It's easy and funny to skewer Silicon Valley's caricature as a white male patriarchy--especially in the boardroom--for one awful reason: Because it's true.
There is no easy fix for the technology industry's ongoing and well-documented struggle with diversity. But understanding why the problem exists at an institutional level is important if things are ever going to change--and that requires transparency. For the first time, Google, the tech industry's current bellwether and our reigning Most Innovative Company, has published internal diversity numbers that turn a hard mirror on its workforce.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google's internal numbers reveal a company comprised overwhelmingly of white dudes.
"We've always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google," writes Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of People Operations at Google, in a blog post. "We now realize we were wrong, and that it's time to be candid about the issues."
Overall, Google's workforce is comprised of 70% men. 61% of Googlers are white, 30% are Asian, 3% are Hispanic, and 2% are black.
When you burrow down into technology jobs like engineering specifically, the gender gap widens considerably: 83% men versus 17% women.
Google, while emblematic of the problem, is hardly alone. A 2011 study conducted by the College Board painted an illuminating, if grim, picture of unevenness in our education system. Although black and Hispanic students account for 30% of the overall population, they account for just 12.5% of all engineering bachelor's degrees. Meanwhile women, according to separate findings, account for just 18% of technology and science degrees.
"There's an economic imperative for more diversity," Mary Fernandez, CEO of MentorNet, told Fast Company earlier this year. "You had better be tapping all potential talent... Women have to be part of the story. Latinos have to be part of the story. First-generation college attendees have to be part of the story."
Obviously, there are no easy short-term answers. But Google, to its credit, seems willing to roll up its sleeves and invest in the future, which starts early on in a student's educational career. "We're the first to admit that Google is miles from where we want to be," writes Bock, "and that being totally clear about the extent of the problem is a really important part of the solution."
You can read the rest of Google's diversity report here.
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