NEW YORK — Google, like most Silicon Valley companies, has a big diversity problem. One of the biggest is the relative lack of women — particularly in the executive ranks.
Just 30% of Googlers are women, according to a report on the company’s diversity issued Wednesday. Interestingly, about 48% of the company’s non-tech jobs are held by women. But Google’s higher-paying engineering and leadership positions are far more male-dominated.
Only 17% of Google’s engineers are female, and women make up just 21% of the company’s leadership. Three of 10 Google directors are female, but only one of the company’s top 12 executives — YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki — is a woman.
Notably, two of Google’s most famous female employees left the company for more prominent roles: Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.
“Women are half the world’s population,” Google noted in its report. “We’ve got to increase their participation in computer science and keep women at Google on the path to leadership.”
Google is hardly alone. Cisco, Intel, Dell, eBay and Ingram Micro all struggle to attract women as well, according to government diversity reports obtained by CNNMoney last year. Most other technology companies do not make their demographic data public.
In fact, Cisco and Intel have a lower percentage of women — each around 25% — in their ranks. About 31% of the employees at Dell are women. Ingram Micro and eBay are the closet to gender equity, with more than 40% of their workers being female.
But Silicon Valley companies are missing a big opportunity by failing to attract women to their ranks. Women are more active Internet users than men, and they are far more engaged in social media, according to the Pew Research Center. That means most Internet companies’ customers are women, but the engineers, designers, coders and executives making the products are predominantly men.
Though tech companies could be doing more to hire qualified women, the blame is not theirs alone. The problem starts early on … in school.
Only 17% of high school students who take the Advanced Placement Computer Science test are girls, according to the College Board. Fewer than 13% of computer science graduates are women, according to the Computer Research Association. And that’s down from 37% in 1984.
Silicon Valley’s notorious culture of sexism is not helping either. That has come to the forefront lately, notably at last year’s TechCrunch Disrupt technology conference, when engineers at a hackathon unveiled apps that promoted masturbation and staring at women’s breasts. And Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S4 smartphone last year at a widely criticized event in New York, where the company portrayed women as technologically illiterate.
To Google’s credit, the company isn’t taking its report lightly. Google said that it has started programs like The Google Women in Engineering Network and Women@Google to provide networking and professional development resources for more than 4,000 female Google employees.
Google also found women were less likely to advance through the ranks, so the company began notifying women about the issue and encouraging them to throw their hands up for promotions. The number of female applicants for promotions grew as a result.
Tech companies have also backed programs such as Girls Who Code, an eight-week New York software development camp for high school girls, and TechGirlz, a similar week-long program in Philadelphia. Microsoft even started its own tech summer camp for girls called DigiGirlz.
But Google and the rest of Silicon Valley have a long way to remedy their massive gender gap.