Google, Diversity, and Hiring

Your hiring process tells people what you care about.

Note: thanks to my friend and QA extraordinaire Natalie Owen who helped me make sure this added to the conversation and didn’t distract from other important issues brought up by the recent Googler’s document.

I want to share some brief thoughts on the latest bit of evidence of the deplorable state of diversity in the tech industry, the screed written by a Googler about how women and minorities are supposedly inferior engineers and how he feels persecuted as a person who holds this and other self-described right wing beliefs.

Others have done a much better job than I can of addressing the actual document and its misguided arguments, but I wanted to quickly touch on one of the reasons I think we end up with these outcomes: a company’s approach to hiring.

None of this is particularly original or new, but I thought it might be useful to attach it to the current situation.

I don’t want to suggest that lack of diversity and the kind of toxic culture that it perpetuates is not an industry-wide problem by focusing only on Google (it unequivocally is industry-wide). And there are both wonderful and awful people working at any large technology company. But is it any surprise that a company that hires based purely on algorithmic puzzle solving ends up with people so lacking in empathy? That ends up with a culture where this guy felt comfortable writing and sharing this bullshit, directly telling his female and minority coworkers that they are less-than?

As others have said over and over, it’s not a pipeline problem1 that women and minorities are so woefully under-represented in our field, but it is a hiring problem, and on many levels. To focus at the level of the interview: when you select for IQ at the exclusion of EI2, when you trust your full day of academic tests over a person’s work history or references, when you ask questions about obscure APIs instead of how the candidate has handled situations where they’ve had a disagreement with their colleagues, you send a signal about the things that you care about and the things that you don’t. Certain people won’t even consider applying. And those people who hold toxic beliefs, who espouse gender exceptionalism and individual power, but who happen to be brilliant programmers, they are who you hire. And the cycle continues.

  1. It’s not a pipeline problem in the sense that “there aren’t enough women or minority developers out there.” (There are.) It is a pipeline problem in that companies exclude these groups at every step of the pipeline. Several of the articles linked from this post go into this in more detail. 

  2. Emotional intelligence 

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