Google’s 2017 diversity report, released last week, expands on the information included in previous reports to cover the retention and attrition of underrepresented talent, as well as an intersectional analysis of race and gender at Google. Overall diversity figures were little changed from last year’s report and showed limited progress since 2014, when Google first began making this data public. Men make up 69.1 percent of the tech giant’s workforce, while its racial makeup is 53.1 percent white, 36.3 percent Asian, 2.5 percent black, 3.6 percent Hispanic or Latinx, and 4.2 percent multiracial. In 2014, the Googler community was 61.3 percent white, 30 percent Asian, 1.9 percent black, 2.9 percent Hispanic/Latinx, and 3.6 percent multiracial.
The company has made some progress in improving the gender balance of its leadership over the past four years, with its the percentage of women in leadership globally rising from 20.8 to 25.5 percent. Google’s US leadership is 66.9 percent white, 26.3 percent Asian, 2 percent black, 1.8 percent Latinx, 0.4 percent Native American, and 2.7 percent of more than one race. Black and Latinx representation in leadership have improved slightly since 2014, while the report highlights that 5.4 percent of new leadership hires in 2017 were black.
The attrition data included in this report touches on an issue that tech companies struggling with diversity and inclusion have discovered to be of critical importance: not just recruiting diverse candidates but also retaining those employees for the long term. Based on an index of US attrition, Google’s report shows that attrition rates are highest among black and Latinx employees, at 127 and 115 compared to an overall index of 100. “Black Googler attrition rates, while improving in recent years, have offset some of our hiring gains,” Google acknowledges, “which has led to smaller increases in representation than we would have seen otherwise.” On a global index, attrition was slightly higher for men than for women, however, at 103 compared to 94.
The report’s intersectionality data show that women of all ethnicities are less represented in Google’s workforce than men of the same ethnicity, and that the representation of minority men is improving at higher rates than the representation of minority women. Gains in women’s representation at Google have been driven mainly by an increase in the numbers of white and Asian women. Women defined in the report as “Asian+” (those who self-identify as Asian with or without also identifying with other ethnicities) made up 12.5 percent of Google’s workforce 9n 2017, up from 10 percent in 2014.
The focus on intersectionality is based on studies that show the best way to move the needle on diversity is to focus on the most underrepresented demographic, in this case women of color, Google VP and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Danielle Brown explained to Wired’s Nitasha Tiku:
“It helps us really highlight where we are and aren’t making progress and ensuring that we don’t leave anyone behind,” she says. … Brown says Google understands the need for change. In January, she says Google adopted a new strategy aiming to grow the representation of women globally and of black and Latinx employees in the US to “reach or exceed available talent pools in all levels.” She did not put a time frame on the goal. Brown says the strategy also recognizes that Google can’t just focus on hiring, and must place equal emphasis on development, progression, and retention.
Brown says Google now calculates available talent by looking at skill, qualification, and Census data, “as well as seeing what percentage of people have those degrees and skills and who is out there and in the marketplace.”
When it comes to the attrition issue, Brown, who joined Google last year, has some experience working on this challenge from her former employer, Intel. In its diversity report two years ago, Intel discovered that poor retention of underrepresented minority employees was canceling out most of its progress in diversifying its pipeline of new talent. To address that, Intel implemented a retention hotline, where US employees thinking about leaving the company could explore different options with a personal advisor before jumping ship. At TechCrunch, Megan Rose Dickey hears more from Brown on how she is approaching the problem at Google:
She added that some of Google’s internal survey data shows employees are more likely to leave when they report feeling like they’re not included. That’s why Google is doing some work around ally training and “what it means to be a good ally,” Brown told me. “One thing we’ve all learned is that if you stop with unconscious bias training and don’t get to conscious action, you’re not going to get the type of action you need,” she said.
From an attrition stand point, where Google is doing well is around the retention of women versus men. It turns out women are staying at Google at higher rates than men, across both technical and non-technical areas. Meanwhile, Brown has provided bi-weekly attrition numbers to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and his leadership team since January in an attempt to intervene in potential issues before they become bigger problems, she said.