Published in News Features
Despite its very best efforts, the 2015 diversity data released recently by Alphabet, Google's parent company shows that progress in transforming its US workforce into one that better reflects US Society generally, i.e., more gender and ethnically diverse at all levels of the organisation, is at best glacially slow.
Google's overall percentage of non-white, non-Asian employees has not budged at all, remaining at the 2014 levels, which were 2% for African Americans, 3% for Hispanics, 3% for multi-racial individuals and less than 1% for Native American and Pacific Islanders.
Women, comprised 31% of the overall workforce in 2015 which was up 1% from 2014, they made up 21% of technical hires for the year, up from 19% in 2014 and 24% of all employees in leadership positions were women, a 2% upward shift from the year before.
In comparison 30% of Apple's workforce in 2015 were women, up 1% from the 2014 figure, 8.6% were black up from 8.0% and hispanics were at 11.7%, up from 11.0% in 2014. Apple's Executives (managers and senior figures) were almost entirely male (83%) and white (83%).
Microsoft's workforce in 2015 comprised of 26.8% women, with facebook slightly ahead of the others at 32%. These numbers need to be seen against the backdrop of the census figures for the US across the various ethnic and gender groups and the underlying trends in STEM subject labour pool to get a clearer picture of what is going on. In the general US population for example, whites (non-hispanic) make up 63%, hispanics 17%, blacks 12.3%, Asians 5% and multi-racial groups 2.4%, with women representing 50.8%.
Google, who it must be said have themselves volunteered this information in line with their well publicised commitment to promoting greater diversity within the Tech Industry, have tried to put a positive spin on the results. Nancy Lee, Vice President of People Operations said the figures did not truly reflect where Google wanted to be, and that many small changes had been made which were not yet visible in the statistics, but which were now beginning to have an impact.
We can but live in hope. For me, this all too predictable subterfuge from corporates like Google who habitually rinse their diversity data through some dubious alchemy, in order to deflect criticism by finding positives no matter how tenuous or believable, does their diversity programme a grave disservice in terms of moral credibility.
In order to overcome latent skepticism and cynicism which is often prevalent among target minority groups who've heard and seen it all before, Tech's like Google need to abandon the spin, 'tell it like it is' and reduce any moral defecit which in itself acts as a huge barrier to the recruitment of minority candidates.
Mary Beasley, Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, says that the numbers just don't add up. She compares Google's workforce numbers released by the company in 2014 and 2015 with the realities of the graduation rates across the company and points out a number of major discrepancies.
"Google's numbers from their diversity report are really small in number..........when you mash those numbers and look at the number of people of colour graduating with a bachelor in electrical engineering or have an MBA, it does not begin to add up."
Statistics from the National Science Foundation best illustrate the reality, showing that 8.9% of the 212,215 under-represented minorities under 45 with a Masters or Bachelors' degree in computer science or maths (as their highest degree) are unemployed. These numbers are in stark contrast to the only 2.3% of the 190,533 white men with those degrees. Furthermore an additional 15.8% of under-represented minorities (from the group above) work in jobs they reported as being unrelated to those degrees compared to only 7.1% of white men.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and ultimately, the success of any Diversity programme must be judged by the proportionate representation of minorities at all levels within the organisation. Proportionality in representation, i.e., looking and feeling like the communities you serve is largely determined by the degree to which one or both of the following two variables has an impact. Firstly, barriers which can serve to deter, dissuade and discourage candidates from seeking entry and secondly, selection bias which can additionally act in preventing these candidates from progressing further.
I personally do not subscribe to the viewpoint that a first class degree from an Ivy League Institution is in any way materially superior to that from an Historically Black College or University (HBCU). However the reality is that hiring decisions, particularly for 'entry level' positions within the Tech Industry, are routinely subjected to the provenance test, i.e., an unspoken perception that the calibre of an individual is largely determined by their Almer Mater and secondly, these decisions can also be dependent on the quantum of social capital an individual candidate can bring to bear through a number of informal channels on the hiring decision. Who would seriously argue that effective lobbying these days is not the preserve of the rich and powerful?
The fact is, unless and until the Google's of this world begin to tear up their diversity recruitment manuals and stop using the same tired approaches to tap into a limited talent pool, progress as judged by representation will continue to be unacceptably slow. Michael Solomon of Tech Talent agency 10X Management, put it succinctly when he stated "I don't think these companies are going far out of their way to discriminate but I think they need to go far out of their way to hire diversely."
About the author
Glanville Einstein Williams is a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist.