Google has finally acknowledged its diversity problem.
Laszlo Block, the company’s senior vice president for people operations, reversed the company’s reluctance to reveal the number of women and minorities in its workforce. The statistics disclosed on Wednesday show that 30 percent of Google (GOOG) workers are women and 39 percent are racial or ethnic minorities. The overwhelming majority of nonwhite Google employees are of Asian descent.
“Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity,” Block wrote, “and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.”
Silicon Valley has come under increasing criticism for a lack of diversity. There is an undeniably white hue to the mostly male boards of the country’s most important technology companies, and a number of incidents in recent years have pointed toward a thread of misogyny in Silicon Valley’s culture. While the tech world’s solution to most problems involves data, workforce diversity seems to be an exception. Facebook (FB), Yahoo (YHOO), Apple (AAPL), and Oracle (ORCL) haven’t disclosed numbers on the makeup of their workforces. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, has said her company plans to do so eventually.
But it’s clear that Google isn’t the only big company in this situation. Only 166 of the companies in the S&P 500 disclose the percentage of women in the workforce, and fewer still—103—reveal the percentage of minorities, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Google employs fewer women than 84 of those S&P 500 companies, and Google’s minority workforce is smaller than 21 of that group. The average corporate workforce from within the S&P 500 subset that discloses data is 35 percent women and 30 percent minorities—and technology companies actually do slightly better than average with minorities (33 percent) and slightly worse with women (29 percent).
Here’s how Google stacks up to public technology companies that disclose similar numbers:
One thing Google still won’t discuss is the representation of minorities and women in the ranks of management. Silicon Valley companies have come under fire for having disproportionately white executive teams and boards. The average percentage of management positions held by women among S&P 500 technology companies that disclose workforce data is 20 percent. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) leads the way with 28 percent of management roles filled by women, on a par with the overall S&P 500 average of 27 percent. At tech companies in this group, 19 percent of management jobs go to minorities, again on a par with the S&P 500 average of 18 percent.
“There are lots of reasons why technology companies like Google struggle to recruit and retain women and minorities,” Laszlo wrote on Google’s official blog. And he made it clear that at least some of the problems extend far beyond Google’s headquarters. “For example,” he added, “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.”