It’s only the latest in a string of allegations of discrimination at the company.
In a tech industry run by bros in Patagonia vests, reports of racism and sexism — though appalling — are sadly, unsurprising. Google has landed in hot water recently for reportedly telling Black employees who complained about these issues to take mental health leave and firing AI researcher Timnit Gebru, who is Black, for criticizing its lack of diversity. One Black employee said security staff stopped him because they suspected that he didn’t work at Google. Now, the tech giant is under investigation for how it treats Black women.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing, California’s civil rights regulator, has interviewed Black women who’ve worked at Google in the wake of allegations of harassment and discrimination at the company, Reuters reported. A source told the wire service that these interviews date back to as recently as November. They’ve included workers who’ve filed official complaints, as well as those who haven’t, suggesting that the DFEH is searching for more examples of the alleged behavior.
But so far, the picture painted by Black employees hasn’t been pretty. This year, seven Black women, both current and former Google employees, told Reuters that they weren’t taken as seriously as coworkers of other identities and were marginalized on projects. Reuters did not specify which of the company’s offices they worked in.
These reports reflect larger, deep-seated inclusivity issues in the tech industry. Per Reuters, the DFEH is also involved in lawsuits over alleged harassment and discrimination against gaming companies Activision Blizzard Inc. and Tencent Holdings’s Riot Games. The DFEH declined to comment to Reuters.
Black Americans remain woefully underrepresented in tech. Six years after publishing their first diversity reports, major tech companies — including Facebook, Twitter, and yes, Google — increased the percentage of Black employees in their workforce by only low single digits, CNBC reported last June. Facebook had the smallest increase, from 3% to 3.8%.
But this discrimination is exacerbated for Black women in tech, who have to contend with not only racism, but sexism, as well. In many workplaces, including those outside of tech, Black women are often marginalized for, say, not smiling, or not speaking in a “nice” tone, stemming from the stereotype of Black women as hostile and aggressive (a.k.a., the “angry Black woman” stereotype). According to a report released this summer, only 1.8% of Google employees are Black women, who also leave the company at high rates.
"Our goal is to ensure that every employee experiences Google as an inclusive workplace," Google told Reuters regarding the DFEH investigation. "We’ll continue to focus on this important work and thoroughly investigate any concerns, to make sure our workplace is representative and equitable."
For Black women at Google, this change can’t happen soon enough — and you’d think that a company that prides itself on innovation would be able to figure it out.