Over the past two years, Google has significantly cut back internal programs designed to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, NBC News reported Wednesday, with current and former employees claiming the cuts were made as part of a company effort to not appear anti-conservative—an accusation Google denies.
The eight current or former employees, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity over fear of reprisal, said that a well-liked, “comprehensive racial justice” program called Sojourn was completely cut in 2019.
Full-time diversity positions have not been retained in the company, the employees said, with the program being removed because the company did not want to be seen as anti-conservative.
Melonie Parker, Google’s chief diversity officer, denied that accusation to NBC News, saying Sojourn was cut because the program had too much of a U.S.-specific focus for a global company.
Parker told NBC that diversity efforts have actually been “scaled up,” with the company hiring the outside firm Ibis Consulting to start a new program in June.
Last week, Google released its annual company public diversity report, which showed very little progress among hiring people of color — an issue it shares with many companies based in Silicon Valley.
“Any suggestion that we have scaled back or cut our diversity efforts is false. Diversity, equity, and inclusion remains a company wide commitment and our programs have scaled up to match the pace of Google’s growth,” a Google spokesperson told Forbes.
Google was one of the earliest companies in tech to appear sensitive to issues of race and inclusion, first releasing its annual company diversity report in 2014. In 2017, a 10-page memo created by then-software engineer James Damore titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” became public, and it claimed in part that women were biologically unsuited for engineering work. It led to Damore’s being fired. In January 2018, Damore filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination against Google, with similar claims coming from others in filings against the company. Those suits, combined with a 2018 Breitbart article claiming Google violated its own policies — by having a speaker talk about how white people can navigate racism in the workplace — are what led to the eventual downfall of its diversity efforts, the former employees told NBC News. Three current employees that were interviewed also criticized the new, outsourced program Google plans to use, saying it’s lacking compared to what the company had in place.
“The new programs that are offered are instead about how black people can navigate racism in the workplace,” an employee told NBC News.
Facebook also releases an annual diversity report, with its most recent release showing just single digit percentages of its workforce that are either black or Latino. According to the latest report, in 2019, 9% of Facebook’s workforce falls into that demographic — up from 8.4% in 2018.
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