Silicon Valley fascination for numbers is a part of folklore. A billion users, 9 million Apple iPhones, a billion Android devices, 3.5 billion interactions—Silicon Valley companies swear by the power of hard data. In a surprising move, some of the largest companies in Silicon Valley have voluntarily released certain data that portrays them in very unflattering light—workforce diversity data.
Google was the first to highlight its poor record regarding racial and gender diversity amongst its workforce. Senior Vice President Laszlo Bock bluntly stated that Google was not where it would want to be when it came to diversity. Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg admitted they had a long way to go in this matter. Twitter spoke for the entire industry when it spoke of dramatic imbalance in diversity. The latest to join the list is Apple with its CEO publicly expressing his displeasure with the company’s racial and gender diversity data.
In 2010, the San Jose Mercury News was the first to report the skewed nature of workforce diversity in Apple, Google, and other tech companies. Silicon Valley companies fought for 18 months to protect its data. Now, they have decided to come forward and voluntarily disclose the data. Yahoo and EBay were other companies that stepped forward and looked good in comparison with others.
However, it is evident the industry has set a very low bar. Global gender ratio is skewed 70-30 in favor of men while racial data, specific to the US, shows that Hispanics and African Americans make up just 9 percent of the workforce at Apple, Google, Twitter, and Facebook. Apple has a better ratio, which probably due to the thousands of retail employees it has on its payroll.
Data related to tech jobs paints a bleaker picture. A mere 16 percent of all tech jobs are done by women in the four giant tech companies all over the world. Hispanics and African Americans fared worse with just 6 percent participation in tech jobs.
While voluntary disclosure combined with the public admission that the data is not good may have stifled criticism, there is little doubt that tech companies cannot afford to ignore these numbers.