The emerging picture of the tech industry’s diversity is pretty ugly

June 18, 2014
June 18, 2014

Google’s data release on the gender and ethnic makeup of its current employees confirmed something many people suspected: that the technology industry has a serious diversity problem. Google’s transparency has encouraged other companies to follow in its footsteps, and both LinkedIn and Yahoo have recently shared similar figures. The takeaway is that the industry can be pervasively and worryingly homogenous.

Here’s a breakdown of the data we have so far from the three companies. As the chart below shows, there’s a substantial gender gap. Google’s is the largest, with an employee base made up of of 70% men and 30% women:

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All three companies have a particular lack of diversity in the United States, where the vast majority of employees are white or Asian, and both blacks and Hispanics are dramatically underrepresented:

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Things get even worse on the technology and leadership sides. Considering that these are almost always the most influential and highly compensated jobs at these companies, it’s a worrisome gap. LinkedIn does not break out its statistic into sectors such as technology or leadership, so this data is limited to Google and Yahoo. On leadership, Google’s numbers represent the director level and above, and Yahoo’s the vice president level and above.

The picture looks similar in the two companies: The gender gap is acute for both job categories, but particularly so on the technology side, where more than 80% of employees are men. (For non-technical positions, women make up 52% of Yahoo’s employees, and 48% of Google’s.)

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The ethnic diversity on the tech side is lower than for the company overall—only 2% of Google engineers are Hispanic, and 1% are black. At Yahoo it’s 3% and 1%, respectively. But leadership is even more homogenous than engineering:

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LinkedIn and Google both also released their EEO-1 form, which is a federally mandated survey on employee ethnic and gender makeup for the full year of 2013. That allows some basis for comparison, and indicates that diversity at the very top may have been even worse recently.

Google’s EEO-1 shows that more than 90% of all senior leaders are men. (The form breaks out “Executive/SR Officials and Managers,” technically defined as employees that are within two reporting levels of the CEO.) Only 3 of the 36 reported executives are women. At LinkedIn, which seems to interpret senior leadership more broadly or be more management-intensive (it lists 136 in the category, despite having some 40,000 fewer employees than Google), around 80% of senior leaders are men, according to the form.

Combined, the two companies listed only 12 senior leaders who are not white or Asian.

These releases are valuable in that they highlight the scale of the problem, and signal to potential employees that the companies recognize this as an issue and want to hire differently. At each of the three company’s websites you can see an extensive list of support groups, partnerships, and aimed at making the company more inclusive and creating a more diverse talent and leadership pipeline.

Still, given the size of the gap, meaningful progress is likely going to take more proactive effort and a significant investment.

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