Google spends $150M on di­ver­sity

In­ter­net gi­ant looks to at­tract women, mi­nori­ties to work­force.

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Jes­sica Guynn

Whether it’s build­ing self-driv­ing cars, a fleet of bal­loons to blan­ket the world with the In­ter­net or tiny par­ti­cles to de­tect can­cer, Google is known for think­ing big — re­ally big.

Now the In­ter­net gi­ant is dig­ging into its moun­tains of cash and tap­ping some of the world’s smartest minds to take on an­other se­ri­ous and elu­sive chal­lenge: crack­ing the code on the lack of di­ver­sity in the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try.

Google is rais­ing the stakes in its bid to at­tract more women and mi­nori­ties, Nancy Lee, Goo- gle’s vice pres­i­dent of peo­ple op­er­a­tions, told USA TO­DAY in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

Last year Google spent $115 mil­lion on di­ver­sity ini­tia­tives. In 2015, it’s plan­ning to spend $150 mil­lion on a far-reach­ing cam­paign that stretches from in­side the walls of Google into the in­dus­try at large, Lee says.

That spend­ing over two years il­lus­trates the ur­gency and am­bi­tion of Google’s di­ver­sity ef­forts.

In Fe­bru­ary, In­tel set aside a $300 mil­lion fund for di­ver­sity ef­forts over the next five years, or about $60 mil­lion a year. In March, Ap­ple pledged $50 mil­lion to non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Thur­good Mar­shall Col­lege Fund and the Na­tional Cen­ter for Women and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy. Face­book would not dis­close how much it is in­vest­ing in di­ver­sity ef­forts.

Lee says it’s not just the dollar amount but Google’s “holis­tic” strat­egy to make the tech in­dus­try more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the pop­u­la­tions it serves — from rou­tinely testing hir­ing, pro­mo­tion, per­for­mance-eval­u­a­tion and

com­pen­sa­tion pro­grams for fair­ness, to em­bed­ding en­gi­neers at a hand­ful of his­tor­i­cally black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties where they teach stu­dents and ad­vise on com­puter science cur­ricu­lum.

“Our strat­egy is ex­tremely long term. Sure, we are do­ing things that can show an im­pact maybe this year, maybe next year. But we rec­og­nize that there is not enough tal­ent en­ter­ing into our in­dus­try and that we have a lot of work to do,” Lee says.

Di­ver­sity strate­gist Joelle Emer­son says other tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies are learn­ing from Google, which is tak­ing an in­no­va­tive and data-driven ap­proach to closing the gen­der and racial gap.

“Google is the first com­pany that has been talk­ing pub­licly about any­thing in­no­va­tive,” said Emer­son, founder and CEO of Par­a­digm. “So much of what we are all do­ing is watch­ing what Google is try­ing and try­ing sim­i­lar things.”

Di­ver­sity is a topic that the tech in­dus­try used to shrink from. It’s never been much of a se­cret that tech com­pa­nies are largely staffed by white and Asian men. Peo­ple just seemed to ac­cept the lack of women, African Amer­i­cans or His­pan­ics as part of tech cul­ture. And for years com­pa­nies kept crit­ics at bay and their work­force de­mo­graph­ics un­der lock and key. GO­ING PUBLIC

That changed about a year ago when Google de­cided to kick off a more open dia­logue about di­ver­sity by pub­lish­ing a re­port that re­vealed the lop­sided de­mo­graph­ics of its em­ploy­ees. Seven out of 10 peo­ple who work at Google are men. Lati­nos make up just 3% of the work­force, African Amer­i­cans 2%.

The dis­clo­sure trig­gered a wave of sim­i­lar re­ports from Face­book, Ap­ple, Ya­hoo and oth­ers.

This isn’t al­tru­ism. Google wants to se­cure its own fu­ture by es­tab­lish­ing it­self as a leader in di­ver­sity as it grows be­yond search ad­ver­tis­ing into myr­iad other busi­nesses in an in­creas­ingly global mar­ket­place.

Whites are ex­pected to be­come a mi­nor­ity in the USA by 2044, Latino and African-Amer­i­can buy­ing power is on the rise and Sil­i­con Val­ley has am­bi­tions that now lap the globe. Hav­ing women and mi­nori­ties build­ing, not just us­ing, the prod­ucts dreamed up here is a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.

“The tech in­dus­try re­ally un­der­stands that the fu­ture of our in­dus­try means we have to be more in­clu­sive,” Lee says. “We are lit­er­ally build­ing prod­ucts for the world. It can’t be this ho­mo­ge­neous.”

For years Google op­er­ated in hy­per-growth mode, rac­ing to staff up and pay­ing scant at­ten­tion to the in­creas­ingly skewed de­mo­graph­ics of its work­force, even when the com­pany came un­der in­tense pres­sure from civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jack­son.

