Google CFO: Hiring women is good for business

Ruth Porat, the Wall Street hotshot Google hired in March, says enlisting more women isn't just good for society, it's good for a company's bottom line.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
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Connie Guglielmo is a senior vice president focused on AI edit strategy for CNET, a Red Ventures company. Previously, she was editor in chief of CNET, overseeing an award-winning team of reporters, editors and photojournalists producing original content about what's new, different and worth your attention. A veteran business-tech journalist, she's worked at MacWeek, Wired, Upside, Interactive Week, Bloomberg News and Forbes covering Apple and the big tech companies. She covets her original nail from the HP garage, a Mac the Knife mug from MacWEEK, her pre-Version 1.0 iPod, a desk chair from Next Computer and a tie-dyed BMUG T-shirt. She believes facts matter.
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Richard Nieva
Connie Guglielmo
2 min read

Ruth Porat, Google's CFO, says companies need to have plans for women and minorities to move up in the ranks. Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Press/Corbis

New Google finance chief Ruth Porat, who has been called Wall Street's most powerful woman, is not alone in her belief that tech companies need to help open the door for more women and minorities.

But one of her reasons why isn't always touted so clearly: It's good for the bottom line, she said at a forum Wednesday at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco.

"This is not just the right thing to do socially. It's the right thing to do for your business," said Porat, who is chief financial officer of both Google and its newly-formed holding company Alphabet.

The data backs her up. A Lehman Brothers survey of 100 teams found that "gender balanced" teams were most likely to experiment, be creative, share knowledge and fulfill tasks. A 2009 paper by Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques found that technical work teams with women were better at staying on schedule and had lower project costs.

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 gender discrimination complaints have attracted additional scrutiny. But all this also speaks to how influential the tech sector has become, especially as it becomes a driving force in the global economy and a model for employee benefits and health programs.

Google is not immune to criticism for its lack of diversity. The Mountain View, California-based company was one of the first big tech companies to disclose the demographics of its work force in May 2014. The company is still only 30 percent female, according to its most recent diversity report. When it comes to race, Google is only 3 percent Latino and 2 percent black.

Porat, who was hired in March, said companies need to have plans for women and minorities to be able to move up in the ranks. She gave a nod to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's bestselling book "Lean In," about women advancing their careers.

"If the door is nailed shut and you're "Leaning In," you're just going to get bruised and battered," Porat said.

A Wall Street veteran, Porat joined Morgan Stanley in 1987 and held several major jobs at the company, including CFO and vice chairman of investment banking. A Silicon Valley native, she is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a masters degree in administration from the Wharton School. She also serves on Stanford's board of trustees.

Porat isn't the only senior Google executive to speak recently about the tech industry needing to become more diverse. Last month, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said technology is too important to leave out women and minorities.

Porat said the diversity numbers in Google's work force are getting better, but are not where they need to be. "There is no silver bullet," she said.