Google shook up Silicon Valley in May 2014 when it publicly released its diversity numbers, confirming what both insiders and outsiders had long assumed: The tech giant was overwhelmingly male across all its global offices, and its headquarters were 61% white, 30% Asian, and just 3% Hispanic and 2% black.
It took a publicity hit, but in the announcement, HR chief Laszlo Bock said, “Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity.”
Other industry power players, like Facebook and Microsoft, followed suit and released their numbers, revealing similarly bleak pictures.
In an attempt to turn things around, Google dedicated $115 million last year and $150 million this year to diversity initiatives in training, hiring, and recruitment. But its underwhelming improvement in this year’s numbers ushered in more criticism.
Business Insider asked Google’s director of diversity and inclusion Yolanda Mangolini why the company decided to release the numbers in the first place and how the progress is coming.
Mangolini said “there was absolutely fear” when they decided to share their diversity numbers outside of the company. “We knew that the numbers didn’t look good. We knew there wasn’t a good story. We were really putting ourselves out there.”
But even though Google lacked hard data on any other company in the Valley, its people operations team doubted it was an anomaly. They wanted to get ahead of the problem and become associated with leading the way in what they determined to be an inevitable and necessary move toward a more representative employee body.
“We were willing to take the risk of bad press because, at the end of the day, what was most important to us was changing the face of technology and driving the change in the industry,” Mangolini said. “So we were willing to take that risk if it meant that more people were going to be brought into the conversation and that we could unite this dialogue around diversity in the tech industry.”
Mangolini and the team decided to start collecting data on the gender and ethnic makeup of its employees in the spring of 2013, the first time since Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded the company in 1998. It was a natural step in Bock’s still recent decision to dedicate more resources to addressing unconscious bias — an example of which is assuming that young men are best suited to computer programming — since reading in 2012 about a study that found these biases to be prevalent in tech.
Before making the numbers public the following May, the people operations team shared the data with Google employees, Mangolini said, acknowledging the deficiencies and pledging to make improvements.
Here are the latest diversity numbers, from January of this year. Gender breakdowns are for all of Google’s nearly 60,000 global employees, and ethnic breakdowns are for American employees only.
The company is largely male and white, with far more Asian employees than black or Hispanic employees.
This is mostly prevalent among engineers.
Averages are only slightly improved by the makeup of non-engineers.
Google’s leadership is also largely male and white.
“Change takes time,” Mangolini said, acknowledging that it can be challenging “being in a tech company where they’re accustomed to moving at the speed of light.”
But she’s not discouraged. “I always tell executives there isn’t a quick fix.” It’s about changing the culture internally over time, she said.
About half of Google’s global workforce has taken its workshop on spotting unconscious biases, and the increase in black and Hispanic Googlers has outpaced Google’s overall hiring growth since Google made its diversity numbers public.
There’s still a long way to go, but Mangolini said that in her nine years at Google, with five of those as head of diversity, the company has never been more dedicated to making that change.
She said the decision to make the numbers public last year has inspired Googlers to change their culture.
“I see people talking about unconscious bias on their own,” she said. “I’ll be on a bus ride and someone says, ‘What about unconscious bias?’ and they start having this conversation that shows they’re listening. And that to me is the greatest.”
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