Congresswoman Barbara Lee, center, speaks during an event to commemorate Women's Equality Day earlier this year in San Francisco. Lee is among members of Congress who have called on Silicon Valley tech firms to publicly release their employment data on gender and race, which the companies provide annually to the government. Credit: Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Members of Congress, frustrated with the lack of diversity in the tech industry, are calling on Silicon Valley firms to fully disclose their workplace demographics.

An investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that of 211 of the top tech companies in the Bay Area, only 23 publicly released their EEO-1 reports, which show the race and gender breakdown of their employees by job category. The government-mandated reports provide hard numbers that reveal how companies compare with each other and change over time.

“Twenty-three out of 211 – that’s outrageous,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told Reveal. “If you’re not transparent, you’re hiding something.”

“They must be engaged in some form of cover-up, otherwise they’d release their data,” Lee said. “They’re probably covering up their dismal record.”

Companies are not legally required to release the forms. Some responded to Reveal by saying they considered the data sensitive or not reflective of their true diversity.

The hard numbers, Lee said, are a key starting place to tackling the problem. “How can you engage in any corrective actions, in terms of inclusion and parity, if you don’t know what’s taking place?” she said. “How do you hold companies accountable?”

Lee’s district includes the Oakland headquarters of Pandora Media, which would not release its EEO-1 report. Pandora didn’t respond to questions but pointed to its diversity web page, which includes pie charts with percentages that are hard to verify and compare, instead of raw numbers. Like so many other tech diversity reports, Pandora’s page doesn’t show the company’s representation of women of color.

Lee and Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., met with tech leaders in October as part of the Congressional Black Caucus’ push for equity in the tech industry. They did it back in 2015, too. Lee said she asks tech firms to release their complete numbers when she meets with them, but “they give you a song and a dance in many respects.”

Butterfield, in a statement to Reveal, said, “Yes, tech firms should publicly release their EEO-1 form, but that is not enough.”

He also called for companies to release their employee retention data. Underrepresented minorities leaving tech jobs because of unfair treatment is a top concern among diversity advocates.

“If tech companies are serious about addressing the lack of diversity in the their industry, they will publish this information at least annually in a place that is visible to the public,” Butterfield’s statement said.

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., whose district sits in the heart of Silicon Valley, also called for companies to disclose the numbers they report to the government. Khanna’s district encompasses the headquarters of companies that do disclose their EEO-1 reports, such as Intel and Apple, and those that do not, such as PayPal.

Palo Alto Networks, which fought a shareholder proposal to release its numbers, also is located there. So is Lam Research Corporation, which also opposed a resolution to divulge the company’s EEO-1 stats. That proposal failed at Lam’s annual stockholder meeting Nov. 8, with just over 40 percent in favor. The result of Palo Alto Networks’ vote has not yet been reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“At its core, the mission of tech is a belief in the dissemination of information,” Khanna said in a statement to Reveal. “So, tech should be transparent about hiring numbers.”

“Full disclosure about the gender and race breakdown of their workforce is critical to measure and achieve diversity.”

Data reporter Sinduja Rangarajan contributed to this story.

Will Evans can be reached at wevans@revealnews.org. Follow him on Twitter: @willCIR.

Will Evans is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal, covering labor and tech. His reporting has prompted government investigations, legislation, reforms and prosecutions. A series on working conditions at Amazon warehouses was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and won a Gerald Loeb Award. His work has also won multiple Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, including for a series on safety problems at Tesla. Other investigations have exposed secret spying at Uber, illegal discrimination in the temp industry and rampant fraud in California's drug rehab system for the poor. Prior to joining The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2005, Evans was a reporter at The Sacramento Bee. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.