Why Doesn’t Anyone Look Like Me?

Personally, this is a question I ask myself more often than I would like to admit. I can only imagine how often this question comes across for other minorities working in technology or computer-related occupations. To be honest, you do not have to search too hard to start finding answers to this question as the first statistic you come across shows that in 2020 women made up 25% of these occupations and of that, only 2% identified as Latinx/Hispanic.  

As we ended class the other night, I kept thinking about what strategies are technology companies’ leveraging to attract and retain top talent. I also thought to myself, have digitally driven companies considered that the demographics of top talent have drastically changed over the last few decades. In addition to these initial thoughts, I wonder if companies have considered that their retention strategies need to take into consideration the needs of minorities to stay with their companies or if their one size fits all strategy will be enough.  

Considering that every industry is looking for strategies to address this gap, I turned to Google for more answers. Then I realized why not look into what Google is doing to address this gap, especially since they’ve been in the hot seat before for not having diverse enough teams & perspectives (we all remember the photo algorithm mishap). Additionally, I wanted to understand what strategies they are leveraging to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented groups in their workforce. To my surprise I learned that Google has committed to a lot and that by 2025 they will have: 

  • Improved leadership representation of underrepresented groups by 30% 
  • Doubled the number of Black+ Googlers in non-leadership roles in the United States 
  • Doubled the number of Black+ directors across EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) by 2023 
  • Grow their presence in cities that contribute to a high quality of  life for Black+ Googlers by adding 10,000 jobs in Atlanta, Chicago, New York & Washington D.C.

In July 2021, Google released their 2021 Diversity Annual Report, reporting their progress against these goals, and although 2020 had resulted in some gains, the company is far from reaching its goals. They cited in the annual report five areas of insights and areas of focus for them moving into 2021 – 2022: 

  1. Hiring – Hiring changes drove the best year yet for women in tech globally and Black+ and Latinx+ people in the United States 
  1. Retention – Tailoring or retention efforts is necessary to address the root causes of higher attrition among Black+, Native American + and Latinx+ Googlers 
  1. Racial Equity – Apply a systemic approach to racial equity is necessary to build sustainable change for their Black Googlers & users 
  1. Accessibility & Disability Inclusion – Strengthening their focus on people with disabilities helped them better recruit, hire and build for their community. 
  1. COVID-19 Well-being – Supporting those most impacted by COVID-19 highlighted a universal need for well-being solutions. 

At first glance, these insights are not a hot take on trends found in other industries. I will say the insights I found the most interesting were their hiring strategies and retention.  

In their Hiring insight, they dive into how they are finding success through efforts in expanding access to hiring opportunities for underrepresented groups in many parts of the world by centering racial equity across their hiring processes. This includes having Googlers train on culture-add and focuses on training like “Inclusive Hiring Steps” to help managers understand their responsibility for building a model that enables future Googlers to thrive.  They are also actively building pathways into tech for Black and Latinx communities in the United States by expanding access to STEM opportunities through investments in programs like Code Next which is a free, computer science education program that meets Black, Latinx, and Native high school students in their own communities. 

This work is not a one and done. It’s not a tick-box exercise. And there is no silver bullet…We know we’ve made some good progress, but we also know that there is much more work to do.

Karina Govindji, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for EMEA, LATAM and Canada at Google.

As for their insight on Retention, they found that their previous one size fits all approach had left them with room to improve. In order to address this, they implemented new programs and practices like doubling their Retention & Progression team, so every organization has someone dedicated to supporting underrepresented Googlers. They are also listening to what their underrepresented Googler needs and creating new initiatives to directly support them.  

The business craves our insights…they’re eager to make change, eager to understand what can we do better.

Rachel Spivey, Head of the Retention & Progression Consultant Team at Google

Google has been able to make small meaningful strides in hiring people from underrepresented groups. In the last year, they hired more Black+ and Latinx employees in 2021, increasing each group’s representation to 8.8% from 5.5% and 6.6%, respectively.  Although all these changes sound promising and like Google is making the right choices to increase representation, I wonder how much they can move the needle. Is it enough for other companies to take notice and follow in similar footsteps?  

As someone who asks themselves ‘Why doesn’t anyone look like me?’ it gives me some hope that industry leaders like Google are prioritizing diversifying their workforce – and not just through hiring efforts but investing and creating sustainable ways for underrepresented groups to have access to computer science education programs. 

