Saturday 22 November 2014

Google releases diversity data

Published 29/05/2014 | 13:32

Google has revealed data showing the diversity of its workforce
Google has revealed data showing the diversity of its workforce

Google has revealed how white and male its workforce is - just 2% of its employees are black, 3% are Hispanic, and 30% are women.

The search engine giant said that the transparency about its workforce - the first disclosure of its kind in the largely white, male technology sector - is an important step toward change.

"Simply put, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity," Google senior vice president Laszlo Bock wrote in a blog.

The numbers were compiled as part of a report that major US employers must file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Companies are not required to make the information public.

The gender divide is based on the roughly 44,000 people Google employed throughout the world at the start of this year. The company didn't factor about 4,000 workers at its Motorola Mobility division, which is being sold to China's Lenovo Group for 2.9 billion US dollars. The racial data is limited to Google's roughly 26,600 workers in the US as of August 2013.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg recently said the social networking company is heading towards disclosure as well, but it was important to share the data internally first.

Apple, Twitter, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft did not respond immediately to queries about plans to disclose data.

Mr Bock said Google has been working to diversify, not just its offices but in the broader technology sector. Since 2010, the firm has given more than 40 million US dollars to organisations working to bring computer science education to women and girls, he said.

The company is also working with historically black colleges and universities to elevate coursework and attendance in computer science, he said.

"But 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.

Gender and ethnic disparities are reflected throughout the technology industry. About 7% of technology workers are black or Latino in Silicon Valley and nationally. Blacks and Hispanics make up 13.1 and 16.9% of the US population, respectively, according to the most recent Census data.

In the coming months, Google said it will work with the Kapor Centre for Social Impact, a group that uses information technology to close gender and ethnic gaps in the Silicon Valley workforce. The centre will be organising a Google-backed conference in California focusing on issues of technology and diversity.

Co-founder Freada Kapor Klein, who started the Level Playing Field Institute 13 years ago to teach and mentor black and Latino students in science and maths, said Google is showing leadership "which has been sorely needed for a long time."

"Google is the company known for the moonshot, and applying that part of Google DNA to this problem is a breath of fresh air," she said.

Earlier this year, the Reverand Jesse Jackson launched a campaign to diversify Silicon Valley, asking to meet with leaders of several iconic technology companies about bringing black and Hispanics into their workforce and leadership.

Since then, he's been leading delegations to annual shareholder's meetings at firms including Google, Facebook, eBay and Hewlett-Packard.

On Wednesday Jackson said Google is to be commended.

"It's a bold step in the right direction. We urge other companies to follow Google's lead," he said. "Silicon Valley and the tech industry have demonstrated an ability to solve the most challenging and complex problems in the world. Inclusion is a complex problem - if we put our collective minds together, we can solve that too."

Iris Gardner, a manager at non-profit Code2040, which places high performing black and Latino software engineering students in internships with top technology companies, said Google's disclosure could mark a pivotal moment in the push to diversify Silicon Valley.

"It is a big deal for them to be transparent about something that most companies haven't in the past been willing to share," she said.

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