Image: Flickr/Julian Bleecker
Google has released stats on the diversity of its workforce, and surprise surprise, the picture is mainly white and male. What’s not surprising is the depressing lack of women and minorities; what’s more encouraging is that Google actually released the data at all.
As the company admitted in a blog post, “We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues.” Hear, hear. While the numbers might not be too optimistic, it’s great to hear a tech company—especially one with the import of Google—at least own up to their record on diversity and recognise the need to improve.
Overall demographics of Google's workforce. The stats are from January 2014; gender data is worldwide and ethnicity data is US-only. Image: Google
On the gender front, their overall stats aren’t in fact too shocking, relatively speaking, for the tech world (they do still leave much to be desired). They reported that 30 percent of their workforce are women. However, when you break that down into actual roles in tech, like engineers, the figure’s at just 17 percent. That clearly adheres to gender stereotypes that put women in non-technical roles.
Demographics for tech roles. Image: Google
Additionally, women in leadership roles only make up 21 percent. If you look at the raw data, there are just three women in the very top bracket of job categories (“executive/senior officials and managers”), out of a total of 36.
There’s a similar divide when you look at the ethnicity stats. Overall, 61 percent of Google’s workforce is white, but this goes up to 72 percent when you consider only leadership positions. As might be expected, Asian workers are represented at a higher than average rate, at 30 percent of the total workforce.
Demographics for leadership roles. Image: Google
Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of “people operations” at the tech giant, wrote that one reason it’s hard to recruit women and minorities is the disproportionate distribution of computer science qualifications. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, around 18 percent of US computer science degrees are awarded to women (which is dishearteningly less than in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s), and five percent to black and Hispanic candidates.
That might be true, but it’s not a reason to pass the buck on, and thankfully Bock acknowledges that. “We’re the first to admit that Google is miles from where we want to be—and that being totally clear about the extent of the problem is a really important part of the solution,” he said.
The problem is that you can track diversity gaps back from top positions, through the workforce, down to college degrees, and even earlier on in schools. There’s clearly a problem with the whole system, and while education is one area that needs addressing, hiring practices, unconscious biases, outdated stereotypes, and the persistence of “bro culture" in tech companies all could use a shake-up.
Google didn’t suggest any ways it could specifically improve on these fronts, but at least transparency is a step in the right direction.