Google revealed new info about its workforce, and it shows a big retention problem that could inflame the company’s culture war

  • Google is struggling to add blacks and Latinos to the company's employee ranks, according to its annual report on diversity.
  • Part of the trouble is that the blacks and Latinos they do hire don't tend to stick around.
  • Google saw some progress in the company's management ranks. In four years, the number of women in leadership roles has risen from  20.8% to 25.5%.

If you're a black or a Latino software engineer, now might be a good time to file your resume with Google.

Not only is the search giant struggling to add workers from those groups to its ranks but it also faring poorly at keeping them around, according to Google’s annual diversity report released Thursday.

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Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai attends a session of the fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song
Google's CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during a conference tagged 'Google for Nigeria' in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
Google Inc CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivers his keynote address during the Google I/O 2016 developers conference in Mountain View, California, U.S. May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President for Products, delivers his keynote address during the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco, California May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of products, speaks during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona March 2, 2015. Ninety thousand executives, marketers and reporters gather in Barcelona this week for the telecom operators Mobile World Congress, the largest annual trade show for the global wireless industry. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS)
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Google Chrome, speaks during Google I/O Conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps, speaks about wearables during his keynote address at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco June 25, 2014. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome at Google, discusses recent advancements and changes to Chrome during the keynote address at the Google I/O Developers Conference in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCI TECH BUSINESS)
WUZHEN, CHINA - DECEMBER 03: Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during the 4th World Internet Conference on December 3, 2017 in Wuzhen, China. The 4th World Internet Conference - Wuzhen Summit themed with 'Developing digital economy for openness and shared benefits -- building a community of common future in cyberspace.' is held from Dec 3 to 5 in Wuzhen of Zhejiang. (Photo by Du Yang/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)
WUZHEN, CHINA - DECEMBER 03: Google CEO Sundar Pichai attends the opening ceremony of the 4th World Internet Conference on December 3, 2017 in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province of China. The 4th World Internet Conference - Wuzhen Summit themed with 'Developing digital economy for openness and shared benefits -- building a community of common future in cyberspace.' is held from Dec 3 to 5 in Wuzhen of Zhejiang. (Photo by VCG via Getty Images)
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Google's artificial intelligence-based voice Assistant is on more than 100 million devices now, and the company is leveraging a longtime competitor to expand the technology to even more people.�Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - MAY 17: Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivers the keynote address at the Google I/O 2017 Conference at Shoreline Amphitheater on May 17, 2017 in Mountain View, California. The three-day conference will highlight innovations including Google Assistant. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JANUARY 4: Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during Digital Unlocked Google event at Taj palace on January 4, 2017 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images)
KHARAGPUR, INDIA - JANUARY 5: Google CEO Sundar Pichai interacts with students at IIT Kharagpur campus on January 5, 2017 in Kharagpur, India. For Pichai, it was an emotional homecoming, his first visit to his alma mater since he graduated from IIT Kharagpur in 1993. (Photo by Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JANUARY 4: Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during Digital Unlocked Google event at Taj palace on January 4, 2017 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images)
KHARAGPUR, INDIA - JANUARY 5: Google CEO Sundar Pichai interacts with students at IIT Kharagpur campus on January 5, 2017 in Kharagpur, India. For Pichai, it was an emotional homecoming, his first visit to his alma mater since he graduated from IIT Kharagpur in 1993. (Photo by Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during the company's Cloud Next '17 event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. The Cloud Next conference brings together industry experts to discuss the future of cloud computing. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Google Inc CEO, Sundar Pichai (C) talks to a group of woman known as 'Internet Sathis' who learn mobile internet from Google and then teach other villagers, in Gokulpur village some 140 kms west of Kolkata on January 5, 2017. / AFP / Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)
CEO of Google Inc. Sundar Pichai looks on as he attends a meeting about partnering with small business in New Delhi on January 4, 2017. / AFP / Dominique Faget (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai gestures as he addresses students during a forum at The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur in Kharagpur, some 120kms west of Kolkata on January 5, 2017. / AFP / Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during a news conference in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. Google expects to have a dedicated cloud region for India later this year, Pichai said. Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Google Inc CEO, Sundar Pichai (C) talks to a group of woman known as 'Internet Sathis' who learn mobile internet from Google and then teach other villagers, in Gokulpur village some 140 kms west of Kolkata on January 5, 2017. / AFP / Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai during a visit to Argyle Primary School, in London, alongside Minister for Digital Policy Matt Hancock, as Google announced plans to bring VR technology to one million schoolchildren in the UK as part of a new learning initiative. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., pauses during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., listens to a speaker during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Google and the rest of the technology sector are trying to shed their reputations for not being inclusive. In the case of Google, the company at minimum deserves points for transparency, as managers each year reveal how they’re progressing at hiring more women and workers from minority groups.

Still, in many areas the numbers show little if any progress.

Blacks make up 2.5% of Google’s US workforce, up from 2.4% the year before. The percentage of Latinos barely moved, from 3.5% to 3.6% (Google said it chose the term to use the Latinx because it describes all people from Latin American, including Brazilians who are not Hispanic, as well as people of all genders). 

Women made up 30.8% a year ago and are now at 30.9 percent.

A worrisome brain drain

For blacks and Latinos, things appear even worse when considering attrition rates, a data point that Google added for the first time this year.

Blacks have the highest attrition of any of the ethnic groups listed by Google, with a weighted index rating of 127 (100 is the company's overall attrition rate). Latinos were the next highest at 115.

Google wrote in the report, “Black Googler attrition rates, while improving in recent years, have offset some of our hiring gains, which has led to smaller increases in representation than we would have seen otherwise.”

This was “a clear low light,” said Danielle Brown, Google vice president of Diversity and Inclusion, of the attrition rates in an interview with TechCrunch. “That’s an area where we’re going to be laser-focused.”

The attrition rates for Whites came in at 108 while Asians possessed the lowest rate with 83.

Google did make headway from last year when it came to the management ranks. Over the past few years, the number of women in leadership roles globally has risen from 20.8% to 25.5%. Though that leaves plenty of room for progress. 

Google's "solution" for minority attrition rates is facing a big problem

Google's struggle creating a diverse workforce is hardly unique in Silicon Valley, with companies such as Facebook, Apple and Microsoft all similarly underrepresented when it comes to women and minorities. 

In its report, Google offers some thoughts on how to address the attrition rate:

"Based on employee surveys, we have learned that feeling included is associated with lower attrition for all employees, especially people of color. So we are accelerating efforts to ensure all Googlers—and in particular those from underrepresented groups—experience Google as an inclusive workplace," the report says. 

But that goal might be tougher than expected given some of the recent events at Google.

Google's efforts to create a diverse workplace became a lightning rod earlier this year after an internal debate about diversity issues exploded in public, landing Google on the frontlines of the country's culture wars. Former Google employee James Damore, who famously suggested that women weren't genetically equipped to be great engineers, was fired for violating company policy. 

Damore later filed suit, saying Google discriminated against white male employees as well as conservatives.

The incident highlighted a tricky tension between Google's commitment to gender and ethnic diversity and its commitment to free expression and debate. Damore is no longer at the company, but it's not clear if the issue is resolved.

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