Top Google Recruiter: I was Fired After Pushing For More Black HBCU Engineers
It seems like there has been discussions about diversity at Google for eons. Promises of inclusion are made and broken. Empty promises to create a pipeline for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to Google. Once again, Black techies on the inside are complaining about the lack of diversity at the tech giant.
April Christina Curley, a former Black diversity recruiter for Google, is tweeting about her experience at Google, claiming that not only was the work environment lacking when it came to Black faces but it was also white toxic.
A white female manager informed Curley that her Baltimore accent was a “disability.” Ultimately, Curley tweeted that she was fired for calling out “racist recruitment and hiring practices” at Google. “They were tired of hearing me call them out on their racist bulls***”, she said.
Curley joined Google in 2014. She said she “quickly became aware of all the racist s*** put in place to keep Black students out of their pipeline.”
She continually urged the hiring of Black HBCU engineering students at Google, only to get major pushback. “’I routinely called out shady recruitment practices such as ‘screening out’ resumes of students with ‘unfamiliar’ school/university names,” she said. She also claims that other Black women on the staff were routinely harassed, The Daily Mail reported.
Curley tweeted that she was hired at Google with the specific objective to “fundamentally shift the relationship (or lack thereof) that Google had with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” She claimed that the tech giant has previously “never hired an HBCU student into a tech role.”
She added, “The reason Google never hired an HBCU student straight out of undergrad into one of their key engineering roles is because they didn’t believe talent existed at these institutions – until I showed up.”
Curley said she fought for HBCU students to be recruited but Google management was against the idea, she said.
“In several cases, students were questioned IN INTERVIEWS about the quality of the computer science curriculum that they were receiving at their HBCU and criticized for ‘not meeting the bar’ compared to ‘elite’ white institutions,” Curley said.
Back in 2016, Google said it was doing major outreach to HBCUs. “Ultimately, what we are trying to do is create a company where our workforce reflects the diversity of our users, where we have a culture where everyone here can thrive and people feel comfortable with being themselves,” said Yolanda Mangolini, head of Google’s global Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives, in a 2016 interview with NBCBLK. “Our mission is to organize the world of information. We cannot be universally useful and accessible if we only look one way.”
Curley is not the only one calling out the culture at Google.
Ousted Black Google researcher Timnit Gebru spoke out recently about her treatment at the company.”They wanted to have my presence, but not me exactly,” she said. “They wanted to have the idea of me being at Google, but not the reality of me being at Google.”
Gebru also said she felt targeted, NPR reported.
“My theory is that they had wanted me out for a while because I spoke up a lot about issues related to Black people, women, and marginalization,” Gebru said in an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Gebru was the co-lead of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team. She co-founded Black in AI, a group formed to encourage people of color to pursue careers in artificial intelligence research.
Several of Gebru’s former colleagues wrote a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking that Gebru be reinstated. The letter said her departure “had a demoralizing effect on the whole of our team.”
Black women and other underrepresented groups who looked up to Gebru were upset at her departure, said former Google employee Ifeoma Ozoma.
“There are serious concerns around her identity as a Black woman and the concerns she raised around diversity as being the main driver for both the firing and the way it was done and the speed,” Ozoma said.
Prior to her exit, Gebru was asked by Google to retract a research paper critical of Google’s technology. Gebru asked for a clarification of the process, including a list of everyone who was part of the decision. If Google refused, Gebru said she had planned to talk to her manager about “a last date.”
While Google took the statement to mean Gebru was offering to resign, Gebru herself said no such offer was ever extended, only threatened.
Gebru learned that Google had let her go while she was on a cross-country road trip vacation.
Former Googler Leslie Miley told NPR he does not believe Google would have handled it the same way if Gebru were a white man.
“You fired a Black woman over her private email while she was on vacation,” Miley said. “This is how tech treats Black women and other underrepresented people.”
Other current and ex-employees have called out Google for its rollback on diversity and inclusion programs, such as a former training program called Sojourn that was cut entirely.
Google has been scaling back — or cutting entirely — diversity and inclusion training programs since 2018, four Google employees and two people who left the company told NBC News in May.
Sojourn, a comprehensive racial justice program created for employees to learn about implicit bias and how to navigate conversations about race and inequality, was eliminated according to seven former and current employees, NBC News reported.
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“One of the major motivations for cutting Sojourn is that the company doesn’t want to be seen as anti-conservative,” a Google employee familiar with the company’s diversity programming said in an interview. “It does not want to invite lawsuits or claims by right-wing white employees about Google discriminating against them.”
Allegations that Google has scaled back its diversity and inclusion efforts are untrue, said Melonie Parker, Google’s chief diversity officer. “We’re really maturing our programs to make sure we’re building our capability,” she told NBC News.