The bad news is that one of the world’s most powerful organisations is 70% male and 61% white. That’s a significant diversity issue for a company with a commitment to innovation.
But the good news is that Google at least admits it has a problem. And that’s much more generous than what a lot of other “male and pale” organisations would offer.
Google released figures this week showing the gender breakdown of its workforce, and conceded that with just 30% of its global employee base being female, and the good majority identifying as being white, they’re a “long way from where they want to be” when it comes to diversity. It’s the first time the tech giant has published numbers on diversity — with the gender figure accounting for its worldwide workforce, and cultural figures for those employees in its American operations.
Google’s senior VP of people operations, Laszlo Bock, admits publishing such numbers should have been done earlier.
“We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realise we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues,” he said in a statement. “Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.”
Google’s obviously known it’s had a problem with diversity, but not sort to formally identify it — at least not publicly. Admitting its own failures is a big step in moving forward. While the company will be under greater scrutiny, it has the added motivation to engage its key leadership teams in finding solutions. And it will now be able to better boast about its success later on.
Meanwhile the disclosure, which has made headlines around the world, is a reminder of why our own gender reporting rules under the Workplace Gender Equality Act are important in communicating these issues and ultimately helping to instigate change.
We know that what gets measured gets noticed, and ultimately done.
In Google’s case, the company was required to provide the diversity numbers to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. While it was not required to make such numbers public, it appears to be willing to take a lead on other Silicon Valley companies in at least acknowledging the extent of the challenge ahead. Facebook has promised to release it’s own figures — it came under a significant amount of pressure for it’s once all-male board, before Sheryl Sandberg’s was asked to sit at the table.
Plenty of Australian companies would benefit from taking a good hard look at their workforces — not to be publicly criticised or berated, but rather to set a benchmark to the public that can showcase their improvement and initiatives later on. It’s a means for holding themselves accountable and creating a great baseline for celebrating success later on.
The best way to create a diverse workforce — and therefore an excellent one — is to actively demonstrate that you are committed to change.