Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. / Justin Sullivan Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO - Silicon Valley. It's where the women, and the minorities, aren't.
Hit any tech event from South of Market to Santa Clara, and you see the same cast of characters. Scores of young white men in T-shirts and hoodies. A fair number of Asians and south Asians. A few Hispanics. Rarely blacks. And a smattering of women.
It's a funhouse mirror image of the American workforce, which is 47% female, 16% Hispanic, 12% black and 12% Asian, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Google released its diversity numbers Wednesday after it (and most other tech firms) have spent years without disclosing such figures.
Just 1% of its tech staff are black. Two percent are Hispanic. The one well-represented minority group is Asians, who make up 34% of the company's tech workers. Eighty-three percent of Google's tech workers internationally are male.For non-tech jobs, the number is 52%.
The numbers are especially astounding for California, where 38% of the population is Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Asians make up 14% of the state.
At its heart, there are two reasons for the mismatch, experts say. The first is pipeline. White and Asian men are much more likely to have access and take advantage of technical schooling that leads to jobs at tech firms than historically disadvantaged minorities.
"Women and underrepresented minorities have been denied access to resources and opportunities that would allow them to enter and succeed in computer science," said Coleen Carrigan, an anthropologist who researches high-tech cultures.
Students coming from high schools where computer science, and especially AP computer science, isn't taught, start out with a tremendous disadvantage. That's something Londa Schiebinger,
a professor of the history of science at Stanford University, has learned from her students.
"Computer science education rewards students with early exposure to computers and fails to nurture those who are new to them and apprehensive," Carrigan said.
Finally, high tech isn't a very welcoming place if you don't fit in, Carrigan said.
By putting its numbers out there, Google is taking the steps necessary to bring change.
Doing so isn't about window dressing. It actually makes it a better and more profitable company, says Ed Lazowska, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington-Seattle.
"Engineering (particularly of software) is a hugely creative endeavor. Greater diversity - more points of view - yields a better result," he said.
Aside from Intel, no other big tech firms freely have made available the makeup of their workforce.
Facebook has yet to release diversity figures but plans to. At a company shareholder meeting last week, COO Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote the Lean In best-seller about opportunities for women, said that when Facebook does release its figures, it will do so privately, within the company first.
Sandberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Hewlett-Packard chief Meg Whitman are among a smattering of high-profile women in tech.
Telle Whitney, president of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, which tracks Silicon Valley opportunities for women, says the average ratio for female tech workers in Silicon Valley is 20-23%, but Google's release of its statistics could lead the industry to do better.
Even if woman and minorities aren't well represented in the work world, parents are reading the writing on the wall.
"Parents want to give their kids a competitive edge," said Karen Thurm Safran, the vice president of business development for ID Tech camps, which offer computer programming and tech camps in 28 states.
"They know it's empowering, and it opens up a lot of doors and possibilities," she said.
Though the number of campers being signed up has increased tremendously since the camps opened in 1999, the percentage of girls has been stagnant.
Not this year, Safran said. "I just ran the numbers. It's been 12% for years, but what's amazing is that this year, it's 15%."
Contributing: Jefferson Graham in Los Angeles.
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
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