The uproar about the anti-diversity memo may turn out to have been a good thing for Google – Recode

Good business perspective on diversity and tech by Steve Herrod, a managing director at General Catalyst:

The outpouring of emotional responses to a now-fired Google engineer’s internal memo about diversity and hiring practices can be painful to read. But contrary to what you might think, this controversy may turn out to have been a good thing for Google — and for every engineering team. I’m glad it’s calling out the myth that only coding prowess matters, and that backchannel gripes about diversity in tech are now out in the open.

I helped grow VMware’s stellar engineering team from 30 to more than 3,000, and I’m now an investor in the next generation of startups. Scaling a team is a complex, nuanced process. It requires diligence, perseverance and open discussion of ideas.

Today’s engineering teams are nothing like the old stereotype — a bunch ofloner nerd boys who grew up playing video games and tinkering with code by themselves in their parents’ basements. To build successful products, you need a diverse group of personalities: People with strong customer empathy, others who can innovate on user experience, still others with the “brown thumb” for finding bugs before they ship, and those who take pride in fixing those bugs for good. And the personalities you need to hire will change as you grow to 10, then 100, then 1,000 engineers.

No engineer works in solitude today — even a code ninja is part of a team. That’s why you also need people who can keep track of product priorities and schedules, who can make difficult trade-offs, and who have the people skills to keep team members focused on the goals and deadlines that matter. Technical teams also need people who can interface with marketing, sales, operations, human resources, customers and everyone else so that the company, as it grows bigger, stays headed in the right direction. “Soft skills” are just as critical as coding chops.

For a company to scale successfully, its engineers not only must be the best hires, they need to be given paths to develop the aforementioned skills and to grow according to their abilities and interests. And it’s up to technical management to incentivize that development and to establish the best ways to measure that growth.

You need to make moving the company forward a requirement for individual advance. You might set growth milestones for engineers to reach, including some that get them away from their screens and into more extroverted, public roles — publishing papers, giving presentations at conferences and mentoring new team members.

At VMware, we gave cash bonuses for having a paper accepted to present at a top-tier conference, just as we did for patent filing. The pure technical achievement was given the same weight as being able to clearly define and present those technical ideas to a qualified and questioning audience. We also made mentorship an explicit qualification for promotions up the technical ladder. Individual contributors are important, but those who can effectively share knowledge and help shape the skills of more junior technical staff are just as critical.

As a manager, you must send a strong signal that communication and organizational skills are equally as important as technical skills, especially as the team grows too big to all know one another. Needless to say, you must set a strong example for this balance as well. VMware created a parallel management career track alongside the technical track, and made clear there was no stigma in switching from one to the other and even back again.

Why do communication skills matter so much? Diversity of ideas is what leads to innovation. Software companies in particular — built on new abstract concepts — take pride in encouraging employees to speak their minds, even when their co-workers resent it. “Everything is up for question and debate,” Google’s SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, asserted not long ago. Free-speech culture and its blowups — familiar to everyone on open source software projects — are the foundation of great software companies.

But this also requires a culture of mutual respect. The loudest complaints on both sides of the ongoing showdown share common themes: My co-workers don’t respect me. My co-workers don’t take me seriously. My co-workers enjoy saying things they know make me feel unwelcome. The challenge for leaders is to maintain openness and respect in parallel as three engineers become 30, then 300, then 3,000.

A successful team is diverse, driven, communicative, vocal … and often argumentative. Imagine a world where everyone shuts up and does their job as assigned. Where you get ahead by not rocking the boat. Where you learn to nod in agreement with the common wisdom. Where there’s never a workplace spat and “disrupt” is a slogan rather than a verb. Those are the companies that have been run off the Internet, one after another, over the past two decades.

If you want to build the next Google, you’ll need to create a company that fosters this kind of open dialogue — including complaints about the dialogue that results. The larger your company gets, the more it will matter. You’ll need to hire a broad range of people and guide them to grow together — even when they fight.

