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You Call This Diversity? A Disappointing Snapshot of Silicon Valley

New data from the Silicon Valley giants raise questions about fairness and diversity.
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Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the whitest, malest, of them all?

A growing number of Silicon Valley tech companies are releasing demographic information about their workforces, giving a peek in to the backgrounds of at least some of the people who are likely to become tomorrow's entrepreneurs. The stats also provide some sorely-needed metrics for those who would like to see more women and people of color in high-level tech jobs.

In the past few months, Yahoo, Google, and LinkedIn have all released at least some demographic data. While all are overwhelmingly male, Google, the company that among the three that arguably has the greatest choice of talent, is the least diverse. It also released the most detailed data, for which it deserves a hat tip. (There are some inconsistencies. The racial data is global, which makes me wonder if the U.S. workforce is less diverse in those terms; the gender data is U.S. only, raising the question of how many women work overseas.) Seventy percent of Google's U.S. employees are men, and 61 percent are white. Seventy-nine percent of those in senior leadership positions are men, and 72 percent of them are white.

LinkedIn is the most diverse. Sixty-one percent of its employees are men, and 53 percent are white. Thirty-eight percent are Asian, 4 percent are Hispanic, 2 percent are black, 2 percent are two or more races, and 1 percent chose 'other.' Those pitifully small numbers for Hispanics and blacks seem to be more the norm than the exception, as shown by the charts below.

Yahoo's workforce seems a bit more diverse than Google's, but at higher levels it hasn't made much progress, either (although of, course, its CEO, Marissa Mayer, is a woman). Sixty-two percent of Yahoo's employees are men, and 37 percent are women (one percent chose "other" or didn't disclose). Just 23 percent of its senior leaders are women, and 78 percent are white.

Here's the gender breakdown at the three companies:

 

Women still hold a small percentage of leadership positions at these large Silicon Valley tech firms.

Asians seem well-represented at the tech giants, but again, their representation shrinks as you move higher up the corporate ladder. Thirty-nine percent of Yahoo employees are Asian, as are 34 percent of Googlers. Yet they make up just 17 percent of the senior leadership team at Yahoo and 23 percent at Google.

The percentage of other people of color, such as blacks and Hispanics, is truly small. Just 2 percent of Yahoo and Google employees are black. At Google, 3 percent are Hispanic, and at Yahoo, 4 percent are. (Yahoo and LinkedIn didn't provide complete information about the racial composition of their leadership teams).

Here are the stats we have about the racial composition at Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn:

 

There are relatively few Asians in leadership positions at these firms, and even fewer blacks or Hispanics.

While the data provided by the three companies isn't all that different, their attitudes toward it sure seem to be. "When we look around at the industry, we think we're doing OK, but it's not something we want to tout," Nancy Lee, Google's director of people operations, told the San Jose Mercury News.

By comparison, the post on Yahoo's official Tumblr was almost jubilant, noting that Yahoo "works to ensure that our existing employees feel welcome and supported during their time at the company," and trumpeting its awards for "corporate equality" and being a "best place to work" for LGBT employees. Yahoo did not provide numbers for its LGBT employees.

What About Facebook?

Pressure has also been high on Facebook to release demographic information, but it has yet to do so. Facebook has been in the crosshairs ever since its COO, Sheryl Sandberg, published her widely-read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, urging women to work flat-out on their careers and not to be dissuaded by family demands.

Yet Lean In also neatly chronicled the structural and discriminatory barriers faced by women, leading many to ask Sandberg what Facebook had done to combat those problems or at least make hiring managers more cognizant of them. Sandberg has said Facebook plans to release demographic information internally first, and then to share it externally. She has not specified a time frame.

IMAGE: Jim Arbogast/Getty
Last updated: Jun 18, 2014

KIMBERLY WEISUL | Staff Writer | Inc.com Editor-at-Large

Kimberly Weisul is editor-at-large at Inc. and co-founder of One Thing New, the digital media startup that is rebooting women's content. She was previously a senior editor at BusinessWeek.




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