Silicon Valley Diversity Crisis: Don’t Blame Google



Women compose 23 percent of Google tech workers, while five percent are Hispanic, Latinx and black.

By OWEN ROCHE, Asst. Opinions Editor

It’s no secret: Silicon Valley is a sausage fest. More specifically, a white and Asian one. Gender and race pay gaps coincide with markedly lopsided demographics in the technological capital of America, and it’s not getting better in the next generation of tech workers. With a largely homogenous group constituting the majority of its hiring pool, the tech industry is reaching the breaking point of its diversity crisis. Silicon Valley is desperate—with no company more desperate than Google, American tech’s crowning jewel.

Inclusivity eludes the search giant and its seemingly forward-thinking work environment, as Google has drawn much criticism for diversity-related issues in the past. The company was subject to a Department of Labor investigation over pay discrimination this past year, and an internal memo criticizing diversity efforts that surfaced in 2017 drew widespread condemnation. However, recent allegations against the search giant are different: the company was accused by a former employee of encouraging racial and gender quotas in their hiring plans—a violation of California and federal labor laws.

If the allegations are to be believed, Google is more desperate than ever before to improve its yearly diversity reports. This is not a good thing. Google felt forced to resort to unethical means to produce skewed, pseudo-inclusive diversity numbers because the individuals they hire and pass over are nothing more than that: numbers in an equation. While a commitment to diversity is important, Google has gone about it all wrong.

Any company would be doing itself a disservice to treat its industry like it’s more inclusive than it actually is. Manipulating the data looks better on paper but delegitimizes the problem at hand. It should not be up to corporations to treat racial and gender minorities like prizes in a cereal box; this falsified version of equality is misleading and harmful. It is unacceptable to be lulled into a false, feel-good sense of fairness that these quotas provide.

It’s easy to blame Google. Its diversity record is poor, and recent accusations reveal a company—and industry—unsure of how to hire the best workers from all walks of life. Diversity initiatives are only a quick fix. Gone too far, they mask the larger issues plaguing the tech industry’s applicant pool—but they just might reveal why, in the case of the great Silicon Valley Sausage Fest, Google is not to blame.

Expectations of equal representation in any industry assume that there are equal amounts of applicants from a wide range of ethnicities and genders for jobs in the tech industry. That’s not nearly the case, and as a result, any tech company has circumstances of equality stacked against them from the start of their hiring process.

The statistics are old news: more than half of all American college graduates are female, but the computer software engineers and math-heads are overwhelmingly male. Moreover, the males with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees are mostly white and Asian—and they’re the ones filling the ranks of America’s tech companies. As impartial as their interview methods and skill criteria may be, their results will reflect the garish population disparity between white and Asian men with STEM degrees and the rest of the competition with identical credentials. Increased diversity, especially in such a lopsided field, will not benefit companies as long as they feel they are forced to maintain quotas and pass up on talent in order to achieve a certain level of equal representation.

The solution is far simpler than blaming Google’s hiring practices. Companies shouldn’t have quotas or selective hiring practices simply because they shouldn’t be necessary. Google shouldn’t have to change its hiring methods; the applicant pool must diversify beneath them.

It’s time to rethink and revise our demands for equality, working from the bottom up instead of skimming off the top. Equal employment from unequal candidates is not a burden for Google to bear, but propagating interest in their field and investing in tomorrow’s job applicants most certainly is. Fostering interest in STEM among the youth of underrepresented groups will undoubtedly pay dividends in the future, and this is where Google’s responsibility lies.

It is Silicon Valley’s job to diversify its pool of future, not current, hires. Initiatives are already in place to introduce programming and engineering to those who wouldn’t normally be exposed to such material, and this work should continue until college graduation rates for STEM fields equalize across race, gender and economic status.

The most popular programs have encouraged young women to pursue technology and engineering, but this is only one piece of the puzzle. What may be more challenging—and less glamorous for the press—is the tech industry’s obligation to encourage future hires across traditional economic and ethnic lines. When the applicant pool is equally represented, hiring in the tech industry is sure to reflect it.

Teaching children to program and explore their interests in the emerging technological landscape of our world should know no boundaries nor follow any stereotype. If these opportunities are established from the beginning, we’re off to a good start.

Eight of the top 10 highest paying positions at Google involve software, engineering or finance, all fields and areas of study underrepresented by female, African-American and Latinx college graduates. It doesn’t have to be this way forever. Those qualified for the most valuable positions in America’s most ubiquitous tech firm can proudly represent the gamut of the American people—but they need to be qualified first.

The inequality in Silicon Valley is not enforced nor perpetuated by Google; it’s born and raised in the American system that allows certain groups to adapt and specialize to the industry while leaving others behind. It’s a difficult truth, and it will involve far more effort to solve tech inequality at its roots than simply to maintain race and gender quotas. However, it is where real change must begin.