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Google is having trouble retaining black and Latinx employees

Google is having trouble retaining black and Latinx employees

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google released its annual diversity report today, and among the data is a new section detailing attrition rates — that is, how often employees leave the company. And it points to a key problem that Google has in creating a more diverse and representative workforce: black and Latinx employees leave more often than white and Asian employees.

That’s particularly problematic, because black employees make up just 2.5 percent of Google’s US workforce, and Latinx employees are just a point higher, at 3.6 percent. For comparison, the US Census Bureau says these groups make up 13.3 percent and 17.8 percent of the overall population (not including people who reported two or more races). White employees, meanwhile, make up 53.1 percent of Google’s US workforce, and Asian employees compose 36.3 percent.

“To improve workforce representation we must focus not only on hiring.”

Google says these disproportionate attrition rates have hurt its ability to make gains in representation. “We’re working hard to better understand what drives higher attrition and taking focused measures to improve it,” writes Danielle Brown, Google’s chief diversion and inclusion officer. Google says — and this is going to sound incredibly obvious — it figured out that “feeling included is associated with lower attrition,” so it’s working to make the company feel more inclusive and to improve the visibility and development of people of color within the company.

“Put simply, to improve workforce representation we must focus not only on hiring, but also on developing, progressing, and retaining members of underrepresented employees, and creating an inclusive culture,” Brown writes.

Image: Google

The attrition data also shows that men leave Google at slightly higher rates than women. That may mean Google is doing a better job of retaining women — though these numbers don’t explain why people are leaving, so it isn’t always clear whether the rates are a good or a bad thing; it’s entirely possible, for instance, that men are having an easier time moving around Silicon Valley than women are, leading to depressed attrition rates.

Google’s overall diversity stats for the year show its gender makeup is essentially unchanged, with women making up just under 31 percent of the company — as they have the last four years. The presence of black and Latinx employees remained flat as well, with both ticking up only 0.1 percent. Google did see a somewhat larger increase in people with two or more races, growing from 3.6 percent to 4.2 percent. Gains were similarly small to nonexistent in tech positions and leadership, with each of these groups having an even smaller representation in those cases.