Monday, June 2, 2014

Google's Diversity Numbers and the Women CS majors of the Class of 1994 (Morris Number 09)

Google has decided to publish its diversity numbers -- the very numbers it successfully prevented CNN Money from obtaining not so long ago. I am glad the company had a change of heart.

I doubt, though, that anyone at Google has thought about its Morris Number - the number of men above the fifth highest ranking woman - or about the diversity breakdowns of its compensation deciles. But somebody should.

Google's now-revealed EEO-1 report shows that the Morris Number cannot be less than 33. That's because the top management category has 36 people and only 3 of them are female. How many men besides those 33 are above the fifth highest woman? In part 10 of this series I will address Google's Morris Number range and how it compares to the ranges for the five companies for which CNN Money did have data. Right now, however, I want to discuss something else published by Google about gender and computer science.

A web search for "google diversity" led me not only to Google's EEO numbers but also to a Google Diversity page entitled "Inspiring the next generation of tech innovators." I clicked on the tab "For women" and saw the heading "CS: Education, Research & Advocacy: Some of our longer-term investments." What jumped off the screen at me there was this quote:
But today, women make up just 18% of CS degrees, down from 37% 20 years ago.
The next sentences explain that the company had commissioned a study so that it can "craft strategies that will change awareness and perception of CS education ..." Excellent. But did anyone at Google familiar with that study consider that CS would be more attractive to future female students if the glamorous and prosperous employers of Silicon Valley would show some interest in the female students studying CS right now? More young women might be convinced to pursue a bachelors in computer science if more jobs were offered NOW to the females who already have that degree. Their numbers may be low but they are not zero. Which brings me back to those percentages from 2014 and 1994.

According to Google's quote and my arithmetic, twenty years ago 3 out of 8 (37%) computer science majors were women. Where are they now? Sure, those ladies are over 40, but so are Google's founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and they are still able to lead productive lives in the tech world despite their advanced age.

Google's history page indicates that its first employee was hired in 1998: a male CS major from the Harvard College class of 1994. Like that lucky young man, the women CS majors graduating in 1994 had been out of college for four years. Were any of them hired by Google in its first year of operation? Or in the next five years? How many female CS majors from the college class of 1994 have ever been hired by Google? (Marissa Mayer is a little younger; Sheryl Sandberg is a little older and her major was economics.) Are there any female CS majors from the class of 1994 at Google now? What about women CS majors in any graduation year up to 2000? Google has hired thousands of CS majors in the last 16 years. Compared to their male counterparts, what were the chances for women to land those jobs?

Google is now spending a good deal of money to improve its image, and I trust also its reality, with regard to gender discrimination. Why not try to find some of the women who were in that 37% and offer them jobs? Might that not benefit Google in all the ways companies say that a diverse workforce is good for business? Thinking outside the box is considered a necessity at places like Google. Those women would have the advantage of having lived outside the Google box in terms of their job experience and probably outside the Silicon Valley box, too, because Google's hiring practices -- characterized by homosocial reproduction, as the sociologists would say -- are typical for the region. A critical mass of new hires who are female and over 40 would undoubtedly be disruptive of the culture, and "disruptive" is considered a good thing in business these days. Those women would also
     - enrich Google's pipeline of internal female candidates for management positions, and
     - serve as mentors, role models and colleagues for younger women.

(Additional thoughts on how the tech industry could improve its EEO numbers sooner rather than later will be in part 11 of this series.)
A couple of months ago Michelle Quinn of the San Jose Mercury News wrote an excellent article entitled "Silicon Valley's Other Women Problem". She reported that:
Recently, 24 firms, including Google, Yahoo and eBay, submitted their internal data to the Anita Borg Institute for an assessment of how well they were doing recruiting, retaining and advancing female technologists.
I wonder if the Anita Borg Institute will recommend that Google change its answer to the question "Where are they now?" from "Who cares? Not us!" to "Right here with us and we are lucky to have them!"

Meanwhile, Google could continue being a leader in gender diversity transparency by publishing its Morris Numbers and the diversity breakdown of its compensation deciles. If Google does it, so might other tech companies who have largely avoided hiring women CS majors from the class of 1994 or any class before or since. It is easy and simple to calculate the numbers if you can do the math, and surely Google, Yahoo and eBay have a few people around who can do the math. Imagine if companies would compete over their Morris Numbers. Imagine if college career offices would not let companies participate in on-campus recruiting unless they published their numbers. Maybe Google and those who followed its lead would find after a few years that
- when the Morris Number in every department is less than 10, and
- when all the compensation deciles have similar diversity statistics, instead of white men being over-represented at the top and everyone else being over-represented at the bottom,
the companies enjoy higher profits and better customer and employee satisfaction and loyalty. Imagine.

1994: I wrote this post believing that Google's "37% 20 years ago" was accurate. I wanted a corroborating link for myself, though, so I did a search.

What I found is that "20" should be "30." For example, a blog post by Robert L Mitchell from April 2013 says that the "high water mark" for women in CS was 1986 not 1994. Mitchell associates the number "37%" with the academic year 1984/5. He gives the source of his data: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), "Degrees and Other Formal Awards Conferred" but the linked page does not in fact have a breakdown by sex. A compilation by the Association of Women in Science of many statistics about women in science includes another table from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), one that has the M/F breakdown for computer science and information technology degrees, but only through 2004-5. If the highest female percentages in Computer Science were in the mid 1980s, how low had they fallen by "20 years ago"? By my calculation, the percentages for the years 1992-3, 1993-4 and 1994-5 were around 28%. That is still a good deal more than the 18% that Google quotes for today.

I decided to stick with 1994 in my discussion here. Convincing Google to hire a few dozen 40-something women with CS degrees will be difficult; 50-somethings would, I fear, be impossible in the TECMY culture.
June 1, 2014; updated 20140603 and 0605