A year ago, Google was the first tech company to publicly disclose statistics on how diverse its workforce is, which led to a number of tech companies’ following suit. None came out looking very good. But every single one pledged that, in one way or another, they wanted to do better and would start doing better.
Now the preliminary results of their efforts have come in, and all that talk is looking pretty cheap. At Google, the number of women in technical roles rose just 1 percent over the last year, while the share of black and Hispanic people in those jobs didn’t change at all. Facebook released its updated numbers last week, and they are just as grim. The company hired just seven black employees in 2013, the most recent year that it made an Equal Employment Opportunity report public, while it hired 695 white people. Women in tech roles at Facebook lost a percentage point between 2014 and 2015, while things stayed exactly the same for black and Hispanic employees.
Diversity, of course, takes hard work and often requires a profound culture change. It would be tough for a large company to go from being run by nearly all white men to reflecting the variance of the country’s population overnight. And both companies have made changes in the hopes of furthering diversity. Google extended its paid family leave to five months instead of the original three, which decreased its female attrition rate by 50 percent. It has also had staff go through unconscious-bias training and nudged women to nominate themselves more often for promotions. Facebook, meanwhile, launched a “strategic diversity team” and focused on the pipeline by creating programs and investing in others targeted at students and early career people.
Still, though, protestations that these companies are doing their best—that the pipeline of talented people who aren’t white men runs dry, that they just can’t get to the numbers they truly want—ring hollow. “We’re still not where we want to be when it comes to diversity,” Google said of its latest numbers. Yet others have set out to increase diversity and delivered real results.
One startling success story comes from a French law firm. TAJ is now completely gender balanced—meaning 50 percent female—at all levels of the company, including equity partners. To get there, head Gianmarco Monsellato got personally involved. He was part of every conversation about promotions and tracked them, as well as compensation, to ensure things were equal. He was the only one doling out cases for a while, making sure men and women got equal access to the best ones. He put women on some of the hardest cases and personally called any clients who objected.