May 2014 Archives

Yesterday, there was a lot of coverage of Google sharing information about workplace diversity. In a post on their official blog, they state, in the very first sentence, "We've always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it's time to be candid about the issues." They go on to then say "So, here are our numbers" and they show some numbers. And the numbers are about two things. Gender, and Race. And that's it.

That struck a chord with me because it is no secret that companies in Silicon Valley have long been notorious for discriminating based on age. Truth be told, I once spent a day interviewing at Google, many years ago, and the age discrimination was not only palpable in every interview, one of the last interviewers admitted to me that Google's hiring practices were hopelessly out of control. Google's hiring style left me with the impression, as I walked shaking my head, wondering what I'd just witnessed, out to the parking lot after a day inside the company, that it was more about whether you were a Stanford grad -- or better yet, a current student -- and would you be fun to hang out with in dorm parties and not what you knew or your experience. In fact it was clear if you had experience it was a liability. They wanted empty minds with no baggage.

Google has been in courtrooms in the past because of age discrimination, with a famous case involving a fifty-something employee who was dismissed. I remember following that case with great interest.

So when Google finally blogs about diversity, and says "we were wrong" and "it's time to be candid about the issues" I was hoping to see that "the issues" included age.

They don't.

Google Diversity

Now, don't get me wrong, gender and race issues are equally important and deserve scrutiny, and Google's numbers --- including that the company is 70% male and only 30% female, and mostly white --- indicate it still has a long way to go to be a more diverse organization. But the silence on age is deafening.

Google shared their EEO-1 report (PDF link), a survey the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires big employers to file regarding diversity in their workplace. Google included a link to their actual EEO-1 document. I made a bee-line to read that because I was hoping that it would shed more light on matters than the blog post was shedding.

To my surprise, the EEO-1 document only talks about gender and race. So I called the EEOC to ask, "what about age?" The woman at the EEOC who answered the phone told me, "We just collect it for race and gender, we don't do age."

How convenient for Google. If you visit Google's "Diversity" corporate pages, the big headline is "Making Google a workplace for everyone". The big graph is described as "What our Googlers look like today" and shows gender and ethnicity. Not a peep about age anywhere in the entire Diversity pages except buried in a list of "Employee Resource Groups" is a section called "Greyglers" featuring a photo of 70-year-old Vint Cerf. That's it. The rest of the Diversity site's photos are almost entirely young people. To the point that one might think Google was a college campus. and nobody over 40 worked there.

I wonder. Imagine if Sergey Brin and Larry Page were not Google's founders, but everything else about Google was exactly as it is. What would happen if 40-year-old Brin and 41-year-old Page showed up for interviews at Google? Would they be hired?

A Challenge To Google Itself

Google, this is for you directly: if you want to be fully candid about "the issues" you have to acknowledge that in addition to the extremely important gender and race issues, age is another one that you need to look at and be transparent about. In fact I would urge you to take a leadership position in Silicon Valley and show the way for other companies who are equally shy about admitting their age demographics. I challenge you to share a breakdown of ages within the Google workforce. Will you do that?