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Google Searches Its Soul

I’ve spent the better part of the last two months reporting two stories for Fortune’s upcoming diversity issue, one of which has gone live today.

The first feature took me into the hearts and minds of some extraordinary Google employees who are working to capitalize on the tremendous service the company did the tech world when it released its employee diversity numbers in 2014. They’re from different parts of the company, some in tech, some not; some, like senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, David Drummond are high-ranking, others just starting out. But they’re all part of a growing group of people working separately and together to make inclusive practices a new normal inside the company – all while holding senior leadership accountable. And they’re doing an extraordinary job making it easier for all Googlers to have the difficult conversations about race and the world that helps break down barriers while creating better products.

From the story:

The company’s hegemony in search has laid the foundation for an incredible business built on ad sales. Alphabet, the parent of Google, last year ranked No. 36 on the Fortune 500, with some $75 billion in sales—up from No. 92 and $29 billion just five years earlier. According to estimates from S&P Global, Alphabet will report more than $19 billion in profit for 2016 on $89 billion in revenue.

Google has vanquished all challengers in search over the years—sorry, Yahoo and Bing—through the consistent refinement of its algorithmic wizardry. As the world around the Googleplex shifts, so must its products adjust to keep its otherworldly ability to serve up the correct information.

Recently, however, the company has identified a lingering problem that needs fixing: For a company built on delivering the rich diversity of human experience, the tech titan is not itself a diverse place to work—and it’s moving to change that. Google has decided to search its soul.

I have a trove of additional materials from interviews with employees and outside experts that I’ll be making available online over the next few weeks, much of which contains real fodder for anyone who cares about inclusive leadership. I also learned a lot and had to confront some painful biases of my own. (More on that another time.)

But I left the reporting process surprisingly energized and hopeful, a welcome change from all the divisive news of late. It means something that the conversation about inclusion is happening at such high levels and in such high toned places. And although there is no way to predict now which efforts will raise all the boats, one thing is true: We’re all going to be better for the effort.

On Point

The Obamas say goodbye on TwitterFortune captured their tweets before they disappeared. Enjoy.Fortune

Twitter hits their diversity goals, making small but measurable gains
Some good news from the oft-beleaguered company: They’ve met or exceeded their diversity goals in 2016. Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram provides much needed context, but here’s the tale of the tape: The overall percentage of women in Twitter’s employee base grew from 34% to 37%; underrepresented minorities grew from 10% to 11%, with improvements from 7% to 9% on the technical side, and from 0% (!!) to 6% on the leadership team.
Fortune

Unconscious bias in hiring screens out all sorts of candidates
It’s not just people of color who are overlooked, says Silicon Valley’s leadership thinker John Sullivan. Think: introverts, people with visible tattoos, piercings, anybody who seems “non-conformist” or who can fit a negative personality stereotype. “From a business perspective, this means that your firm will lose a large number of diverse candidates but also many highly desirable innovators, creative types, strategic thinkers, and techies because of invalid stereotypical connections,” he says.

Handling the diversity question in a job interview
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a thorough take on how hiring teams should ask “the diversity question” when vetting prospective department chairs or deans, and on the flip side, how candidates should avoid sounding trite. One tip: It matters who asks the question. “A minority candidate watching the lone minority on the committee ask the diversity question sends a signal that, if hired, this applicant will be burdened, too, with dozens of future tasks on committees—not because of any subject-matter expertise, but because of his or her race/ethnicity.” The advice is fully applicable to corporate hiring managers and executive job seekers. Subscription required (sorry.)
Chronicle of Higher Ed

People with disabilities can now participate in the Women’s March virtually
Real life events—of any kind—can be tough for anyone with mobility or stamina issues. But for anyone who wants to participate in civic engagement, being left out can be particularly painful. To that end, disability activists have created the “Disability March” website, which allows people to submit their names, photos and personal statements, and join a virtual archive of solidarity.
Mashable

The Woke Leader

A master class in allyship with black women
If you’re looking for an inspirational speech today, then I cannot recommend this TEDx talk by Matthew Williams highly enough. (It was so good, I immediately got him on the phone to learn more about his work and philosophy.) He’s the director of communications at Wake Forest University for their Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which means he’s doing the work. But he brings an unusual vulnerability to his discussion of systemic bias by sharing his journey, from a brother who didn’t get it, to a new compassion for his formerly incarcerated sister—and ultimately all black and marginalized women. “Recognition in a system gives you an unearned position of power,” a position he once enjoyed without awareness. “And yet my sister is completely unprotected.” His final word on breaking down the barriers that keep us apart? Love.
TEDx WinstonSalem Women

Maya Angelou on con men and family ties
“The only way you can be a mark, is if you want something for nothing.” So begins this marvelous interview from the Studs Terkel audio archive, now beautifully animated by the team at PBS’s Blank on Blank. Angelou’s stepfather owned pool halls and gambling houses and taught his young step-daughter how to identify marked cards and such. He also introduced her to a lively array of professional con men who gave her the skinny on how the world really worked. You want to make a big score? Their tip: “Use the white man’s bigotry against him.”
Blank on Blank

A playlist for those who fight for civil rights
The folks at Colorlines have put together a beautifully curated list of songs that are designed to heal and inspire the activist soul. While it’s generationally inclusive—bringing together Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye with Chance the Rapper and Solange, among others—it’s also an important reminder of how art can provide both a historical record and fuel for the future. Headphones on.
Colorlines

Quote

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
—Audre Lord