Several current and former employees of Google are calling the tech company out for scaling back and cutting diversity and inclusion programs in order to avoid the appearance of being anti-conservative.
Google employees and ex-staffers, whose names were not revealed, sat down for interviews with NBC News to discuss their claims that the company billions of people use to search for information is ditching or reducing programs aimed at educating employees on racial and gender bias and how to deal with race and gender-related issues in the workplace.
One well-liked diversity training program at Google called Sojourn, a comprehensive racial justice program created for employees to learn about implicit bias and how to navigate conversations about race and inequality, was cut entirely, according to seven former and current employees. Sojourn offered its last training to Google workers in 2018, four current employees said, and by 2019 it was cut completely.
Seven current and former employees from across a range of teams and roles at the company said separately that they all believed the reason behind cutting Sojourn and taking employees off diversity projects to move them elsewhere at Google was to shield the company from backlash from conservatives.
Some of you might be thinking: “Why would conservatives have a problem with diversity? They aren’t racist or anything, are they?” But, the conservative belief that the very idea of racial and gender diversity is inherently anti-white man is far from new.
“One of the major motivations for cutting Sojourn is that the company doesn’t want to be seen as anti-conservative,” one Google employee said. “It does not want to invite lawsuits or claims by right-wing white employees about Google discriminating against them.”
That claim certainly isn’t unfounded considering that in 2018, Google was sued by a former employee who claimed being a white man with conservative views got him fired. According to NBC, what former Google software engineer James Damore was actually fired for was writing and circulating a 10-page memo arguing that diversity programs were bullshit because biology is the reason there aren’t many women working in the tech industry, not sexism. Damore was fired for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes,” NBC reports.
Last week, Damore asked that the courts dismiss his lawsuit, but his isn’t the only suit that was filed around that time. A recruiter for the Google-owned tech company YouTube filed a lawsuit claiming he was fired for refusing to adhere to a mandate requiring him to hire only black, Latino or female applicants.
“A hundred black employees could testify to the pain they feel in a climate that’s inadvertently hostile towards them and management will go back and say, ‘I need to get more data,’” one Google employee said. “And then three angry white men complain and everything comes to a halt.”
Google’s chief diversity officer Melonie Parker rejects all claims that its diversity programs were shut down in order to appease conservatives. She said what the company is actually doing is “maturing our programs to make sure we’re building our capability” and providing “a scalable solution across the globe.” In other words: Sojourn and other diversity programs were cut or scaled back because they focused on racial issues in the U.S. while Google has employees and offices all over the world.
That justification is shaky at best because, first, racism is a global phenomenon, and secondly, as NBC noted, “Google and the majority of its workforce are based in the U.S.”