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.

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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