Google is still overwhelmingly white and male, diversity report shows

Key Points
  • Google's latest diversity report shows that race and gender ratios are hardly changing.
  • In an effort to "do more" to achieve diversity goals, the company said it will shift more responsibility to senior leaders.
  • A Google employee who recently presented a proposal to get executive pay tied to diversity isn't sure whether to be "hopeful or cynical" about the change.
Two employees of Google riding company bicycles.
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Google's annual diversity report reveals that the company's workforce is still largely white and male and that it made very little progress in the last year to change the ratios.

The report's publication follows last week's annual shareholder meeting, where employees bucked the company to advocate for more diversity, and comes as Google faces multiple, ongoing lawsuits about discrimination.

Nearly 70 percent of Google employees are male and 53 percent are white, the report shows, almost exactly the same proportions as in 2017. Asians represent 36 percent of the workforce, up 1.6 percent from a year earlier, while blacks make up 2.5 percent and Latinos account for 3.6 percent, each increasing by 0.1 percent.

In leadership roles, the numbers are even more stark: 67 percent of company leaders are white and 75 percent are male

For the first time, Google also included a weighted attrition index, which showed that black and Latino employees were leaving the company at the highest rates.

A lack of diversity is a problem across the tech industry, but Google has recently been at the center of public attention.

Late last year, a Google engineer wrote an internal memo claiming that biological differences were to blame for a lack of female engineers. The employee, James Damore, was subsequently fired after the memo went viral for "advancing harmful gender stereotypes."

In the months since the incident, several reports have described internal turmoil and employee frustration about how the company handles diversity-related efforts, activities, hiring and retention.

At Alphabet's annual shareholder meeting, a handful of Google employees showed up to present a proposal aimed at increasing diversity by tying executive compensation to gender, racial, and ethnic recruiting and retention metrics. The Google employee who presented the proposal, Irene Knapp, highlighted a "chilling effect" on diversity efforts within the company.

Alphabet voted against the proposal and it failed. However, this week's diversity report did make a subtle shift towards executive accountability.

Danielle Brown, a Google vice president, wrote in the report that its diversity and inclusion efforts would shift from a "primarily People Operations and grassroots-led model to one of shared ownership with Google's most senior leaders."

Fired Google engineer James Damore: I was pointing out problems at Google
Fired Google engineer James Damore: I was pointing out problems at Google

For example, Google CEO Sundar Pichai will now receive the company's workforce breakdown every two weeks, so he can know "in real time in product areas" where it's "falling short," Brown told Wired.

Tariq Yusuf, one of the employees who showed up at the shareholder meeting, told CNBC that he needs to see action rather than just words before believing this new pledge and said he's "annoyed it's taken this long" for Google to adopt this stance on accountability.

Knapp, who presented the proposal, echoed those sentiments.

"Overall, I appreciated that this report seems to be acknowledging problems, even if only in very small ways," Knapp said in an interview. "But it's impossible to know whether this is the start of real change or just more empty words. I don't know whether to be hopeful or cynical about it."