Google, tech and diversity: more numbers and reaction

So Google’s workforce is mostly white and male. Now what?

As our own Michelle Quinn wrote, Google is being lauded for finally disclosing the race and gender breakdowns of its employees, even though the company admits it’s “not something we want to tout.” The numbers: 70 percent of its global workforce is male, and 60 percent of its U.S. workforce is white. In addition, Quinn writes that Google’s numbers lag those of other tech companies when it comes to diversity. More data gathered by Mother Jones underscores that fact.

Google — which initially fought efforts to disclose its workforce’s demographics — reports it’s trying harder to make changes, including widening its recruiting efforts and contributing to computer science education for girls and women.

But reactions to Google’s disclosure, which is rare among tech companies, include criticism that Google isn’t doing enough. “About a quarter of today’s pool of highly experienced software developers is female, and a company such as Google — which has its pick of the crop of new graduates as well as experienced engineers — should have far greater diversity,” writes Vivek Wadhwa, a longtime vocal critic of the lack of diversity at Silicon Valley tech companies, for PBS NewsHour. Google says 17 percent of its tech positions worldwide are held by women.

Reports about Google’s new disclosure include comments from readers who dispute that the company needs to take any action on diversity, that the Silicon Valley tech industry is purely a meritocracy. But having more diverse employees and leaders could contribute to more than just technological innovation at the companies. PBS NewsHour’s Murrey Jacobson reminds us the tech industry also has had high-profile problems with, for example, its treatment of women. A couple of high-profile cases that quickly come to mind: A GitHub co-founder last month stepped down after a female software developer resigned and publicly called out the company for having what she said was a culture of intimidation of and disrespect to women. And in 2012, Ellen Pao sued famed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins for sexual discrimination and gender-based discrimination.

One other interesting thing to note amid the increased talk about the recently stepped-up talk of the importance of diversity. The report by Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones, mentioned above, shows that workforce diversity at the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley has actually gotten worse from 1999 to 2012. With some expecting other tech companies to follow Google’s lead to be transparent about its demographics, and its vow to do something about it, perhaps their actions will reverse the trend.


Photo from AFP/Getty Images archives


Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (4265 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of, the Mercury News tech website. Email: