Asian woman who quit Google: 'The culture there is really discouraging'

  • Despite its diversity training, Google has hardly moved the needle when it comes to hiring more women and minorities or promoting them into leadership.
  • Some minority women described experiences full of isolation and racial put-downs.
  • Google says these changes take time and but it showing progress with some role-model teams.

Thanks to a controversial memo decrying Google’s diversity programs and women in tech, there’s been increasing scrutiny about what it’s like to work for Google, especially if you are not white and not male.

Several women who worked at the company and quit say their time at Google was often frustrating where they regularly experienced slights about their race, reports The Guardian’s Sam Levin.

For instance, Qichen Zhang is an Asian woman who worked for Google for about a year back in 2013, and now works at Spotify. She told Levin of a white male coworker who suggested she got her job more easily because people would think she was good at maths.

She summarises her experience at Google like this: “I didn’t see a lot of women, especially Asian women, black women or other women of colour in the executive ranks. I didn’t see any opportunities for myself … The culture there is really discouraging, and that’s ultimately why I left.”

An unnamed black woman who talked to the Guardian described being discouraged by her work with diversity recruiting programs some time ago. When hiring managers would discuss a candidate’s perceived “Googliness, she felt it was code for “fit in with white people” rather than fitting into Google’s general values, she said.

This idea of fitting in with the “people like me” is one of the foundations of unconscious bias, experts say. Diversity training is supposed to help people recognise their own bias.

Yet, despite using this training, and even sharing its flavour of it with the world, Google has been called out by its lack of progress in diversity hiring.

The company’s reputation as one of the best places to work brings in millions of job applicants a year, yet the company has hardly moved the diversity needle.

Men hold 75% of Google’s leadership roles, and white people hold 68% of those roles. Just 2% of its employees are black, 4% Hispanic, and 35% Asian.

In the past year, Google has increased its percentages of female employees, female leaders, black employees and Hispanics by a mere 1%, it says.

Google admits it still has work to do. Google’s director of global diversity Yolanda Mangolini told the Guardian that “change takes time … We know that it’s not just about recruiting a diverse workforce. It’s about creating an environment where they want to stay.”

And Google can point to some progress on some teams, like the Google Play engineering team run by Mekka Okereke, a black engineering manager. That team is 10% black, 10% Latino, 25% women and 50% female managers, and has become a role model for other managers, he told the Guardian.

Zhang did not respond immediately to our request for comment. Google directed us to the comments made by Mangolini and Okereke.

If you worked at Google and have an experience with the company’s culture that you’d like to share, please contact us. [email protected] via email or Confide or on Twitter at @Julie188.

Get the latest Google stock price here.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.