SAN FRANCISCO — Google, which two years ago publicly addressed the gender and racial imbalance in the tech industry by disclosing the demographics of its workforce, says it's making slow progress in diversifying its staff, which is still mostly made up of white and Asian men.
"We saw encouraging signs of progress in 2015, but we’re still far from where we need to be," Google's vice president of people operations Nancy Lee said in a blog post Thursday.
Women made up 31% of Google employees in 2015, up one percentage point since 2014, according to statistics released by the Internet giant on Thursday. One in five technical hires were women in 2015, raising the number of women in technical roles to 19% from 18% in 2014 and 17% in 2013. In 2015, women held nearly a quarter of leadership posts at Google, up from 22% in 2014 and 21% in 2013.
Google says it's also hiring more black and Hispanic workers: 4% of hires in 2015 were black and 5% were Hispanic. Hispanic employees in technical roles increased to 3% from 2%. But the increased hiring did not budge the overall percentage of underrepresented minorities in the Google workforce as total hiring rose, with Hispanics making up 3% of the work force and African Americans 2%.
For tech companies with tens of thousands of employees, annual reports are a bit like Groundhog Day for diversity. It's difficult to make substantial demographic shifts in one or two years.
The push has gained a sense of urgency inside Google, which is looking to become a leader in diversity as it grows beyond search advertising into myriad other businesses in an increasingly global marketplace. Whites are expected to become a minority in the USA by 2044, Latino and African-American buying power is on the rise and Silicon Valley has ambitions that now lap the globe. Having women and underrepresented minorities brainstorming and building, not just using, the products dreamed up by Google is quickly becoming a necessity.
"A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Thursday in a statement.
Google has dozens of initiatives that executives hope increase diversity, some directed at what Google is doing at Google and the rest at what Google is doing more broadly.
"The tech industry really understands that the future of our industry means we have to be more inclusive," Lee told USA TODAY last year. "We are literally building products for the world. It can't be this homogeneous."
Despite concerted efforts over the past two years, most Google employees are white (59%, down from 60% in 2014) and Asian (31%, down from 32% in 2014).
Eighty-one percent of technical roles are held by men, with 57% held by whites, 37% by Asians, 3% by Hispanics and 1% by blacks. A tiny fraction of leadership roles are held by Hispanics (2%) and blacks (1%), with whites holding 70% of those roles and Asians 25% of them.
Women and underrepresented minorities are more prevalent in non-technical roles. Women hold 47% of these roles, whites 63%, Asians 23%, Hispanics 5% and blacks 4%.
Thursday's report marks the third time Google has released its demographics to the public. Google and most other major technology companies resisted divulging the racial and gender breakdown of their workforces for years before bowing to pressure from civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has campaigned to bring greater diversity to the tech industry.
Jackson has called on technology companies to set specific goals for hiring more women and underrepresented minorities at all levels of corporations, from the rank-and-file to the boardroom, and to commit to reporting regularly on their progress in reaching those goals.
"Despite Google's best efforts, they are making just modest gains. If they can build driverless cars, certainly they can crack the code to expand inclusion," Jackson said. "Rainbow PUSH will keep pushing for full representation in the tech industry by 2020."
Google parent company Alphabet made strides this week by appointing economist Roger Ferguson to its board. Ferguson is the first African American to serve on the board of Alphabet and Google.
Ferguson board appointment
As president and CEO of financial services giant TIAA, Ferguson manages the retirement investments for university professors and employees from a variety of educational, medical, government and cultural institutions. He joins the board as Alphabet under finance chief Ruth Porat brings greater spending discipline to the Internet giant known for its speculative "moonshot" projects such as self-driving cars and research into aging.