A Conversation With Google’s Director Of Diversity And Inclusion

Google, like most tech companies, has a long road ahead in regards to increasing diversity, and fostering inclusion and belonging. Here are the latest stats around Google’s workforce: 30% women, 70% men globally; 60% white, 31% Asian, 3% black and 2% Hispanic nationwide. This is where Yolanda Mangolini (pictured above, holding the green microphone) comes in. She’s Google’s director of diversity and inclusion, and it’s her job to make Google a diverse and inclusive environment for employees from all different backgrounds. All of Google’s diversity efforts, Mangolini told me, are based around four main areas: hiring diverse Googlers, fostering a fair and inclusive culture, expanding the pool of computer science applicants and bridging the digital divide.

This year, Google committed $150 million to both internal and external diversity initiatives. Some of Google’s external diversity work has entailed placing Google engineers at historically black colleges and universities and partnering with Disney to inspire girls to pursue computer science. When asked about how much money goes to efforts around women versus people of color, Mangolini said it’s hard to break down the spending by demographics, because a lot of what the company does is multi-faceted.

“That said, I think we probably in 2016 will start to see deeper pockets of investments in certain communities,” Mangolini said. “I have a job opening on my team for a black community strategist to go deep on blacks, and we will probably follow suit with Hispanics.”

Internally, Google has continued offering unconscious bias training to employees, and added a bias-busting course this year. Unconscious bias training is about raising awareness around how your brain works, Mangolini said, while bias-busting is around how you actually take action. Over half of the company, so around 30,000 employees, have taken unconscious bias training at Google. It’s also now part of Google’s new employee onboarding process. Over 5,500 employees have taken the bias-busting course. But neither the unconscious bias training nor bias-busting course is mandatory for current Google employees.

“I think often times when you mandate certain trainings, I think it can lose its power, because someone’s telling you you need to do this,” Mangolini said. “On the one hand someone might argue, ‘Well, no, it’s basically saying people at the top are saying it’s really important, so therefore you need to go through it.’ So the way we combat this is — this is part of our leader engagement strategy — we actually engage leaders to push down the messaging around how important unconscious bias is, and then we have a companion piece called bias-busting at work. We have our leaders talk to their teams about it. When team members hear it from their SVP, that is way more powerful than saying ‘Hey, here’s your sexual harassment class that you have to take.’ So, I found that it’s more powerful in Google’s culture by engaging leaders as part of the message of why we want people to do UB training.”

Mandatory or not, it’s hard to track the effectiveness of unconscious bias training and bias-busting workshops, but Mangolini did tell me a few stories that showed heightened awareness among employees.

“There are these fun anecdotes that you know that awareness has been raised,” Mangolini said. “But has it helped in diversity? We can’t say yes or no yet.”

All of that is part of Google’s work in fostering fair and inclusive environments, Mangolini said, which is probably the biggest bucket of work she’s tasked with.

“It’s not enough to bring diverse people into the company,” Mangolini said. “Once they get here, they need to feel like this is a place where they can thrive, where they can grow, where they stay and where they want to stay.”

Regarding attrition and retention, Mangolini said that Google does track those things internally , but was not able to share that data with me. In a follow-up email, Mangolini said, “Our People Analytics team constantly analyzes performancecompensation, and promotion to ensure that there is equity.”

Quick note: My conversation with Mangolini happened a few days before former Twitter engineering manager Leslie Miley, the only black person in an engineering leadership at Twitter, slammed Twitter SVP of Engineering Alex Roetter for some tone-deaf comments he made around race. Since then, Twitter has come out and said it will collect and analyze data around attention, and strive for “improved transparency.” To me, that says Twitter will share this data with the public, and if it does, I would imagine that other companies would follow suit.

Later this month, Google is hosting its first-ever internal multicultural summit. The idea is to bring together black and Hispanic Googlers, and their allies, to think about how to “bring technology to bare in solving some of the systemic problems we see in those communities,” Mangolini said. Specifically, the summit will focus on two main topics: “Amplifying Black and Hispanic Voices During the Upcoming Election” and “Unlocking Business Potential Through Diverse Perspectives.” Although Mangolini sent out invitations to over 2,700 employees, she expects about 250 Googlers to attend. There was more appetite for people to come than Google could accommodate, so Mangolini hopes that it will be the start of many conversations.

“At the end of the day, we know that our focus just isn’t internal, and particularly with black and Hispanic communities, the way that you show that you are serious about diversity is showing that you are investing in the communities,” Mangolini said. “We want to use this as a way to catalyze some of our thinking around these pieces.”