At some point, we’ll be glad everyone has stopped holding back their feelings about diversity conflicts in tech. Remember when Yahoo’s Peanut Butter Manifesto was considered a scandal? Finally we’re talking about the real issues.

Source: The uproar about the anti-diversity memo may turn out to have been a good thing for Google – Recode

How Tech Companies Lose Women During the Hiring Process – The New York Times

Some good suggestions on how to walk the talk on diversity in the recruitment process:

When my company is approached to help diversify some of America’s most gender-unbalanced tech teams, here’s how it usually goes in the introductory meeting: A well-meaning executive boasts that his company has been financially supporting a number of nonprofit coding organizations that aim to train female engineers. He tells us he’ll have a booth at the Grace Hopper conference, the largest annual gathering of women in tech. He complains about how hard it is to “move the needle” on diversity numbers, especially when a staff is in the thousands.

But what the executives don’t give as much thought to are some of the simplest determinants of how successful a company will be in hiring diverse candidates. Will women have any input in the hiring process? Will the interview panels be diverse? Will current female employees be available to speak to candidates about their experiences? Many times, the answer to each of these questions is no, and the resistance to make simple changes in these areas is striking.

My colleagues and I often see companies work to make themselves appealing to candidates by emphasizing perks like Ping-Pong tables, retreats and policies that let employees bring their dogs to work. Those things can be appealing to candidates of any gender. But one size doesn’t fit all: We have to tell these companies to talk just as proudly about their parental-leave policies, child-care programs and breast-pumping rooms. At the very least, they need to communicate that their workplaces have cultures where women are valued. They need to show they’re not places where attitudes like that of the now-infamous Google engineer who wrote a memo questioning women’s fitness for tech jobs dominate.

At first, the executives balk at my suggestions and even wonder if explicitly talking about the place of women is sexist. But I remind them that when it comes to gender, they have to play catch-up, after long histories of eroding trust by grilling women about how they’ll be able to do the job with children at home and years of negative stories in the press with tales of how women are mistreated at tech companies. Candidates rightfully want assurances about whether the companies have improved — or whether they even care. Treating everyone the same won’t accomplish that.

Silicon Valley companies are in love with themselves and don’t understand why the love isn’t always returned by the few women to whom they extend employment offers. That’s why they’re so proud of so-called boomerangs — candidates who have left a company for reasons that may or may not be related to how it treats women and, after advancing their careers elsewhere, return. Executives hope these employees will add to their diversity numbers and provide evidence that the company has evolved. But even potential boomerangs are looking for hiring-process hints that they’ll be able to thrive. They want to know, what policies have changed for us? Is the environment more inclusive? Can I have a family without compromising my career? When tech firms in Silicon Valley and beyond decide to proactively answer those questions as part of their regular processes, they have a chance to successfully recruit and hire more women.

I’m often asked which companies are getting diversity and inclusion right in Silicon Valley and across the country. Most aren’t. But some are seeing small successes. Last year, we worked with a company that set a goal that women would make up 50 percent of the engineers on one of its teams. They did it by holding a webinar led by female employees, with 100 female candidates who asked questions about how the organization was changing to become more inclusive to women. They asked recruiters to follow up with the candidates to offer fuller responses and address other concerns. The company realized it needed to take extra time to convince women that it truly valued them.

It worked. The women hired through that effort are all still at the company. Now we’re working with it to bring in even more female engineers. When the next round of candidates show up for interviews, this is one place in tech that will have a story about an inclusive culture that it’s proud to tell.

Tech leaders must stop treating humanity like computer code: Navneet Alang

Good commentary on the broader issues related to the tech industry culture:

The science in question, such as it is, is something better left to experts to debate. But there are nonetheless reasonable questions laypeople can ask. Among them: Even if one were to take the extreme position that genetics neatly determines behaviour, how might the ancient arrangement of nucleic acids so neatly line up with results in a field barely 50 years old – particularly since, early on when it was considered a menial task, computer programming was a field dominated by women?

