In 2014, Google was one of the first tech companies to publicly release its diversity numbers. But when it did, the public found out that inside the Google Complex it really wasn’t that diverse at all. Nearly everyone who worked there was a White male, with the company’s racial diversity including only 3% Hispanic and 2% Black employees among its ranks. And in tech roles, the numbers were even worse; only 2% Hispanic and 1% Black. For 2015, the numbers in these racially ethnic categories had not changed at all.
Since then, the tech giant has been putting a lot of initiatives in place to foster diversity and inclusion both internally and externally. In 2015, the tech giant invested $150 million towards those initiatives, which includes training hiring and recruitment. One such initiative is embedding Google Engineers at Howard, Hampton, Fisk, Spelman and Morehouse schools to teach computer science and also coach students on applying and interviewing for jobs. More recently, Google partnered its Made with Code program with Black Girls Rock! to create the Girls Rock! Tech Summit, where 100 teen girls participated in coding workshops and learned about STEM careers. One student was also selected to receive a $10,000 scholarship from Google at the Black Girls Rock! event, with an additional $20,000 commitment toward Computer Science Education for young girls.
Ebony.com reached out to Google’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Yolanda Mangolini, to learn more about what the company is doing to improve its diversity numbers.
EBONY.COM: How did you get into the tech industry?
Yolanda Mangoli: After spending a few years doing business strategy in financial services, I was ready for my next challenge. A colleague suggested I look at Google. At the time, I was skeptical because I falsely assumed that Google only hired technical people. But I soon learned that Google had all kinds of non-technical roles available. This was 10 years ago and at the time, Google was at an interesting inflection point in its development. I was excited by the kinds of business challenges waiting to be solved that would make good use of the problem-solving skills I had honed through years in management consulting–and, the opportunity to make an impact.
EBONY.COM: Why is it important for corporate entities, like Google, to have a diversity officer?
YM: Because you can’t do this job well part-time, and you need talented, driven people 100% focused on it since creating a diverse workforce with an inclusive culture doesn’t happen by accident. But even more importantly, you need senior leaders in the business who are committed. Here at Google we’re lucky to have many of them, in Engineering, Tech, Sales, Marketing and other teams, who do the really hard work in making sure diversity and inclusion is central to their business and how we work with our customers and users. Our leaders know that if we’re going to build a business that continues to change the world and serve the next billion users, we need a diversity of perspectives to do that well.
EBONY.COM: Why does Google publicly release its diversity numbers?
YM: We had thought about publishing our diversity demographics as a way to hold ourselves accountable and help spark an honest conversation in the industry for how we could improve. We released our numbers for the first time in 2014, and again in 2015. This started a conversation in the industry and other companies also published their numbers, confirming what many people suspected: Google and the tech industry needs to do a lot more when it comes to diversity. But the conversation has helped spark awareness and positive change. Google is still 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.
EBONY.COM: What is Google doing to tackle its diversity and inclusion problem?
YM: We have a four-pillar diversity strategy. First, we’re working to hire more diverse Googlers; since 2014, we’ve been making steady progress on hiring, and focusing on programs to expand the overall talent pool. In the past, our university-focused hiring programs have relied heavily on a relatively small number of schools. Over the past 3 years, we’ve more than tripled the number of schools where we recruit.
Second, we’re focused on fostering a fair and inclusive culture. We want to ensure that we have an environment where all Googlers can thrive. Examples include raising awareness around unconscious bias—over half of all Googlers have participated in our unconscious bias workshops and now all new employees take the training as well.
Third, in order for Google and the entire tech industry to reflect the diversity of our users we’ve got to expand the pool of technologists, and make computer science (CS) education accessible and available to everyone. Examples include our CS First program which is designed to help anyone—a teacher, a coach, or volunteer—teach kids the basics of coding. And since our research tells us that to inspire more girls, we need to show them that computer science isn’t just for guys, we started Made with Code—and we’re working with the entertainment industry to change the perceptions around CS and what it means to be a computer scientist. We also have our Google in Residence program, which places Google engineers at HBCUs to teach CS 101 classes and mentor students on what it’s like to work in the tech industry.
Fourth, we’re working to help bridge the digital divide: We want more underrepresented communities, including women and minorities, to share the benefits of the web, and to have access to the economic engine it provides. Examples include our Accelerate with Google Academy, which helps business owners get online, grow and drive economic impact.
EBONY.COM: What about retention? What happens when a woman or a Black man or a Latino becomes a Googler, but they feel like they don’t fit in?
A: We’re working hard to create an inclusive culture where Black and Latino Googlers not just “fit in”–we want them to thrive and feel like they can bring their whole selves to work. This means making sure we’re thinking holistically about their development–giving them access to our development and mentorship programs, for example. Additionally, we encourage them to get involved in our ERGs, including the Black Googler Network (BGN) which recently hosted Bryan Stevenson, and the Hispanic Googler Network (HOLA); these networks give them access to hundreds of Googlers who can help them network and build a successful career at Google. We also have Diversity Business Partners embedded in our businesses–they work both with leaders and individually with Black and Hispanic Googlers to ensure we’re doing all we can to make our work environment inclusive.
Q: But hiring for culture fit seems to be the norm in the tech industry. Can you talk about the impact that has on the industry especially when it comes to unconscious bias and what can companies like Google do about this?
A: Hiring is one of the most important things we do, so it’s critical that we mitigate bias from creeping into the process. One of the things we do to combat unconscious bias in the interview process is hold structured interviews with established criteria that we measure all candidates against over the course of an interview or internship. In addition to technical skills the criteria we assess are general cognitive ability, leadership, role-related knowledge, and Googley-nes. Our team looked at the data and determined that these four attributes are the strongest predictors of whether someone will be successful at Google so that’s what we look for with all candidates.
Lynne d Johnson has been writing about music since the early 1990s, tech since the late ’90s, and the intersection of technology and everything else since the early 2000s. She currently writes, teaches and consults companies on how to better engage with their audiences. Follow her on Twitter @lynneluvah.