Google is making headlines this week with some employees claiming that it has significantly rolled back its internal diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives to avoid backlash from conservatives.
It’s the latest of several D&I-related controversies to rock the tech giant in recent years.
Google fired engineer James Damore in 2017 after he wrote a lengthy, controversial memo criticizing what he called the company’s “left bias.” He opined that in an effort to achieve greater gender and race representation, Google created several discriminatory practices in the process.
He filed suit in 2018, alleging that the company allows discrimination against conservative white men. The court dismissed the suit earlier this week upon the request of Damore and three other claimants.
In July 2019, Google agreed to pay $11 million to end a class-action lawsuit alleging ageism. The case involved 227 people who accused the company of systemically discriminating against job applicants who were over the age of 40.
SHRM Online has collected the following articles from its archives and other sources on D&I issues at Google.
Current and Ex-employees Allege Google Drastically Rolled Back D&I Programs
Eight current and former Google employees are alleging Google has significantly scaled back its D&I efforts in what they say is an effort to avoid being seen as anti-conservative, according to an NBC News report. They claim D&I training programs have been rolled back or cut, the team overseeing those programs reduced in size and D&I positions that had been filled by full-time employees have been outsourced or left unfilled after those employees left Google. Melonie Parker, Google’s chief diversity officer, disputed the allegation that Google has scaled back its diversity and inclusion efforts. She told NBC News that D&I efforts have not been reduced.
Google Diversity Report Shows Little Progress for Women and People of Color
Google has seen modest gains in the representation of women and people of color among its workforce that has a disproportionately high number of white, Asian and male employees, according to the company’s seventh consecutive diversity report released April 30. The percentage of U.S. hires among people who are black, for example, grew from 4.8 percent in 2018 to 5.5 percent in 2019—a 0.7 percent increase. The company has launched small internal initiatives, Forbes reported, such as running all job postings through a bias removal tool, leading to an 11 percent increase in female applicants. It also expanded its management program for underrepresented employees considering leaving the company.
Viewpoint: I Was Google’s Head of International Relations. Here’s Why I Left.
Ross LaJeunesse, who served as the company’s head of international relations, said last year that after 11 years there, he was quietly ousted from the company’s D&I Council. That action came, he believes, after he started raising concerns about a diversity exercise that left himself and two women of color feeling extremely uncomfortable. It was the latest among concerns he raised with HR that had included implementing human rights principles into its business and products decisions.
[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative]
Adapt Your D&I Efforts to the Reality of the Crisis
Many diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) practitioners inside companies say internal diversity initiatives have stalled, DE&I consultant Lily Zheng wrote May 7 in the Harvard Business Review. ”As companies everywhere brace for an oncoming recession, programs have been shuttered or postponed indefinitely,” she wrote, because of an increasing sentiment that diversity is nice, but not essential. “But there’s much more under the DE&I umbrella that is essential at moments like this,” Zheng said.
(Harvard Business Review)