After years of pressure, Google has released the breakdown of exactly who works for them. To Google, these numbers show that the company is being transparent about the strides they're making to address a real issue. To everyone else, they're pretty much better late than never.
"We've always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google," Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations (aka hiring, for people who don't work at a company that has People Operations) wrote in a blogpost Wednesday. "We now realize we were wrong, and that it's time to be candid about the issues. Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it's hard to address these kinds of challenges if you're not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts."
The facts don't look good for the company: Google (which has over 26,000 employees) is globally 70 percent men and 30 percent women. In the US, it's 61 percent white and 30 percent Asian, with tiny percentages of black, Hispanic and mixed race employees. Leadership is not much better: 79 percent of people holding management roles in the company are men and 72 percent are white.
The breakdown between tech and non-tech jobs is, unsurprisingly, where the real divide at Google lies. 83 percent of their tech jobs are held by men and 17 percent by women. But on the non-tech side, the gender split is almost exactly 50/50.
Bock told Gwen Ifill at PBS's Newshour that a major block to Google's hiring practices is a "pipeline" problem. Bock basically reiterated a commonly stated complaint that the company struggles with hiring diversely because they don't have the candidates available. He also said Google released these numbers because "we kind of felt we had to" (perhaps because people have been bothering them about it for ages):
You know, we hadn't shared the information in the past because we were worried about how it would look and maybe people would think of Google differently, and, quite frankly, because we knew we would not look good. And we were worried about litigation.
And what we, after much discussion, kind of realized a number of months ago was that the right thing to do would be to share this information, because we have an issue. Our industry has an issue. And the only way to have an honest conversation about this is to start by actually sharing the facts.
The issue with simply fixating on the "pipeline" problem is that it ignores what happens once these women and minorities get these jobs: they face an environment that's hostile and unwelcoming, an environment that gives them no reason to stick around or encourage members of the younger generation to do the same.
Not that it was needed, but data obtained by Mother Jones indicates that Google is far from alone in having a particularly un-diverse workforce. Despite the now ever-present conversation about hiring practices in Silicon Valley, the speed at which the industry has grown hasn't resulted in a more diverse workforce – it's actually gone the opposite direction.
"...the Valley is actually doing worse than it was a decade ago, diversity-wise, and hasn't done much in recent years to close the gap," Josh Harkinson wrote, with charts of hiring data from Apple, Google, Oracle, Cisco Systems, Intel, Gilead Sciences, eBay, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, and VMware to prove it. "Silicon Valley's race and gender disparities are even wider when limited to executives and top managers, and more dramatic when compared to the makeup of the state workforce." Harkinson also noted that "Asians have actually surpassed whites as the dominant racial group."
Google released this data when they were ready to release it, so they're able to now tout what they're doing to fix the problem. On their site Google.com/diversity, they've outlined how they're funding coding programs for kids and scholarships for college students, as well as the research they've done into why women don't pursue degrees in computer science.
That study, released this week, found that it's okay – the issue of diversity in tech is "actionable."
"That's not to say this is a problem that can be solved easily, but it is a problem that can be tackled with deliberate and directed action focused on encouragement and exposure," the study concluded. Google recommends things like social encouragement and academic exposure to encourage women and minorities to get involved in tech – things their company just happens to be doing themselves.
Image via Google