It's well known that the tech world is, on average, dishearteningly homogeneous.
There are the statistics that, when taken together, paint a pale, masculine picture: Only 18.5 percent of high school students who took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science last year were girls and, in two states, not a single female, African American or Hispanic student took the exam at all. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that only 0.4 percent of female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science. And while 20 percent of software developers are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), that number may be dwindling; the percentage of women in computer science has fallen in recent years.
Against that backdrop, the lack of diversity at Google doesn't come as much of a surprise.
Yesterday, the Mountain View, Calif-based company released statistics on the company's makeup, revealing that out of its more than 46,000 employees, 30 percent are women (compared with 47 percent of the total U.S. work force, according to 2012 figures from the BLS ), while only 2 percent are black (compared with 12 percent of the overall workforce) and 3 percent are Hispanic (16 percent of the overall workforce identify as Hispanic or Latino). Asians make up nearly a third of the company (while only accounting for 5 percent of the overall workforce), and 61 percent of employees identify as white.
These comparisons aren't great, to be sure. But the lack of diversity becomes even starker when you break the company down into tech, non-tech and leadership sectors, which, to its credit, Google has gone ahead and done.
Of Google’s technical staff, 60 percent are white, 1 percent is black, 2 percent are Hispanic, and 34 percent are Asian; Women make up just 17 percent of tech employees and fill only 21 percent of leadership positions. Meanwhile, in the non-tech sector they account for 48 percent of employees, painting a Mad Men-esque picture of a company with a heavily male tech team, supported by a cast of female administrative assistants and secretaries.
"We’re not where we want to be when it comes to diversity," Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, acknowledged in a blog post accompanying the diversity report, although he went on to explain why that's not entirely Google's fault:
"There are lots of reasons why technology companies like Google struggle to recruit and retain women and minorities. For example, women earn roughly 18 percent of all computer science degrees in the United States. Blacks and Hispanics make up under 10 percent of U.S. college grads and collect fewer than 5 percent of degrees in CS majors, respectively. So we’ve invested a lot of time and energy in education."
The fact that Google is going public with its makeup is a step (you can argue how big, but it's still a step) in the right direction; ideally, although perhaps unlikely, other prominent tech players like Facebook and Microsoft will follow suit. Publishing a report illustrating just how white and male your company is doesn't make the problem go away, of course, but transparency and awareness should help place pressure on Google to increase its diversity year-over-year through outreach and educational programs.
The contextual points Block outlines in the graph above are fair ones – there are overarching barriers keeping women and minorities from pursuing a career in tech – but hopefully by publishing this report, Google is committing a fraction of its vast resources to try and change the narrative.
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