The lack of diversity among Google's workforce has been highlighted by the company’s first diversity report, which reveals that only 30% of its staff are female.
The search company’s US workforce also comprises 61% white people, with Asian staff making up 30%, Hispanic people 3% and black staff just 2% of employees.
The data highlights the lack of representation of women and ethnic groups in technology companies, despite a much more diverse customer base for mainstream technology products and services.
“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,” acknowledged Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, in a blog post.
No progress on diversity in 10 years
When narrowed by job type and seniority, Google's gender split is more extreme, with only 21% of leadership positions held by women and only 17% of technology-specific jobs held by women.
But the problem is not shouldered by Google alone. At Amazon, only 18 out of its 120 senior managers are female, and none of those women report directly to chief executive Jeff Bezos.
The number of female chief technology officers has also remained static at 14% for the past 10 years, according to a recent report by research firm Gartner, showing very little progress across the whole industry.
In many industries, including the technology sector, companies will recruit identical numbers of men and women, but will lose women within a few years due to company ethos clashes and women perceiving less qualified men being promoted above them.
“I don’t believe this bias towards men is conscious. Most people simply don’t say they don’t want to work with a woman, it’s just that on some unconscious level there’s a detrimental lean in the direction of men,” said Tina Nunno, a vice-president and fellow at Gartner.
'Women earn roughly 18% of all computer science degrees in US'
Google, however, explains that in its computer science dominated workforce recruiting qualified women and ethnic minorities is difficult.
“Women earn roughly 18% of all computer science degrees in the United States. Black and Hispanic people make up under 10% of US college grads and collect fewer than 5% of degrees in computer science majors, respectively,” explained Bock.
Google has released this, the first of its diversity reports, because the company believes that an open dialogue about diversity issues is the only way to solve them, something others like Nunno agree is the right course.
Challenges are not insurmountable
Google believes that tackling diversity in computer science education is the way forward, and has donated over $40m (£24m) to organisations aiming to help increase the number of women and girls in science education.
The company is not alone in its efforts to aid science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) diversity in education. Many groups from both the UK and globally have been set up to actively encourage girls into Stem education, while the government has worked to remove barriers to women in science.
The problems facing both gender and ethnic diversity in technology are not insurmountable, but no one organisation can do it alone, according to Nunno, which makes Google’s release of its data a good step forward in tackling the issues as an industry.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010