Google Starts Tech Camps For Girls, But Is That the Real Issue They Should Be Focusing on?

Google is taking a bold new step towards trying to get more women into tech fields – which is both good and surprising considering that only 17 percent of their tech employees are women. Their new program, called Made With Code, offers coding classes, workshops, and camps, all of which, Google says, will help more girls get involved in computer science. Google has pledged to spend $50 million on the program, but is this sort of thing really enough to make up for Google's current lack of diversity?

According to Google's recently released diversity report, only 30 percent of their overall workforce is made up of women, and among tech employees, that number is only 17 percent. Though Google's leadership looks a little better than that, with women occupying 21 percent of the leadership positions, these numbers are still not good. And the picture gets even worse when you look at racial diversity as well.

In both Google's tech and non tech positions, white people make up 60 percent or more of the workforce. And the company's leadership is even more white than the employees overall, with 72 percent of leadership positions being filled by white people. After white people, the next largest group is listed as simply "Asian" and makes up almost a third of the company's workforce, with black and Hispanic workers making up only two and three percent of employees, respectively. Pacific Islanders and Native Americans together make up less than one percent of the company.

In other words, your average Google employee is white and male.

It's great that Google is looking to correct this, and that they're starting a program that can potentially have a long term impact on the number of women in computer science. It's even better that their Made With Code program is partnering with organizations like Black Girls Code, suggesting they're serious about improving racial diversity as well gender diversity.

But is all this really enough to make up for their abysmal employment numbers? After all, Google's numbers are bad even by tech standards. For instance, at Yahoo women make up 37 rather than just 30 percent of total employees, and white people only represent half the company instead of 61 percent (though Yahoo still does not employ black and Hispanic employees at a significantly higher rate than Google). In light of this, Google's lack of diversity can't be chalked up just to the fact that there aren't enough women in computer science. Whether it's their hiring practices or their company culture, something else is clearly going on.

In Google's diversity report, the state:

We’re not where we want to be when it comes to diversity. And it is hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.

All of our efforts, including going public with these numbers, are designed to help us recruit and develop the world’s most talented and diverse people.

And if Google truly does want to make up for these terrible numbers, they're going to have to do more than just start a camp for coding girls. They're going to have to put effort into changing their hiring practices, and into making sure their company culture is welcoming to people who aren't white men. And that probably won't be easy. It's hard to attract women – and particularly women of color – when they already know the company is dominated by white men. And it will be hard to attract black and Hispanic workers who know already that they won't have much of a community within the company.

Google's commitment to training more girls in computer science is admirable, but hopefully they will show even greater commitment to more diverse hiring practices.