Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai responded to a report that Google has dramatically scaled back diversity and inclusion programs to appease conservative critics, promising that the company remains committed. “Diversity is a foundational value for us. Given the scale at which we build products and the fact we do it locally for our users, we are deeply committed to having that representation in our workforce,” said Pichai in an interview on The Vergecast. “What we are doing in the company is constantly at our scale. We look at that first — see what works, what we can scale up better. All I can say is we probably have more resources invested in diversity now than at any point in our history as a company.”
Last week, NBC News reported that Google had ended a “well-liked” diversity program called Sojourn as well as two other programs called DEI for Managers and Allyship 101. A spokesperson told NBC that Sojourn had proven too hard to scale up globally and that Google had folded ideas from the other two programs into a different training process.
NBC News sources, however, offered a different interpretation. They said Google had shrunk the teams responsible for internal diversity and inclusion programs, outsourced diversity-related positions previously held by full-time employees, and had leaders discourage employees from using the term “diversity” or — in one case — say that “conversations about diversity could become a liability.”
They also argued that Google took these actions because it feared backlash after a 2017 controversy involving James Damore, who was fired for writing a memo that argued women were biologically less interested in technology than men. Damore and three others sued Google for allegedly discriminating against white conservative men, although he asked a court to dismiss the suit earlier this month. Some conservative politicians, including President Donald Trump, have threatened Google with penalties for making “anti-conservative” moderation decisions on platforms like YouTube.
Pichai told The Verge that, within Google, “we have definitely made efforts to make sure the company can accommodate viewpoints, and no one feels they’re not part of the company, regardless of their political viewpoints.” But he denied that concerns about conservative criticism played into diversity program decisions. “Look, our diversity efforts, we don’t bring any such lens to it,” said Pichai. “I think those are two independent things.”