LinkedIn on its employee diversity: We’ve got work to do

June 12, 2014, 11:02 PM UTC

LinkedIn gave a peek into its employee diversity – or lack thereof – on Thursday, becoming the latest Silicon Valley company to give a detailed demographic breakdown of its workforce.

The information wasn’t particularly surprising: LinkedIn’s employees are overwhelmingly white and male. What is notable is that LinkedIn broke ranks and made the information public after years of refusing to release any details about its employees’ race and gender.

Silicon Valley, where executives talk constantly about changing the world, has long been criticized for its lack of diversity. More recently, Rev. Jessie Jackson, the civil rights activist, has tried to pressure the companies to be more inclusive and give an accounting of their workforce demographics.

Last month, Google became the first Silicon Valley company to give in. Like LinkedIn (LNKD), Google’s employees skew white and male. But the company’s small step laid the groundwork for others to follow. Instead of hunkering down, some companies see openness as a way to move beyond the unflattering details and get everyone focused on how to do better.

“Over the past few years, we’ve experienced tremendous growth and have become a truly global company, but in terms of overall diversity, we have some work to do,” said Pat Wadors, head of talent for LinkedIn, said on the company’s blog.

LinkedIn, the business-oriented social network, acknowledged a big racial imbalance. Of its U.S. employees, 53% are white and 38% are Asian. Blacks make up just 2% of the workforce while Hispanics account for just 4%. Mixed race workers are 2%.

The data also shows a big gender gap. Males make up 61% of the workforce while women account for 39%.

The gender data is from LinkedIn’s global employee base of 5,400 employees. The racial data is only for U.S. workers because many overseas countries prohibit employers from asking about the ethnicity of their workers.

“We may not be the first company to be transparent, and we hope we won’t be the last,” Wadors said. “Our goal is to improve over time and to make a lasting change at LinkedIn.”

Google’s (GOOG) report showed an even greater imbalance than LinkedIn. It’s workforce is 70% male and 30% female. It’s racial make up, however, was relatively similar with 61% white, 30% Asian, 3% Hispanic and 2% black. Another 2% are of at least two races.

“Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts,” said Laszlo Bock, head of Google’s human resources.

Other companies singled out by Rev. Jackson like Facebook (FB) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) have so far declined to make their demographic data public.