So who knows, maybe by 2025 I won’t be asking myself that question as often as I do now.

Resources

13 comments

  1. Great Post! Over the last few years, companies and universities are making a shift towards hiring/admitting individuals from underrepresented ethnic groups. This change was long overdue and much needed! Which a tech giant such as google taking this initiative, it’s only a matter of time before other companies follow suit and make this a norm. it takes time to bring about any change!

  2. Unfortunately, the question of “why doesn’t anyone look like me” is asked by too many people of color in the technology industry. I find it helpful that Google is making an effort to ensure people from underrepresented backgrounds can access STEM-related skills and even develop a pipeline for these students to get into the technology space. Also, considering the labor shortage and the difficulty of finding quality candidates, Google’s ability to increase minority hires demonstrates that their model works and can withstand the test of time. Although I can see the benefits of modeling Google’s approach, organizations also need to apply stricter compliance standards to ensure employees and managers are modeling the behavior they want to see. Lastly, I would hope to see companies like Apple, Google, and IBM recruit candidates from HBCU’s, invest in their STEM programs, and build a diverse talent pipeline from that recruitment channel. Great post.

    1. Google is working to deepen their partnership with HBCUs through a few different avenues – including more investment into STEM programs. I actually came across this Company News blog from Google that highlights the work they are doing with HBCUs – https://blog.google/outreach-initiatives/diversity/furthering-work-hbcus/.

  3. First off, awesome blog title! I felt every word of it.

    I do not work in the technology sector, but this topic is extremely relevant across most industries. I will speak specifically to the defense industry. The defense industry has claimed to push diversification for a few decades now. I participated in several surveys and attended workshops at facilities across the US. I can attest that my company did make conscious efforts to diversify their work base. With that said, I do not think setting quotas was a good strategy because it only resolves surface level changes. Companies that successfully diversify are those that get their employees to trust them, trust the process, and trust that they got the position not because of their diversity but because they are well qualified. I hate to say it, but I was told several times that I would “do well” in defense because I am a Latina. Right…because being Latina would give me the magic beans to do the job. Sass aside, I believe quotas encourage that negative mindset. I’m not saying to completely get rid of quotas, rather asking that companies praise differences and encourage cross-cultural team building. An easy first step is to look at how diverse upper ranks of management are because they will be the ones brainstorming solutions.

    1. Wanted to reply to this post because I have a opposing view in a sense. I understand that quota setting may not appeal to many people. I’ve heard a lot of people also say “but we should hire the most qualified person over fulfilling a quota.” I get that, but unfortunately, society is full of Unconscious Bias. We unconsciously choose the not diverse candidate because they check every box and also because we are unconsciously choosing what feels safe, what feels familiar. When we get to the point where people are willing to learn versus companies forcing their employees to take trainings, maybe we would be better positioned to lift the quotas. Willing to learn and having to learn is probably key to eliminating unconscious bias. Buy yes, totally agreed that in the long run it would be nice to not have quotas for companies to hire a diverse workforce.

  4. Really nice blog. I’ve definitely seen greater attention to these issues over the past 18 months. I don’t think it’s a problem that can be fixed overnight, but I think small, incremental steps over time is key.

  5. Great post, you inspired me to read more! I spent time reading through Google’s Diversity Annual Report. There are many initiatives and activities that impressed me but I wanted to highlight a few that stood out:

    – Hiring: “Inviting candidates to connect directly with our employee resource groups to learn more about the day-to-day experience at Google and our hiring process.” page 8
    – Retention: “Sponsored a well-being program called “Be Well Bro” in partnership with our Black Googlers Network and external leaders to create a safe space for Black men to discuss mental health.” page 16
    – Racial Equity: “After witnessing a surge of online searches for Black-owned businesses in summer 2020, Google’s product teams worked quickly to introduce new
    ways to help support Black business owners, including the addition of a Black-owned business attribute for merchants, which shows up when people use Google Search and Maps.” page 22

    I appreciate Google’s transparency by making this report easily available, it also adds a sense of accountability. Furthermore, I appreciate their willingness to admit that they are working to improve, but aren’t where they need to be just yet. Like you I am hopeful!

