For the first time after years of resistance, Google released a diversity report Wednesday evening. The findings are not good, by Google’s own admission: employees are overwhelmingly white men, reinforcing Silicon Valley’s problem with gender and ethnic diversity.
The report showed only 30 percent of the Internet giant’s employees worldwide are women and just 35 percent in the United States aren’t white, with Asians making up 30 percent of that figure. Those numbers take an even greater dive when it comes to tech and leadership positions. Blacks and Hispanics comprise only 3 percent of Google’s tech staff, such as coders and engineers, or hold leadership positions. Twenty-one percent of women hold leadership positions, according to the report, but Google has no female executives and just one on its senior leadership team.
“Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity,” Google said in a blog post Wednesday. Google also attributed part of its diversity problem to the fact that few women and minorities in the U.S. earn computer science degrees. Fewer than 20 percent of computer science degree-holders are women, according to Google. Fewer than 10 percent of blacks and Hispanics graduate from college, and less than 5 percent get a degree in computer science.
Tech companies and Silicon Valley overall have struggled with gender inclusion and racial diversity for decades. From 1999 to 2012, the number of women in Silicon Valley’s top 10 companies dropped 7 percent, according to data obtained by Mother Jones. The number of male employees jumped seven points to 70 percent in the same time frame.
Silicon Valley’s “brogrammer” culture has come under intense criticism lately for how it shuts out women and minorities. Despite more women entering science and technology jobs, the tech industry is predominantly male, especially in hiring positions. Twitter just added its first female board member last year. In general, women hold less than 15 percent of the executive roles at Fortune 500 companies and less than 17 percent of board seats. Female CEOs are also more likely to get fired than men.
And once hired, women often face gender harassment, discrimination in the tech workplace, and significantly lower pay. That’s what happened to former GitHub developer Julie Ann Horvath who left the company after receiving backlash for spurning a male coworker’s advances. Tech companies also often justify turning away female candidates by claiming they don’t “fit” the culture or are simply not qualified.
The resulting male-dominated culture leads to policies that can alienate female consumers, ineptly handling issues like cyber harassment or running ads that portray women as technologically incompetent.
That disparity spills over into race as well — in employee numbers and in the surrounding communities. Mother Jones found the number of white employees increasing nearly 20 percent since 1999. In turn, recruitment for other races — black, Hispanic and Asian — all took a dive. Part of that is, like Google said, because few minorities get computer science degrees or even take the high school advanced placement exam.
Tech companies’ abysmal ethnic diversity rates also reflect a growing problem in the Silicon Valley community. Many blacks and Latinos have been priced out of the increasingly affluent area. And despite booming job and average income growth, minority residents are pushed out due to rising housing and living costs. Much of the area’s recent job growth is from jobs that pay salaries less than $50,000 — about half of what’s needed to buy a house in Silicon Valley.
Outreach programs such as Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code have sprung up to make the tech world less homogeneous by exposing young girls and minorities to computer engineering and teaching them how code.
To remedy the industry’s diversity gap, Google said it will boost its recruitment and education efforts and promised to work more with organizations and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to encourage more women and minorities to go into computer science. But to make significant progress, Google and other tech companies may have to start earlier and invest in primary education programs in underserved communities.