No one knows how technology would function or look if black technologists were part of development teams of most technologies that we use today. The technology industry has by design excluded black technologists. The George Floyd murder has inspired the global tech giant, Alphabet (Google parent company) to finally do something more meaningful about this challenge to ensure that the technology we use is developed by everyone. Efforts by Google will probably inspire other technology companies to do the same.
Google has committed itself towards improving black representation at senior levels and committing to a goal of improving leadership representation of underrepresented groups by 30 percent by 2025. To achieve this goal, Google aims to post senior leadership roles externally as well as internally. These changes according to a statement by the Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, will be implemented beyond the US. Country-specific plans will be implemented to recruit and hire more people from communities that are less represented at Google.
As part of this process Google will establish a new talent liaison within each product and functional area to mentor and advocate for the progression and retention of Googlers from black communities. A task force will also be convened including senior members of the Black+ community at Google, to develop concrete recommendations and proposals for accountability across all of the areas that affect the Black+ Googler experience, from recruiting and hiring, to performance management, to career progression and retention.The CEO has asked the task force to come back with specific proposals (including measurable goals) within 90 days.
Google will also establish a range of anti-racism educational programs that are global in view and able to scale to all Googlers. According to the Google CEO, the technology company will be welcoming external experts to share their expertise on racial history and structural inequities, and start conversations on education and self-reflection. This week the company has begun piloting a new, multi-series training for Googlers of all levels that explores systemic racism and racial consciousness, to help develop stronger awareness and capacity for creating spaces where everyone feels they belong. The technology giant plans to roll out this training globally by early next year. At Google diversity, equity, and inclusion will be integrated into mandatory manager training.
Pichai ended his statement on what the company will do about diversity by saying:
“creating products for everyone is a core principle at Google, so our product teams will work to ensure that all users, and particularly Black users, see themselves reflected in our products”
This step by Google is commendable when we consider how little such issues receive attention within technology companies. It will be interesting to see the impact of such a move when it comes to products output by Google.
What is however lacking from this step by Google is the extent to which they will invest in technology startups founded by black founders. Alphabet (Google parent company) plays a major role in funding technology companies across the globe. These companies end up in the Google eco-system which has products that are used across the globe.
If Google were to have the same commitment on diversity when it comes to investing in technology companies founded by black founders the impact would be wider. It would probably enhance the range of technology products that we enjoy today.
Google will probably work towards improving in this area. In the meanwhile, their move towards doing something about the diversity challenge in the technology sector is something that South African technology companies should emulate.
Diversity has become a business imperative. Tech companies that fail to embrace diversity will be left behind by those that will unlock innovations from untapped innovative minds.