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What is so hard yet so important to achieve, even for Google? Diversity
By Jill Rocco
May 20, 2020
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Google Diversity Report featured on WOMANBOSS
Photo from Workplace Diversity After the Google Memo — The Positive and the Negative By: Phyllis Zimbler Miller
“Diverse leadership teams make better decisions, and in turn build a more helpful Google for everyone.”

Thanks to much media coverage highlighting women leadership in face of the pandemic, many in the world have found it very interesting that countries with women as leaders have done a rather decent job, with evidently lower death rates; and it is delightful to see many in social media are acknowledging that as a thought-provoking fact.

Another running theme surrounding women during these times is how staying-home is putting additional strain on women. Carolyn Childers, CEO of Chief, a private network for powerful women, stated in a recent Forbes interview, “women have always managed a tremendous amount of invisible labor—whether it’s caring for their children, partners, elderly parents, friends, or maintaining the stability of their own household. While women hold more executive roles now than ever before, the expectation that they should be able to “juggle it all” remains. This expectation was crazy prior to the pandemic, but now it is simply impossible.”

Despite the intense expectations placed upon women, their jobs somehow always seem to get done – we are seeing that first hand on our front lines and many other industries. The skills that many women possess like balancing their invisible labor responsibilities with their work responsibilities is something that many companies, large and small, can greatly benefit from. It is only rational and business-savvy for any organization to strive for diversity, because it has been proven repeatedly that it has a positive impact on performance. However, this goal is easier said than done, even for resource-rich organizations like Google. So why is diversity so hard to achieve? Great question!

When you look at a large company like Google or Facebook, especially in an underrepresented industry like Tech, it’s clear they are setting industry standards that can be adapted by thousands of other companies. These large businesses often play pivotal roles in shaping the culture in the commercial world, and their successes can spearhead a movement towards a more diversified work environment for all. The Google Diversity Report, 7th of its kind was released in the beginning of May. This report is annually rolled out to explain what Google is doing to diversify its company as well as introduce the specific programs internally created to drive inclusion and equality. Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer explains in the report that, “[we are] focused on building a workforce that better represents our users and our world, while ensuring that every employee feels like they truly belong at Google. As you’ll see in this report, Google has made progress in several areas of hiring and retaining talented professionals from underrepresented groups. We also continued our work to understand the identities, intersectionalities, and experiences of Googlers worldwide.” (Google Diversity Report)

As reported, Google employs over 100,000 people in 170 cities in over 60 countries. Since Google has such a high employee count, they have the opportunity to diversify their talent in large numbers to make a real difference in the hiring of minority and marginalized groups. If we solely look at the data based on gender, we can simply see that the improvements are extremely modest.

The Google Diversity Report states, “we pay close attention to how we attract and assess talent at every step of the recruitment and hiring process. One way we’ve done this is to reduce bias in job descriptions.” There are different tools Google uses to mitigate and remove bias in job descriptions as well as throughout the whole hiring process. However, despite all of Google’s efforts, from 2019 to 2020, Google reported a 0.7% decrease in female hires, compared to a 0.7% increase in male hires.

Google Diversity Report New Hires featured on WOMANBOSS

Given these numbers, it will be interesting to see what initiatives Google plans to invest in or create to ensure that not only are they removing bias from the hiring process, but they are consciously and consistently making decisions that promote the hiring of marginalized groups in their company. Not only that, but what programs will Google implement in order to retain those employees that were hired? According to the report, women in general have lower than average attrition rates overall. However, if you break it down even further by race and gender, you will see the attrition rate for both Black and Native American men and women is significantly higher than any other demographic.

Google Diversity Report Attrition Rates featured on WOMANBOSS

NBC News reported last week the cancellation of Sojourn, an internal program created by Google to navigate conversations about race and inequality, backed by seven current and former employees. (NBC News) Sojourn held its last training to Google workers in 2018, and the program was completely cut in 2019. One current Google employee stated “one of the major motivations for cutting Sojourn is that the company doesn’t want to be seen as anti-conservative.” Another article released by Forbes, interviewed current and former employees about the cancellation of Sojourn and the new program Google has created in its place. An employee stated “the new programs that are offered are instead about how black people can navigate racism in the workplace.” (Forbes 

With the cancellation of programs like Sojourn, it’s easy to draw conclusions on why the attrition rate is so high for specific racial demographics inside Google. When these types of programs are cut, the first step could be looking at the diversity, or lack thereof, in Google’s leadership. If we take a closer look at the reported data around leadership, we find that high-caliber roles, in Black and Native American men and women, are basically non-existent. Not having equal representation in leadership roles can drastically affect the type of internal programs Google is creating and can even negate the diversified hiring process that has been established. After all, like hires like. 

Google Diversity Report Leadersip by Race featured on WOMANBOSS

So again, what do all of these numbers mean, and why should we care? According to Boston Consulting Group, companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue than other companies (BCG) yet we still see women fighting for senior leadership roles and companies trying to get their numbers up instead of actually focusing on the benefits of diverse hiring and internal programs. Employees do not want to feel like just a “diverse hire”, rather the best candidate for the role and an asset to their new company. Google preaches the idea of a new hire not being a cultural fit, but a “cultural addition.” (Google Diversity Report) But less they forget, a large part about adding a new addition to the team, is making sure that team is already inclusive, welcoming, and like-minded. These teams need to be built, and sometimes it’s less about the new hires, and more about the existing incumbents. 

Diversity welcomes an insane amount of talent, world views, cultures, and in plain terms, more opportunity for success. The more corporations hold themselves accountable in this area, the more innovation, success and advancements we will be able to see in our world.  Jean Jennings (Bartik), one of the world’s first computer programmers said it best while commenting on the diversity of her squad of six female programmers of diverse backgrounds, cultures and religions, thrown together by the war in 1945. “Despite our differences, or perhaps because of them, we really liked one another.”  Her group went on to achieve one of the most important technological breakthroughs in the history of computer programming that enabled the machine to calculate 1,000 times faster than any machine that existed prior to that time. 

So for the sake of performance, if not anything else, there’s gotta be more we can do to push for better diversity in the workplace.. 

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