According to Google’s recently-released diversity report, the average Google employee is a white male. The average person most likely to leave Google is a black man. Among minority employees likely to be working at Google, African Americans are the lowest-represented group at the global tech conglomerate.
It flies in the face of Google’s recent efforts to reach out to African American prospects in engineering, computer science and innovation; most notably through its Howard West partnership with Howard University and its Google-in-Residence teaching program at several public and private HBCUs nationwide.
The problem? Google’s mostly white male workforce feels like diversity is being forced upon them, that opportunities are being granted to undeserving candidates from lower-level talent incubators like predominantly black secondary school districts and HBCUs, that diversity does not compute as an essential element of innovation and product development. From WIRED:
Until her name and face showed up on a website run by Beale, the right-wing provocateur also known as Vox Day, Fong-Jones says she did not appreciate what she was up against. Like many diversity advocates, Fong-Jones serves as an informal liaison between under-represented minorities and management as an unpaid second shift. Over the past few years, she learned to keep a close eye on conversations about diversity issues. It began subtly. Coworkers peppered mailing lists and company town halls with questions: What about meritocracy? Isn’t improving diversity lowering the bar? What about viewpoint diversity? Doesn’t this exclude white men?
Google is failing because it is utilizing America’s antiquated approach to diversity — to invest a little bit of money into under-resourced communities and to sift the best and brightest out of those communities for employment opportunities. Forget preparing them for life in the hyper-competitive, racially-charged crucible of Fortune 100 culture; throw their talent and their genetic propensity to endure persecution into the lion’s den and everybody wins; a few black folks are employed, a company appears less racist, and the false sense of American meritocracy gets to flourish for a news cycle.
True innovation in diversity is to throw the formula in reverse. Don’t put more resources into black communities, put more white folks into black communities. If Google truly hopes to train more black workers who actually want to remain employed with the company, than the solution is to put more white male Google employees onto HBCU campuses in teaching and mentoring roles for future creators and engineers.
The more that Google can deploy white workers to black spaces, the more likely that resources will follow the foot soldiers; because no good deployment plan activates soldiers without resources. If white men had a chance to see up close the faculty and students at HBCUs who work miracles without 1-1 tech outlays, without proper living and learning space for which Google is famous, and without major investments from public and private resources, then perhaps they would be compelled to explain to Google higher-ups that a few teach-in modules and an internship program isn’t nearly enough to help the company track its diversity goals.
The concept is not foreign; Jewish academics who fled the Holocaust found homes and legacies at HBCUs in the 1930s. Just maybe, some of the white men who are now comfortable with anonymous and attributed hostilities towards minority co-workers could discover through mandated cultural immersion that not only are their assumptions wrong or at best without context, but that their earning potential and personal satisfaction could be enhanced by a well-trained, diverse working environment in which they would have a role in shaping.
People don’t hire black folks because they want to, but because they need to. Basic probability dictates that all great things in science and math cannot be limited to white minds trained on Ivy League campuses and that they can either get with the program now or be phased out a few years ahead of 2044. Google has to put white bodies in black spaces, and more money into its headquarters and satellite to ensure minority employees are safe from workplace harassment, and that all employees are trained and forced use diversity as an aspect of meeting performance metrics.
Black folks at HBCUs are smart enough to get into job opportunities at Google, and smart enough to leave when it is clear they aren’t wanted. White folks are smart enough to make it tough on black folks in the name of white preservation and smart enough to know that this method of exclusion won’t last under legal scrutiny, or common models of global business sustainability. Without brown brains and bodies, Google will be out-Googled by Indian, Japanese, Chinese and African corporations in a matter of years instead of decades.
As a company, Google can easily solve all of these issues and lead American industry in how to gain black friends and keep white ones in the 21st century. They just have to think outside of their own search box.