Google and Diversity: You Cannot Fix What You Cannot See

Google Confirms What We Already Knew and Aims to do Better

Last week, Google released its diversity numbers for (I believe) the very first time. To the surprise of no one, it showed that Google's workforce is primarily male and largely white. While it would be easy to dismiss this action as neither impressive nor progressive on Google's part, in actuality, it is a very positive step in the right direction.

While it isn't news to anyone that women and minorities face a multitude of institutional barriers in the workplace, it is a big deal when one of the most successful and influential companies in the world issues what is essentially a public challenge to itself to fix a problem that has plagued the technology sector since its inception.

Because, if they don't, people will want to know why. And if they succeed, people will want to know how.  And now that they've aired their "dirty laundry" so to speak, people (and other companies) will be paying attention. 

After listening to various explanations of why there are not more women and minorities in Silicon Valley and elsewhere (Hello, Lean In), it's incredibly refreshing to see a company like Google publicly acknowledge that they have a serious institutional problem with diversity. And that they intend to tackle the problem head-on and in a very public way. 

We've always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues. Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.

It's not easy to admit when you're wrong. It's an uncomfortable experience for humans and businesses alike. The same can be said for admissions of failure. While Google cannot by any means be accused of poking its head in the sand on issues of diversity, "we're the first to admit that Google is miles from where we want to be - and that being totally clear about the extent of the problem is a really important part of the solution."

There it is. An express acknowledgement that, sometimes, the biggest barrier to change is the refusal to acknowledge that a problem exists in the first place.

If anyone can come up with innovative and thoughtful solutions to the persistent lack of diversity in tech, it's Google. And any large-scale successes will no doubt be replicated by others in the tech field and beyond. My hope is that Google and other companies who take the extra step of making their quest for greater diversity public, embolden and challenge other companies to do the same. 

Pay attention. This is what leadership looks like.