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A Third of GitHub Employees Are Female—But Just 2% Are Black

May 26, 2016, 4:57 PM UTC
GitHub Co-founder and CEO Chris Wanstrath.
GitHub Co-founder and CEO Chris Wanstrath.
Courtesy GitHub

Yet another Silicon Valley company has chosen to release its diversity numbers to the public: GitHub. The company joins a long list of other tech players, from Apple to Airbnb, who have disclosed the demographic breakdown of their employee base. And though Github’s report shows its male/female ratio is pretty much in line with the dismal industry average, the data also reveals that they’ve made significant improvements over just 18 months.

That progress has been a deliberate initiative on the part of the company’s chief executive officer, following a scandal that left the GitHub’s name tainted, especially with women in Silicon Valley.

“As you’re well aware, we had some big problems in 2014 that really caused us to ask questions about our culture,” Chris Wanstrath, the San Francisco-based startup’s CEO, said in an exclusive interview with Fortune.

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If you’re not a developer, you might not be familiar with GitHub, an online repository for storing and collaborating on code. Launched in 2008 by three co-founders, the company made headlines for snagging $100 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz in 2012 (at the time, it was the largest single investment the VC firm had made; the company has since raised an additional $250 million from Sequoia Capital). But just a couple of years later, the fast-growing startup was enveloped in a less flattering news story—an engineer who quit the company said she had been subjected to gender-based harassment for two years.

GitHub conducted an investigation, and concluded that there was no evidence of illegal practices. Still, the founder at the center of the scandal, former CEO Tom Preston-Werner, eventually stepped down, and GitHub began paying more attention to its hiring practices and values, hiring an HR specialist to put more processes in place. By end of 2014, the company also started tracking the demographic makeup of its employee base and recruiting for more diversity.

It appears to have worked. Over the last two years, the percentage of female workers it employs has risen from 21% to 36%, not an insignificant increase. (Its report, published Thursday morning, says that more than 1% of its employees describe themselves as “genderfluid” or “genderqueer.”) The number of Black employees also went up, though it’s nothing to write home about: from 0% to 2%. The company says it still doesn’t have any Black employees in management. In a blog post also published today, CEO Wanstrath called that reality “unacceptable.”

One of the keys to the improvement GitHub has been able to make, according to its VP of social impact, Nicole Sanchez, was initiating diversity and inclusion training for everyone. Hiring practices have also been changed up.

“We made sure that anyone who comes in to interview at Github sits in front of a diverse panel,” says Sanchez.

Like all tech companies, GitHub has plenty of room left for improvement—it remains very far from representing gender and ethnic ratios that are true to our society. But Wanstrath, its CEO, is convinced that his company is a very different place today than it was back in 2014.

“One of the biggest changes is being freer to ask questions and admit we don’t know everything,” says Wanstrath. “A lot of people before that didn’t know what they didn’t know. Now everyone knows they need to be part of the change too. We all need to change, we all need to improve.”

This story has been updated. An earlier version stated that 2% of Github’s employees are Black or Hispanic.