You may not have heard the name Tracy Chou. But you’ve probably noticed the fact that Google, Apple, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Airbnb and Dropbox, among many other tech companies, are now releasing public diversity reports that show their diversity statistics.
What you probably didn’t know is that former Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou started this trend of releasing diversity data at tech companies. It was her October 2013 blog post on Medium, "Where are the numbers?" that caused the massive trend of data sharing.
She started out her blog post by asking a group of really simple questions:
“In raw numbers, are there actually more technical women in industry now than before? Is the percentage of women in engineering going up? What’s working? Is anything? Does anybody know?”
But what was most compelling about her post was that she answered her own question by sharing Pinterest’s diversity statistics.
“I’ll start. Pinterest has 11 women out of 89 engineers, putting us at 12% female in engineering ─the same percentage as coming out of undergraduate CS programs. Our inaugural intern class had 8 women out of 28 engineering interns, which is 29%. Many people ask me if it’s easier because we’re Pinterest. It’s not, really.”
In addition to publicly sharing Pinterest’s diversity statistics, which very few companies were doing at the time, she started her own Github repository for people to contribute the data for their tech companies. You can view the results, which are still being updated on an ongoing basis, on this Google docs spreadsheet.
A whopping 258 companies have submitted data so far. What’s remarkable about this is that just sharing the data alone represents change. Tracy found such a simple way to help companies start having an honest discussion about where they are at, whereas before they might have been able to hide their diversity numbers, and pretend that the picture was better than it was.
It’s easy to pretend that things are better than they are if, for instance, you’re looking at statistics for total numbers of employees instead of simply the gender representation in engineering teams or tech.
#GETBlog had the privilege of interviewing Tracy and gaining some insights on where we’re at, almost exactly 3 years after her influential Medium post.
We have you to thank for kicking off tech companies' initial public sharing of diversity statistics What are your reflections on where we're at now with diversity in tech, just over 3 years later?
"As an industry we've come a long way in terms of acknowledging that there is a problem and that something needs to be done. Because the data is out there, the issue of diversity in tech has been elevated from an open secret in Silicon Valley to a subject of national attention, discourse, and commitment from the private, public, and philanthropic sectors. The new default is for companies to be thinking about diversity and inclusion, or at least paying lip service to it; tech founders, investors, and employees for whom diversity was never even an afterthought three years ago ─ much less a serious topic of consideration ─ are asking about it and wondering what they need to do to get it right. That question is a difficult one to answer, though.
Despite some initial efforts, there hasn't been much progress in the last three years in actually moving diversity numbers "up and to the right", as people in industry like to say. Acknowledging the problem doesn't give us a blueprint for solving it, and surface-level effort lacking deep executive and institutional commitment and prioritization isn't enough. The next major phase of the diversity in tech movement, which is finally starting to gain momentum, has to be focused on solutions."
You’re now working with Ellen Pao, Erica Joy Baker and others at Project Include, a "group effort to increase diversity among tech startups." Can you tell us a little about what's happening at Project Include?
"At Project Include we've been working to maintain momentum by building out the organization and programming, with our primary effort now on Startup Include. Our initial launch of the Project Include website laid out a comprehensive framework for tech startups and VC firms to think about diversity and inclusion, with 87 specific recommendations to action; Startup Include is our program for working with companies to put those recommendations into place, while starting to build a community around the movement.
We have 9 companies in the first cohort that have all committed to making changes and being accountable to improvement by sharing standard metrics with Project Include, which also helps us to establish and recommend industry benchmarks. It's been a great learning experience for us to work with this first cohort and we're excited to keep building on the program and driving adoption of critical thinking and best practices around diversity and inclusion in the tech industry."
Many thanks to Tracy for sharing her insights with #GETBlog readers! We look forward to seeing what comes next for Project Include and Startup Include.