Prompted in 2013 by the “sus­pi­cion we had evolved into an or­ga­ni­za­tion that did not look the way it ought to,” Google launched a ma­jor push on di­ver­sity at the be­hest of Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Lee says.

“They know the prod­ucts we are pro­duc­ing are meant for the world’s pop­u­la­tion, and only if peo­ple who are us­ing (that tech­nol­ogy) are also its cre­ators and in­no­va­tors can we can re­ally get the kind of in­no­va­tion we need to solve prob­lems,” Lee says.

Google now has dozens of ini­tia­tives that ex­ec­u­tives hope will sow seeds of change. To change the de­mo­graph­ics in­side Google, the com­pany is cast­ing a wider net for new hires and cre­at­ing more paths into Google for women and mi­nori­ties.

Google his­tor­i­cally has re­cruited from about 100 schools. But while 14% of His­panic col­lege en­roll­ment is in four-year col­leges, they make up just 7% of en­roll­ment at the 200 most se­lec­tive schools.

So in 2014 Google more than dou­bled the num­ber of re­cruit­ment schools, tar­get­ing ones with rig­or­ous com­puter science pro­grams and di­verse stu­dent bod­ies. Nearly 20% of its uni­ver­sity hires came from the new batch of schools, which in­cluded Alabama A&M and Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souriColumbia, Lee says.

Google has also in­creased the num­ber of fe­male soft­ware en­gi­neers it’s re­cruit­ing to 22% in 2014 from 14% in 2010. Women make up 18% of com­puter science grad­u­ates in the U.S.

Get­ting women and mi­nori­ties in the door is the first step. Google is also fo­cused on cre­at­ing “an en­vi­ron­ment of fair­ness and in­clu­sion where peo­ple can bring their whole selves to work,” Lee says. BIAS BUST­ING

Among the key ini­tia­tives: Em­ploy­ees can vol­un­teer 20% of their time to work on di­ver­sity projects through a pro­gram called Di­ver­sity Core. In 2015, more than 500 Google em­ploy­ees will work on projects at Google and in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, Lee says.

More than half of Google’s nearly 56,000 em­ploy­ees have at­tended a 90-minute sem­i­nar on un­con­scious bias. Now Google is of­fer­ing “bias bust­ing ” work­shops that give Google em­ploy­ees prac­ti­cal tips on ad­dress­ing un­con­scious bias. Nearly 2,000 have taken the work­shop.

“The long game” for Google is ex­pand­ing the pool of women and mi­nori­ties go­ing into com­puter science, Lee says.

Last June Google de­buted the Made with Code cam­paign, de­signed to get young women ex­cited about learn­ing to code. An­other pro­gram, CS First, makes it pos­si­ble for a teacher, coach or vol­un­teer to teach mid­dle school stu­dents cod­ing ba­sics.

Eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity is the theme of an­other set of ef­forts aimed at closing the dig­i­tal divide. Google runs boot­camps for mi­nori­ties and women to teach them how to har­ness the power of tech­nol­ogy to boost their small busi­nesses. Ear­lier this year Google launched a sup­plier di­ver­sity pro­gram to cre­ate a more di­verse pool of ven­dors.

“There is just this in­cred­i­ble en­ergy and mo­men­tum around di­ver­sity,” said Yolanda Man­golini, Google’s direc­tor of di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion. Google em­ploy­ees through­out the or­ga­ni­za­tion are now reg­u­larly hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions about grow­ing di­ver­sity and com­bat­ing bias, Man­golini says.

“We have def­i­nitely in­creased aware­ness,” says Jes­sica Moore, a Google peo­ple op­er­a­tions as­so­ciate who spends 20% of her time on di­ver­sity. But, she added, Google “still has work to make sure ev­ery­one feels bought in to ad­vanc­ing di­ver­sity.”

“There is just this in­cred­i­ble en­ergy ... around di­ver­sity,” says Yolanda Man­golini, Google’s direc­tor of di­ver­sity. “The fu­ture of our in­dus­try means we have to be more in­clu­sive. We are lit­er­ally build­ing prod­ucts for the world. It can’t be this ho­mo­ge­neous.” Nancy Lee, Google’s vice pres­i­dent of peo­ple op­er­a­tions

MARTIN E. KLIMEK, USA TO­DAY

Google wants to se­cure its fu­ture by es­tab­lish­ing it­self as a leader in di­ver­sity.

Nancy Lee, Google’s VP of Peo­ple Op­er­a­tions.

MARTIN E. KLIMEK, USA TO­DAY

Google’s Yolanda Man­golini.

PHO­TOS BY MARTIN E. KLIMEK, USA TO­DAY

“We have def­i­nitely in­creased aware­ness,” says Jes­sica Moore, a Google peo­ple op­er­a­tions as­so­ciate who spends 20% of her time on di­ver­sity.

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