Google, Other Tech Giants Step Up Workforce Diversity Efforts

By Jaikumar Vijayan  |  Posted 2015-05-10 Print this article Print
Google workforce diversity

Google's $150M pledge to invest in workforce diversity echoes other Silicon Valley efforts to recruit more women and minorities.

By pledging to invest $150 million in workplace diversity this year, Google has stepped up its efforts to recruit more women and minorities into an employee base that the company has admitted is under-represented in both categories.

In an interview with USA Today, Nancy Lee, Google vice president of people operations, noted the company spent $115 million on promoting diversity in 2014 and was on track to spend another $150 million doing the same this year. Roughly half that amount will go to outside communities and organizations while the rest will be spent on internal efforts to promote great diversity.

A Google spokeswoman confirmed the company's $150 million financial commitment for 2015 and described it as part of a broader strategy to foster change at the company and industrywide.

"The funds are divided into two big categories—those we're using to support external partners in the communities, and those we're using to make Google more diverse and inclusive," she said in emailed comments to eWEEK

In a blog post, Lee outlined some of the diversity initiatives Google has launched in the nearly one year since it first publicly disclosed its workforce composition numbers last May. The numbers revealed that women account for only 30 percent of the company's workforce and minorities 39 percent.

Aiming to change that, Google implemented several diversity programs, Lee said.  The company, for instance, has worked on embedding engineers in historically black universities and colleges, launched initiatives to introduce coding to high school students from diverse communities and is working with Hollywood to promote positive images of women in high tech. The company also has spent considerable effort on what it described as "unconscious bias training" of its workforce.

As part of its $150 million investment this year, Google will expand its university-hiring program and double the number of schools from where it actively recruits employees. Nearly 20 percent of hires the company has made this year are from schools with a more diverse student body than the schools from where it has traditionally recruited.

Google is also providing free computer science enrichment materials to teachers, coaches and volunteers in an attempt to engage a more diverse student population and launched Made With Code, an initiative to promote a better perception about programming and coding among girls.

"With an organization of our size, meaningful change will take time," Lee said. "From one year to the next, bit by bit, our progress will inch forward."

Google's efforts mirror those of other major technology vendors recently to address what even the vendors themselves concede is a relative lack of diversity in Silicon Valley's workforce.

Diversity figures released by Apple, Twitter, Facebook and others in the last year have more or less mirrored those of Google and have prompted substantial efforts at change.

Chip maker Intel, for instance, earlier this year announced it would spend $500 million over the next five years to increase the number of women and minorities in its workforce. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has said the company will tie manager salaries to their meeting specific diversity goals.

In an interview with Fortune earlier this year, Denise Smith, vice president of worldwide human resources at Apple, said the company has put $50 million into a multi-year diversity program under which it is partnering with several non-profits to increase the pipeline of women and minorities in the information technology sector.

Facebook, meanwhile, has partnered with the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the National Center for Women and Information Technology and expanded an internship program for students from under-represented groups who demonstrate an interest in computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, in general. The company is working with others, including Girls Who Code, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow.

Twitter, meanwhile, has said it is putting more efforts into several programs at the company aimed at women and minorities.

The programs represent an effort by Silicon Valley giants to address workplace diversity issues after figures released by many major technology firms last year revealed an almost identical under-representation of women and minorities across companies.



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