Scandal” isn’t based on the stories of Loughlin or Huffman, some actors turned down roles because they were friendly with the actresses.

The movie focuses instead on a fictional hedge fund manager (Mia Kirshner) who gets her daughter into Yale University by having her cheat on her SAT test. There’s also an interior decorator (Penelope Ann Miller) and her attorney husband who get their unknowing son into Stanford University by creating a doctored photo of him appearing on a crew team.

Critics have already taken shots at the movie’s unsubtle title, while simultaneously praising it as escapist fare. (“The College Admissions Scandal” was presented as a working title in July, but Lifetime ended up using it for the finished product.)

“It’s one of those things where it doesn’t matter if it’s good or not,” said EJ Dickson in Rolling Stone. “Because obviously you’re going to watch it and drink exactly 2.5 glasses of white wine and shriek with delight while your significant other fumes in the other room.”


Airbus Counters Cyber Attacks Targeting Suppliers

Airbus SE has taken steps to shield itself from cyber attacks that targeted the European aerospace and defense company through subcontractors’ computer systems.

The maker of passenger planes and military jets is aware of cyber events and has detection methods to respond quickly, a spokesman said Thursday. Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc and France’s Expleo are among four Airbus suppliers targeted over the past year, Agence France-Presse reported earlier.

“As a major high tech and industrial player, Airbus is like any other company, a target for malicious actors,” the company said. “Airbus continuously monitors activities on its systems, has detection mechanisms in place, and takes immediate and appropriate actions when needed.”

A spokesperson for Rolls-Royce said the company doesn’t comment on reports of individual attempts to gain access to its systems and works with authorities to combat any.

This isn’t the first time Airbus has been a target. The manufacturer said in January it reinforced security after a cyber breach at its jetliner business allowed hackers to access some employees’ personal information.

Read more: Airbus Hit by Cyber Breach, Says Aircraft Production Unaffected

Rival Boeing Co. was hit last year by what it called a “limited intrusion of malware that affected a small number of systems.” Production and deliveries weren’t affected.


Facebook tightens political ad rules in Singapore as election looms

Social media giant Facebook Inc said on Thursday it had implemented new rules for political advertisements in Singapore ahead of an election in the city-state expected within months.

The new rules require those who want to run ads about social issues, elections or politics in Singapore to confirm their identity and location, and disclose who is responsible for the advertisement.

Facebook will also require Paid for by disclaimers in advertisements, which will be stored in a searchable online library for seven years.

Under pressure from authorities around the world, Facebook last year started introducing several similar initiatives in various countries, including the United States and India, to increase oversight of political ads.

Singapore – which has been ruled by the People’s Action Party since it split from Malaysia in 1965 – has repeatedly said it is vulnerable to foreign interference in its domestic affairs.


EBay CEO Devin Wenig steps down in ongoing operating review

EBay Inc. Chief Executive Officer Devin Wenig is stepping down amid the company’s ongoing operating review.

Scott Schenkel, EBay’s chief financial officer, was appointed as interim CEO, the company announced Wednesday. The company said it will seek a permanent CEO and consider internal and external candidates.

EBay shares fell 1.6 per cent in early trading in New York.

Wenig, 52, has been under pressure from activist Paul Singer, who has been pushing the company to spin off some of its businesses, including StubHub and the Classifieds Group. In March, EBay reached an agreement with Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. and Starboard Value to appoint two new directors and undertake a strategic review of its portfolio assets.

Wenig took over EBay following its split with PayPal in 2015 and made bold promises of returning the marketplace to prominence. To compete against Amazon.com Inc., Wenig tried to freshen EBay’s image with younger shoppers, made the site easier to navigate and harnessed artificial intelligence to give EBay merchants real-time insights about what shoppers want and how much they’re willing to pay. But the results have been slow going and EBay has continued to watch Amazon grow at a much faster pace and gobble up more marketshare and customers.


Alibaba unveils self-developed AI chip for cloud computing division

Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd said on Wednesday it has developed a new chip that specialises in machine-learning tasks and which will be used in services provided by its cloud computing division.

The chip, called Hanguang 800, is currently being used within Alibaba to power product search, automatic translation, and personalised recommendations on the e-commerce giant’s web sites.

Alibaba has no immediate plans to sell the chip as a standalone commercial product, a company spokeswoman said.

Overseas tech giants such as Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc are also developing their own custom chips, aiming to improve the performance of specialised AI tasks at company-operated data centres.

Alibaba’s foray into the chip sector comes amid efforts by Beijing to promote China’s semiconductor industry and reduce the country’s reliance on foreign imports of core technologies.