CIPD: “Web giant admits it struggles on diversity, as campaigners urge greater transparency. Google has released full details of its workforce demographics for the first time, with the tech giant admitting it is “not where we want to be” on diversity issues. Just three in 10 of the firm’s 48,000 global workforce is female, a figure that falls to 17 per cent among technical staff. Ninety five per cent of its leaders are white or Asian.
“We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google,” said Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations, in a blog post.
“We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues… it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.”
Google’s admissions came in response to pressure from diversity campaigners, and make it one of the highest profile global employers to be candid about its demographic challenges.
Its new diversity microsite includes a range of infographics about its employees, and details of its “employee resource groups” to support everyone from “gayglers” and “greyglers” to American Indians and those with special needs.
Sandra Kerr, national campaign director of Race for Opportunity, praised Google’s stance but said others needed to follow suit: “In the UK particularly we have such a diversity of population, it’s absolutely vital for transparency that businesses open things up and say ‘we’re committed to equality and diversity – and these are our numbers.’”
Doing so could help organisations benchmark their workforce against the general population and bring in targeted outreach initiatives to address areas where they come up short, added Kerr.
But major British companies vary hugely in their reporting of employee demographics. Just 34 of the FTSE 100 publicly disclose the proportion of women in their workforce, according to the 2012 Female FTSE Board Report from Cranfield School of Management.
And a snapshot of notable businesses’ reporting mechanisms found many were only flirting with transparency: while some disclose the proportion of women in management roles – including Tesco, at 29 per cent, Barclays (35 per cent) and Royal Mail (20 per cent) – many household names offer only generic statements in support of diversity with few hard figures to back them up.
Only Marks & Spencer can be said to rival Google for level of demographic detail, providing a breakdown of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds and the proportion of older workers in its annual report.
Kerr says too many businesses hide behind excuses for failing to make their numbers public: “For some, it’s not on the radar, or they blame red tape. Some see it as too difficult, or might feel some embarrassment about the issue. But they need to realise there is a real advantage in having a workforce that reflects their customer base.”