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Tech giants look to improve on diversity

17 October 20140 comments

Google may have recently topped the list of best companies to work for, but it is admitting that it isn’t a frontrunner when it comes to diversity.

The company has finally shown its hand when it comes to race and gender numbers, owning up to the fact that it’s a long way from where it should be.

Of Google’s 46,170 employees, 70 per cent are men and 61 per cent are white, the company reveals in a blogspot.

Black people make up just 2 per cent of the workforce, Hispanics just 3 per cent.

“Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity,” the company’s senior Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Block, said.

NBC News in the US pointed out the company wasn’t required to release the data, and other tech companies haven’t done the same.

Also, 30 per cent of Google’s US workforce is Asian, while men hold 83 per cent of technical jobs and white people make up 72 per cent of leadership roles.

The numbers show how Silicon Valley remains a white man’s world, some commentators have said.

“Being totally clear about the extent of the problem is a really important part of the solution,” Mr Block said.

Google didn’t comment on how it would boost diversity, but reports say the company has in the past attempted to recruit women by offering perks like lengthy maternity leaves.

But part of the problem comes from the educational pipeline. Last year, across eight US states, no Hispanic students took the Advanced Placement computer science test. In 12 states, no black students took the test.

Meanwhile tech rival Apple has said it wants more ethnic diversity in the basic range of emoji available to text-messaging apps.

It has said that it was working with the body responsible for deciding the standardised range of graphic symbols that can be added to text messages to achieve this.

At present the list of characters contains 300 that appear to be white. However, only two of the symbols seem to be Asian and none are black.

Since 2010 a basic list has been developed and maintained by the Unicode Consortium – a Silicon Valley-based non-profit organisation made up of major computer firms, software producers, user groups and others.

This ensures that different devices and mobile carriers can share a basic set.

Although some apps offer to boost the number of emoji that a user can send and receive, users risk their friends being unable to view them if they haven’t installed the same software.

Android KitKat’s default emoji keyboard is also limited to just two Asian characters.

Despite the fact that emoji first became popular in Japan, Unicode’s current list only features two Asian people – a man with a turban and a man with a Chinese style hat – although it does include a Japanese ogre and Japanese dolls.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Senior Journalist