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Google won’t release minority hiring statistics, claiming trade secret

By Priyanka Sharma | 17 Apr 2011

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This winter, minority rights groups protested outside Google's Mountain View headquarters, demanding the company release statistics about their minority hiring practices. (Photo: Priyanka Sharma)

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The universal search engine may not be as transparent as it claims.

Google’s mission statement is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” yet when asked to disclose data about its internal hiring process, the company flatly refused.

Google has claimed that its hiring procedures are a trade secret, but other Silicon Valley heavy hitters like Intel, Cisco, and eBay have released their data.

“All we are asking is for Google to show us the numbers,” said Len Canty, chairman of the Black Economic Council. He was among several minority leaders who protested outside Google’s Mountain View headquarters on Feb. 10, rallying for Google to be more transparent about the minorities it hires.

“Cisco’s numbers are not so impressive, but they have been transparent,” Canty noted.

Picketers like Canty as well as Jorge Correlejo, Chairman of the Latino Business Chamber of Greater Los Angeles, are concerned that, while Google runs several diversity initiatives, blacks, Latinos, women and other minority groups continue to be underrepresented? However, Cany’s claim of underrepresentation remains speculative and is not founded in any data tied to or released by Google.

Correlejo says the issue has been ongoing. Last year the United States Department of Labor identified 34 Silicon Valley companies including Google and Apple, and asked them to supply data about their hiring practices. While Silicon Valley companies are not required to reveal their data, claiming that the numbers are trade secrets, 12 companies did respond to the department’s request.

Correlejo, like Canty, has not been impressed by the numbers from companies like Cisco and Intel, but he commends their transparency. The data from the dozen companies that did release their numbers made it evident that companies were hiring low-cost males from India over domestic minority groups such as blacks, Latinos, and women.

While Google has a global reach, minority group leaders like Canty and Correlejo see Google as an American entity that has a responsibility to its taxpayers to employ American citizens.

Canty says his, and other minority groups have reached out to Google in an effort to discuss their concerns about minority representation, yet the search giant has not responded.

To answer these questions, Jordan Newman, a spokesman for Google, said the company has offered Canty and the public the same press release stating that “Our philosophy has always been that a diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures means better products for our users. That’s why we have an inclusive work environment and constantly promote diversity at Google, through scholarship programs, internship opportunities and partnerships with organizations working to educate the next generation of engineers and professionals.”

But the press statement simply angers people like Canty. He and other minority group leaders have decided to take matters into their own hands. This spring, Canty will be leading a trip to the capital to meet with the Justice Department.

“We think Google needs to be transparent about hiring practices, and if they don’t, it can put them in a position for an anti-trust lawsuit,” Canty said.

While Canty’s assertion is, at best, speculative, he and many others are concerned that Google is getting so big and gobbling up so many so many smaller companies that competition in the market is being disrupted.

Since Google is hiring over 6,000 people this year, those picketing there say they want to make sure that their respective groups have a fair shot at being hired.

A New York based ex-Google employee, who requested to remain anonymous, said Google recognizes that the problem runs deeper than just hiring practices. She said most of the staff in departments like sales and marketing, where she worked, were women. But the bulk of the company is made up of engineers, who are mostly males.

“Google offers the BOLD program, the only official college internship that focuses on minority groups,” she said.

Google’s program, also known as the Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development, is a diversity program run each summer for students who are historically under-represented in this field.

Google also runs initiatives to get young girls excited about science and engineering, she added.

However, she did say that the hiring and interview process at Google could be exclusionary when it comes to hiring minority groups. It’s quite long and is much like applying to college. Google targets a specific list of schools, she added, and focuses on hiring candidates with a high college grade point average. All of this could be a factor that discriminates against minority groups.

Robert Gray, an electrical engineering professor at Stanford University, said the state of gender diversity at Stanford’s engineering department needs work, noting that the engineering department is not necessarily welcoming to women. A small percentage of engineering students at Stanford are women, and the representation of women among the faculty is even smaller.

Sean Holbert, the computer science student adviser at Stanford University, mirrors Gray’s sentiment about the lack of women in the computer science department.

“Only 13 percent of all masters students were women, and 15 percent of undergraduates were women this year,” Holbert said.

Holbert also said that the department’s ethnic skew was towards white, Asian and Indian males.

Considering this data, it could be that Silicon Valley companies like Google are not intentionally discriminating; they just don’t have much of a pool of females and minorities to choose from.

A year ago, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington D.C. based think tank that focuses on domestic women’s issues, published a study indicating that median weekly salaries for women of all races are approximately $200 lower than men’s. In addition, white women earn, on average, $200 more per week than Hispanic women and about $130 more than black women.

This data also show that the service sector employs most black and Hispanic women, while white and Asian women tend to land more of the management, business-related, and technical positions.

Sameh El Amawy, a former employee at Procter and Gamble, said the company issued diversity scorecards to foster diversity. Each manager’s compensation was tied to his diversity scorecard, an effort to compel managers hire women and minorities, even over more qualified but less diverse candidates.

El Amawy spoke to Google’s motto, “Do no evil,” and said a company can do more evil by hiring minority groups for the sake of diversity rather than hiring the most qualified candidate.

Whether or not Google releases its numbers, the protests have brought to light a greater issue. The root of the problem may not only lie in a company’s internal practices. A combination of the educational system, wage distribution, and the stereotypes and culture associated with a specific profession are also to blame.

 

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