California questions Google’s treatment of Black female workers

Black Google

Questions raised around harassment and discrimination

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is examining how Google treats its black female employees, according to a Reuters report. The report says the regulator asked employees about harassment and discrimination, after receiving formal complaints.

(DFEH) lawyers and analysts have interviewed several black women who have worked for Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O) about their experiences there, according to documents and sources. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize the work.

The report makes no mention of the fact that the DFEH has brought charges against Google as it has with Activision Blizzard and says that the interviews conducted do not necessarily mean that Google could face charges.

We have heard about equity issues from former employees. Earlier this year, a lawsuit filed against Google by four former female employees received class action lawsuit status, with women claiming they received lower bonuses and salaries than their male counterparts.

The company also made headlines after AI ethicist Timnit Gebru said it was retaliated against and fired for asking the company to be more transparent in the process of publishing documents. (Gebru says she faced company objections to her work, criticizing her language models.) Another woman on Google’s AI Ethics team was also fired after she said she looked in her email for evidence that that Gebru faced discrimination.

Google said it is focused on “building sustainable equity” for its black workers and that 2020 was its most important year for hiring what it calls “Black +” workers, a designation that includes people belonging to more races.

“Our goal is to ensure that every employee experiences Google as an inclusive workplace,” it said. “We’ll continue to focus on this important work and thoroughly investigate any concerns, to make sure our workplace is representative and equitable.”

For years, black men in the tech industry have said they’ve faced derogatory comments and disheartening experiences, like being kicked out of offices because security guards and their colleagues wondered what to do with them. ‘they were actually working on it.

As more black women have entered the workforce, these complaints have increased. Seven current and former Google employees told Reuters this year they have been marginalised in projects as black women and not taken as seriously as colleagues from different backgrounds.

According to company data, workers who identify as “black woman left Google last year at the highest rate of any racial group other than “native” American woman.

Artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru said Google fired her a year ago for criticizing her lack of diversity in the workforce and fighting managers who objected to publishing a critical article she co-wrote. Erika Munro Kennerly, who oversaw Google’s diversity and strategy teams before stepping down last year, told Corporate Counsel in January that “there is a general tone of being undervalued” as a black woman at Google.

Matthew Giannelis

Secondary editor and executive officer at Tech Business News. Contracting as an IT support engineer for 20 years Matthew has a passion for sharing his knowledge of the technology industry. He's also an advocate for global cyber security matters.

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