  6. Great topic and excellent blog!
    I personally think that this is such a complicated and even controversial topic worth discussing. On the one hand, I feel you should not report your race or physical attributes when applying to jobs, in an equalitarian society that requirement would be something weird, I guess ( I am job hunting and don’t even know if I am a Latino/Hispanic or a White/Caucasian xD ) The recruitment process ought to be exclusively about personal achievements, skills, and wisdom. But we are still far from that.
    On the other hand, I think that an effort needs to be made to correct the unbalanced hiring history and social unconscious bias towards certain groups. I really like the initiative from Google and other companies and I hope that in the future all of this is no longer necessary, but as you put it, there is still a LOT to be done.

  7. This is a great post and we should all recognize this as future managers and leaders in our respective industries. Especially tech where, by the numbers, you illustrated above, will hopefully change over time.

    Kind of connected here are the impacts that those who create tech have on their users. For instance, phone cameras have been developed and tested primarily on caucasian people because they made up the majority of the population that developed them. However, Google is working hard to reverse the tech behind their cameras to make sure that all people are represented as they should be in a photo. Very cool project Google is working on here..the Inclusive Camera. Almost makes me want to get a Pixel…

    https://9to5google.com/2021/05/18/google-inclusive-camera-pixel-android/

  8. Great blog. I hope you are right, and in 2025 you will not be asking yourself that question. It is encouraging to see a company like Google committed to change. The most significant change will occur when the students that completed the computer science education program decide to pursue that path and join the STEM programs. The future is bright, and I can’t wait to see it.

  9. I really appreciate you taking the time to voice this on this blog. I think my own career arc–which is probably longer than most in this class–and when I started at well known accounting/consulting firm, there was little diversity in any levels of mid to upper level management. Inclusion and diversity weren’t even concepts discussed… and sometimes the things that were discussed often could have offended any number of demographics.

    That kind of experience had such a last impact on me and I’m of such an age that it was just part of the corporate culture that I’m still amazed that one can choose skin tones on emojis and things like that, instead of just *expecting* that!

  10. Thank you for sharing this! I have always appreciated your contributions, but this one especially! Okay, so my undergraduate degree is in HR management, so inherently, you would think this is how I would know about this subject. However, we discuss this in depth when it comes to hiring, training, and retaining our RA and RD teams on campus!

    When it comes to hiring, there is often a goal to ensure there is a positive spin on the experience at the company, but often candidates appreciate the honest experience, particularly staff members of color prefer the honest experience of our AHANA RDs when asking about the impact of the role. If there is a “Everything is great here all the time” but that is not the truth, that person will be deeply shaken the first time something negative related to their identity occurs in the workplace (bias-motivated incident). In addition, preferred qualifications often are inherently discriminatory in their requirements, so hiring managers need to honestly consider what can be trained and what role legitimately needs a specific form of bachelor’s or master’s degree.

    Then once a person is hired, they may experience the place differently, may be given additional equity, diversity, or inclusion work on top of their listed job requirements, as assumptions may be made about their EDI knowledge. The burden of additional labor often placed on people of color in the workplace often leads to feeling unsupportive, overwhelmed, and burnout (racial battle fatigue is the formal term I believe). Managers need to share in all of the EDI work, support their staff members during their transition, and ensure there is an open line of communication where people are able to relay their concerns without fear of retaliation.

    All of this on top of ensuring the values of the company are in line with equitable and inclusive policies. Many companies (including BC) have a lot of work to do to get here. Alexandra, thanks for the opportunity to bring these things up!!

  11. Great post, informative, personal, loved it! I remembered reading an article last year (roughly around the same time as the BLM protests; article linked below) about the Chief Diversity Officer position at companies, and how it has essentially turned into a revolving door. Based some quick googling, it seems like 20% of fortune 500 companies had hired for that position in 2005, and that number has grown to about 50% in 2020. At face value, that is a great improvement, but when you start looking at the details, you really start learning about the skeletons. Many CDOs take a position with hope of what change they can implement in a company, and within 3 years are leaving their roles because the company is too slow or refusing to implement their changes. Similar to what Bianca said, it has become a ‘check the box’ exercise to state “yes we have a CDO, next” without the follow through of what that should entail. It seems like some companies are understanding and reorganizing the corporate structure to effect positive change, but for many it appears to be a meaningless exercise.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/demand-for-chief-diversity-officers-is-high-so-is-turnover-11594638000

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