Google accused of undervaluing HBCU engineering students
It uses a school-ranking system in its recruitment of college students for its programs, but HBCUs aren’t included in Google’s lists.
A new bombshell report detailing how tech giant Google ranks engineering students at historically Black colleges and universities may shed some light on why Blacks are so underrepresented at the company and in the field of coding.
According to The Washington Post, Google uses a ranking system in its recruitment of college students. Schools like Stanford University and MIT are ranked as “elite,” given their specialty in technical engineering. State schools or high-ranking private schools with strong engineering programs like Georgia Tech are assigned to either “Tier 1” or “Tier 2.”
There is no ranking for HBCUs.
April Christina Curley, an African American recruiter for Google who led the company’s HBCU outreach, was fired last year because she continually raised her concerns about bias in the recruitment process toward HBCU students.
“Google allocated resources so disparagingly because of how they tiered — and thought of — our schools,” Curley told The Washington Post.
The Post report notes that Google “undervalued and underinvested in Black engineering students at HBCUs, according to interviews with Curley and seven current and former Google workers, HBCU graduates, former faculty members, emails, planning documents and performance reviews.”
In December 2020, Curley listed a lengthy Twitter rant that detailed her time at Google and her departure, a thread that has more than 150,000 likes. In one post, she wrote, “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.”
Critics are now encouraging Google to live up to its promise to diversify its ranks and re-examine its pipeline for employment.
“We have a large team of recruiters who work incredibly hard to increase the hiring of Black+ and other underrepresented talent at Google,” said Google spokeswoman Jennifer Rodstrom in a statement, “including a dedicated team that partners and strengthens our relationships with HBCUs.”
But administrators at HBCUs have contradicted Rodstrom’s assertions, noting that Google has provided an increase in internships, not in job offers.
Nicole Tinson, chief executive officer of HBCU 20×20, a network for jobs and internships, told The Post she has distanced her organization’s relationship with Google, whose recruiting efforts she describes as “showboating.”
However, Google entered into a partnership at Howard University in 2017. Alonia Thomas, a spokesperson from the university, describes it as successful. She says Google has hired 119 interns and 30 Howard grads since the program launch.
The conflicting accounts highlight the fact that tech companies will have to continue to make specific investments in diversity through collaboration at HBCUs if they want to see that diversity reflected in their companies.
“Any suggestion that we have scaled back or cut our diversity efforts is entirely false,” Rodstrom said. “Diversity, equity and inclusion remain a company-wide commitment, and our programs are continuing to scale up.”
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