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Google is building the future, but its workforce looks a lot like an unwanted past

Google is building the future, but its workforce looks a lot like an unwanted past

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Google's workforce isn't nearly as diverse as it could be, and today the company is publicly admitting that it's a very real problem. For the first time ever, Google has published comprehensive gender and ethnic demographics for its staff. As you might guess, the numbers reveal that a large majority of Google employees are white men. 61 percent of workers in the United States are white; Asian ethnicity ranks second at 30 percent. But beyond that, diversity at Google falls off a cliff and is more or less non-existent. Just 3 percent of Googlers are Hispanic, and only 2 percent are black. Gender data is more global, but still troubling: women make up only 30 percent of Google's worldwide team.


"It’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts," wrote Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations. Bock bluntly stated that Google is far from where it wants to be in terms of diversity — "miles" away, even — but he also noted that this problem stretches across all of the tech industry. He's right on that point, but few companies in Silicon Valley have been this open about tackling the issue. Google is hoping to start an important conversation with the release of its first diversity report.

A refreshing dose of honesty

A large part of the problem has to do with education. "Women earn roughly 18 percent of all computer science degrees in the United States," said Bock. "Blacks and Hispanics make up under 10 percent of US college grads and collect fewer than 5 percent of degrees in CS majors, respectively." Google says it's pumped tens of millions of dollars into organizations working to further computer science education among women. "And we’ve been working with historically black colleges and universities to elevate coursework and attendance in computer science," Bock said.

But Google isn't shifting away blame by pointing out the lopsided education numbers. Today's public display counters years of what Bock describes as "reluctance" to talk diversity at Google. "We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues," Bock said. "Being totally clear about the extent of the problem is a really important part of the solution." The statistics are by no means impressive; they're pretty terrible, all in all. But Google seems willing to share them in hopes of fixing diversity in Mountain View, on the web, and across the entire technology industry. Now it's time for Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others to make this sort of honesty a trend.