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Google's diversity efforts show scant progress

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(Reuters) — Google Inc. on Thursday released data from its report to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on its 2-year-old initiative to create a more diverse U.S. workforce, saying it had more black, Latino and female employees but still lagged its goal of mirroring the population.

The company released its diversity figures for the first time in 2014 and sparked a conversation among Silicon Valley tech companies that led many of its closest competitors to follow suit.

Google's overall percentage of nonwhite, non-Asian employees in the United States did not move at all in 2015 from the year before, remaining at 2% for African-Americans, 3% for Hispanics, 3% for multiracial individuals and less than 1% for Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, according to the company.

Women made up 31% of Google's overall workforce in 2015, up 1% from 2014, and 21% of technical hires for the year, up from 19% in 2014.

White employees made up 59% of its U.S. workforce and Asians accounted for 32%. Google had about 38,670 workers in the United States in 2015, according to its report to the EEOC based on August 2015 data.

While its percentages of minority employees did not change, the report said in 2015 Google had 880 black employees, up from 628 in 2014 and 1,782 Hispanic employees, up from 1,428 the previous year. There were 712 multiracial individuals, up from 636, and 56 American Indian or Alaska natives, up from 44 the previous year.

Google sees signs of change

Nancy Lee, Google's vice president of people operations, said the figures do not reflect where the company wants to be and said many small changes that do not show up in the statistics are having an impact.

She pointed to conversations on diversity leading to a discussion on pay equity, which in turn resulted in a policy of paying employees according to position rather than by negotiated rates, which were often lower for women and minorities.

"It's a journey. We're a 60,000-person company, and culture change takes time," said Google diversity coordinator Yolanda Mangolini.

Other initiatives include a program where Google employees use work time to serve as instructors at historically black colleges and universities.

The figures underscore challenges tech companies face in transforming cultures that critics say are too homogenous, white and male-dominated. The most recent diversity reports from Facebook and Twitter show similar trends to Google in employment of blacks and Latinos, while Apple did slightly better partially due to more diverse hiring at its retail stores.

Those companies declined comment beyond their recent diversity reports to the EEOC.

William Guillory, founder of organizational development firm Innovations International Inc., said progress is hampered by large tech companies using the same approaches to tap into a limited pool of talent.

"What I'm talking about is casting a wider net," he said. "If don't have the skill set you need why can't you create some kind of Google University component that adds the layer of skills you're looking for?"

Michael Solomon of tech talent agency 10X Management said he believes Silicon Valley companies have made sincere attempts to address the issue but need to try harder.

"I don't think these companies are going far out of their way to discriminate but I think they need to go far out of their way to hire diversely," he said.