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Google still searching for workplace diversity

The search giant makes progress in its hiring of women in technical roles but admits it still has a "long way to go."

Google said the number of women it hired in technical roles last year rose by 1 percent. Claudia Cruz/CNET

Google has been vocal about trying to fix the diversity problem among its workforce, and on Monday the company released a progress report and said it still has a lot more work to do.

In the search giant's update, the overall percentage of women workers at the company is the same as the year before at 30 percent. Latino workers made up 3 percent while black workers made up 2 percent. But there are also signs of progress: Google said the number of women hired in 2014 for technical roles went up by 1 percent.

"Though we still have a long way to go, we're seeing some early progress," the company said in a post on its Google+ social network.

When Google first divulged its diversity figures in May 2014, it was one of the first big companies in Silicon Valley to do so. Other tech giants soon followed suit.

Silicon Valley has faced tough questions as the treatment of women and minorities in tech has become top of mind for the past several months. High-profile lawsuits and sexual-discrimination complaints have attracted additional scrutiny. But all this also speaks to how influential the sector has become, especially as it becomes a driving factor of the global economy and a model for employee benefits and health programs.

The conversation has been punctuated by incidents involving tech's largest companies. Female engineers from both Facebook and Twitter have filed lawsuits alleging unfair work environments at those places. The technorati also paid close attention to a trial involving Ellen Pao, a former partner at the venerable venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who argued gender discrimination prevented her from getting promotions. She eventually lost the case, but on Monday she filed a notice for appeal.

Google has been proactive in trying to address the problem. The company is setting aside $150 million to focus on diversity initiatives this year, up from $115 million last year. Part of that goes to funding individual programs.

One of them, called Google in Residence, embeds Google engineers as professors, mentors and advisers at historically black colleges, including Howard, Morehouse and Spelman. The idea is to nudge black students into considering a career in tech after they leave college. The company also has workshops for its employees that try to stamp out "unconscious bias" -- instances of discrimination that aren't overt or even intentional.

For a more in depth look at the issues facing women and minorities in the tech industry, check out CNET's special report "Solving for XX."