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Google gone ga-ga? Or STEM skills gone off a cliff?

In Candidate & Employee Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion, Our Authors, People Engagement, Steve McNally, Talent Management by Steve @ 52n1 Comment

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Google shapes the news, feeds the news and by virtue of its agenda-defining rankings, very often is the news. But it doesn’t always want to ‘be’ the news, not least when it’s mired in a diversity row.

Last week, it was revealed that Google is a Man’s World. 70% of the organisation’s 50,000+ worldwide workforce is male. What’s more (or proportionately even less), the company’s tech department consists of only 17% female employees. And on closer inspection, further negative percentages appear. In the US, six out of ten Googlers are white.  We’re not where we want to be when it comes to diversity said Google, adding that it decided to publish the figures to at least begin addressing the issue.

Th world’s leading search engine is clearly miles away from where it needs to be – and hopefully wants to be – as an inclusive workforce bringing together the best minds from all communities. Given the increasingly hard-wired Business Case for Diversity, the current company make-up is Google’s own organisational loss – and also a general concern for global society, when we consider that this Super-brand enjoys a virtually unassailable position as our planet’s premier aggregator of news, our main provider of information and our foremost digital arbiter of just about everything else.

So yes, the disproportionate representation of white males should make us (and now, Google) feel uncomfortable. But let’s also place this whole issue in the cold, hard context of how professional technical skills are currently distributed – gender-wise and community-wise across the world we live in.

Truth is, diversity-wise, STEM skills (i.e. those IT-type skillsets that typically emanate from the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing) fell off a cliff a generation ago, in most countries, on all continents. With the exception of positive action in Brazil and China, the diversity ratios either keep plummeting or show very slow signs of recovering towards a path of sustained upward trajectory.

The past decade has seen a global race for STEM skills, being as they are the key drivers of innovation (particularly in manufacturing, the sector which has helped Asian economies grow exponentially). World-wide, there are few talent markets with the sufficient skills to meet the demand. In the US, imported talent is necessary to meet increasing demand. According to a report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, the number of STEM graduates will have to increase by 20%-30% by 2016 to meet the projected growth of post-recession US. Overall, STEM employment has grown three times more than non-STEM employment over the last 12 years with several large US firms having to move their R&D operations offshore. So Google really should be hiring anyone who can do the job, irrespective of demographic. But the people ‘aren’t there’.

Europe is in a similar position to the US, but with less flexible immigration policies to address market demand. The problem again is shortage of skilled talent. Cedefop, the Thessaloniki-based European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, predicts that by next year (2015), there will be a shortage of 380,000 – €“700,000 ICT workers in Europe. Germany alone is short of 114,000 STEM-skilled workers this year.

China, as you might expect, is on the rise in terms of STEM-skill supply. During the 11th five year guideline (2006-2010) a staggering $32 billion state investment has produced equally staggering results: this year, 41% of all Chinese students will graduate with a STEM-related degree.

The rest of the world is catching up – Accenture predicts that Brazil will have increased its engineering graduate base by 68% between 2010 and 2016, producing more PhD engineers than the US by 2016. And talent is moving around – in 2012, some 30% of start-ups in Bangalore and Beijing were set up by graduates of US universities.

But the game being played is one of catch-up. Silicon Valley as a whole has become damned as a ‘white boys with toys’ environment. But it’s not just a problem for Google and the US. In the UK, organisations such as Women In Technology have worked tirelessly for nearly two decades to readdress the fact that less than 20% of technology roles (and less than 15% of technology management roles) are occupied by females. Progress has been painfully slow.

The issue is very simple: the skillsets within Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing started out as and largely remain the domain of male workers. The answer is more complex. Changing our educational systems – and, to a degree, the values that dictate social conditioning – is the only ‘real’ way to transform the STEM skills shortage for the next generation. Public Companies, SME’s, Social Enterprises, NGOs and even large Public Sector Organisations can’t do it on a macro level – even if they wanted to. Because, demographically, a sufficiently-skilled ‘diverse’ talent pool simply isn’t there – at the moment.

If you don’t believe me, get in touch with 52N for our Global STEM Skills Talent Map 2014. It shows where the talent is, by gender and ethnicity.

Or find out for yourself – Google it.

Steve @ 52n
Founder - Brand & Communication Lead @ Weare52n
A 25 year recruitment and employment communications career has been punctuated with 36 CIPD RAD awards for my work with clients, such as; Accenture, Aviva, British Airways, Deloittes, IBM, Nestle, Oracle, Pepsico, PwC, RBS, Tesco and Xerox. Along with global EVP projects for organisations as diverse as Airbus Industries, Pfizer and Rank Group plc. This experience is why I am a passionate Team Lead for 'Heart, Mind & Soul' engagement solutions.

Please Pass it On

Steve @ 52n
Founder - Brand & Communication Lead @ Weare52n
A 25 year recruitment and employment communications career has been punctuated with 36 CIPD RAD awards for my work with clients, such as; Accenture, Aviva, British Airways, Deloittes, IBM, Nestle, Oracle, Pepsico, PwC, RBS, Tesco and Xerox. Along with global EVP projects for organisations as diverse as Airbus Industries, Pfizer and Rank Group plc. This experience is why I am a passionate Team Lead for 'Heart, Mind & Soul' engagement solutions.

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