Three questions that need to be asked about Google’s recent disclosure of diversity data.

By Carol Realini (Serial Entrepreneur & World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer)

logo2-150x1501-2I applaud Google for coming out and talking about diversity. They are now talking about how homogenous its 46,000-plus employee base is: 70 percent men, 30 percent women, 61 percent white, 30 percent Asian, 3 percent Latino and 2 percent black. Google said “That’s miles away from where we want to be,” and announced that it would work hard for more diversity.

In the technical ranks at Google the numbers get worse – only 17% are women. This has stirred up a big conversation about increasing the number of women in computer science. But the other just as important, maybe more important conversation is about how the workforce is a boys’ club and can be toxic to women at its worst. Google, Apple, Twitter, Cisco, Oracle – are all great brands, but are they great places for women to work?

Three things we should ask about these companies and the work environment include:

  • Are their women in the top ranks? If not, then women in these companies may not think women can make it to the top inner circle. Also, the women in the ranks don’t have anyone like them to look up to and to aspire to be.
  • Are women treated with respect as a contributor or a leader? Unconscious biases are everywhere. Is the culture such that women are seen as less capable of leading, less insightful, less important?
  • Does the company have expectations around work hours that make it impossible to be a working mother? Can people work at home? Is it really OK to take time for family or is this a demerit that will impact advancement?

When I started as a woman in tech a long time ago, it was very tough on all fronts. Things have gotten better but there is still a lot that needs to happen. If the environment is great for technical women that solves two problems – first, it means more women stay at the companies and advance; second, it means that more women will be attracted to computer science. Without dealing with the work environment issues, the supply will also struggle. Women are too smart to choose a career that is no fun and limiting.

What challenges have you faced as a female in technology?

Image credit: JulianBleecker via Flickr.