Where there’s sexism, there’s probably racism.
Following the publication of fired Google engineer James Damore’s memo arguing that women are biologically unsuited to careers in tech — which employed pseudo-science of the kind often used to support racism — women of color are sharing their experiences of discrimination at the company.
A new story in The Guardianfeatures several women who left jobs at Google after experiencing racism and sexism in Mountain View.
The women reported experiencing discrimination in promotions and among their coworkers, hearing racist jokes and comments, and not seeing a path forward for themselves at the company.
“I didn’t see a lot of women, especially Asian women, black women, or other women of color in the executive ranks,” said Qichen Zhang, who worked as a technical specialist at Google. “I didn’t see any opportunities for myself.… The culture there is really discouraging, and that’s ultimately why I left.”
“Just because your officemates aren’t saying racial slurs out loud doesn’t mean they’re not racist.”
“It’s just these little daily aggressions that really add up over time,” Zhang added.“Having a lack of people who look like you in general is demoralizing.”
Zhang, the main voice in the Guardian article, recounted one specific racist comment from her coworkers.
“He said, ‘It must’ve been really easy for you to get your job because you’re an Asian woman and people assume you’re good at math,’” she said. “It was absolutely stunning. I remember me just emotionally shutting down.”
A black woman who worked as a specialist at Google and remained anonymous in the story said she felt out of place and unappreciated at Google. She was often asked to show her employee identification around Google’s campus, while her non-black coworkers were not, she said.
“I was invisible. It was like I didn’t matter. So what was the point of being there?” she said.
She spoke out about diversity and inclusion, and said she faced pushback about her priorities: “They didn’t like the way you’re prioritizing diversity, because that’s not your role,” she said.
“It seems like we are interviewing people to fit in with white people, and not to interview everyone to make sure they are culturally competent,” she explained.
Along with racism and sexism, ageism played into the sense of alienation women of color felt at Google. With few women in managerial roles and few senior or older women in visible roles at Google, it was difficult for women to see a path forward for themselves.
According to its most recent diversity report, Google is 56 percent white and 69 percent male.
“You’re the only girl in the room all the time,” said Lakshmi Parthasaranthy, who left Google after working as a specialist and technical solutions engineer. “Google has resources and I think they make efforts in some ways. But there’s only so much they can do when at the end of the day our organization was, at a manager level, mostly male.”
““I’m always disappointed when I hear these stories,” Google’s director of global diversity and inclusion, Yolanda Mangolini, said in an interview with The Guardian.
“We know that it’s not just about recruiting a diverse workforce. It’s about creating an environment where they want to stay,” she added.
Women understood that these experiences reflected more than just what was happening within Google. For one of the major leaders in the tech industry offering some of the most coveted jobs in Silicon Valley, attitudes and incidents like these send a message.
“The fact that the bar is so low really sets an example for the rest of the industry,” Zhang said.
“People had this broad concept of ‘racism doesn’t exist at Google and sexism doesn’t exist at Google’,” she added. “Just because your officemates aren’t saying racial slurs out loud doesn’t mean they’re not racist.”