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Apple hired more women and under-represented minorities last year

Apple said Wednesday that 37 percent of the company's hires in the past year were women and 27 percent were under-represented minorities.

Over the past three years, the company has hired 28,500 women and 12,700 people from under-represented minorities in the U.S, the company reported. Globally, 68 percent of Apple's employees are male and 56 percent overall are white.

Like much of Silicon Valley, the company has committed to hiring a more demographically diverse group of people.

These new numbers show that Apple is making progress, albeit slowly. Over the past year, the company has increased the proportion of women in its workforce by 1 percent — women now make up 32 percent of Apple's global workforce. Women in technical roles, something diversity advocates look closely at, also increased 1 percent over the past year — from 22 percent to 23 percent.

"This is on the higher side of average for the industry," said Elizabeth Ames, senior vice president of alliances, marketing and programs at the Anita Borg Institute.

By comparison, at Alphabet's Google and Facebook, women in technical roles make up 19 percent and 17 percent respectively.

"One thing that you cannot see in these reports is where the bulk of the women cluster. Is it at the entry and mid levels?" said Ames. "This is usually the issue in technical roles."

Apple did not grow the number of women in leadership positions over the past year, a disappointing lack of progress, said Ames. That said, Apple is roughly in line Google and Facebook in terms of women holding leadership positions, said Ames.

Women in non-technical roles at Apple also increased — up 1 percent over the past year, from 37 percent to 38 percent.

"This is a significantly lower rate than we see in many other tech companies where this is often on parity," said Ames. (At Facebook, women hold 53 percent of the non-technical roles, and at Google women hold 47 percent of the non-technical roles.)

Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail at Apple, center, stands for a photograph with employees during the grand opening of the company's new flagship store at Union Square in San Francisco, May 21, 2016.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail at Apple, center, stands for a photograph with employees during the grand opening of the company's new flagship store at Union Square in San Francisco, May 21, 2016.

"While we may feel this is very slow improvement — and it is — to realistically transform such a large employee base will take time," said Ames.

For tech giants like Apple, which have tens of thousands of global employees, improving workforce diversity by even one percentage point is difficult, said Ames.

CEO Tim Cook said in a company blog post last year that promoting diversity is critical to Apple's future.

"We aspire to do more than just make our company as diverse as the talent available to hire," Cook said in a post on the company's inclusion and diversity section of its website. "We must address the broad underlying challenges, offer new opportunities, and create a future generation of employees as diverse as the world around us. We also aspire to make a difference beyond Apple."

— With reporting form CNBC's Josh Lipton