More to the point, to argue that engineering or coding are simply mechanical or an abstract set of mathematics or logic misses the aim of the field. Software is made for people, to help them accomplish tasks, connect with one another, or filter through massive amounts of information in intelligent ways.

Those goals require a complex set of skills that cannot be reduced to mere coding, but require an understanding of sociology, psychology and no small amount of empathy. Putting aside the dubious assertion that we are hard-wired by gender to favour one of these skills over the other, to argue that engineering or coding should be left to those with the most abstract skill is akin to saying structural engineers should design buildings or that mechanical engineers should market cars. The creation of code and software is ultimately holistic, relying on a broad range of traits that cannot and should not be reduced to one dimension – particularly tired, gendered stereotypes.

But despite this obvious fact, the manifesto does ring true in one way: It represents the tech world’s too-common, incredibly reductive view of humanity that tries to think of humans are just like computer code itself, a complex, but predetermined series of input and output.

This view itself leads to a blind faith in a hyper-rational world dictated by metrics, competitive bro culture and faux notions of meritocracy. It’s reflected in so much in the tech world: in Facebook’s belated concerns about privacy, or their impact on political polarization; in Twitter’s arguably too-late focus on abuse and harassment, in part brought on by prioritizing resources for advertising over the standards team; or Uber’s unending troubles with sexual harassment, driver exploitation or its constant flouting of the law. In each, it was unwillingness to think about the complexity of human reaction in favour of an algorithmic or mechanistic understanding that caused the problem.

It’s a deeply naive view, one that runs roughshod over humanity when a handful of companies on the U.S. West Coast are given enormous power. In trying to create something new, they have simply repeated the past, carrying along beliefs in neutral meritocracy, the capacity of humans to power through all problems with brawn and that we are predestined to be who we are.

That is not the truth of what it means to be alive and we cannot let the tech world insist that it is. If you want a manifesto to line up behind, let it be that.

Source: Tech leaders must stop treating humanity like computer code – The Globe and Mail

It’s not just Google — many major tech companies are struggling with diversity – Recode

Some good comparative diversity data:

An internal memo written by a male Google engineer has reignited a heated debate about representation in Silicon Valley. Google’s new diversity VP has since come out against the memo’s central claims — which include statements about women being biologically unsuited to engineering jobs — but the debate still rages on.

Here’s a look at major tech companies’ comparative diversity, according to their most recent reports. Women make up at most 30 percent of leadership roles and less than 27 percent of technical roles at these companies.

Twitter, the smallest company by number of employees, has the highest rate of female leadership at 30 percent. It also has the lowest rate of women in technical positions, such as engineers at 15 percent.

Racial demographics aren’t much brighter.

Blacks and Latins are represented at a much lower rate than their U.S. population. Facebook, which most recently reported new diversity numbers, had the highest share of people of color, particularly Asians, in technology jobs. Asian Americans tend to be overrepresented in technical roles but underrepresented in leadership positions.

Amazon, Apple and Google all had 31 percent of their leadership consisting of Asian, Latinx and blacks. These companies also report “other” and people who are two or more races, but those are usually under two percent.

Inequality exists at all levels of the job pipeline, but so do solutions. Look, for example, at the record number of women and minorities taking college-level computer science in high school this year.

Source: It’s not just Google — many major tech companies are struggling with diversity – Recode


More women and minorities than ever are taking college-level computer courses in high school – Recode


The share of women and underrepresented minorities taking computer science for college credit in high school spiked, thanks in part to a second Advanced Placement computer science course that launched this year.

Part of the credit also belongs to, a nonprofit that teaches K-12 computer science curriculum and has been working to bring more women and minorities into the field.

The new AP course, Computer Science Principles, is considered more accessible and creative than the traditional CS offering, which focuses on a specific coding language.

In its first year, 15,000 young women took the new Computer Science Principles final, several hundred more than took the original course this year. Thirteen thousand underrepresented minorities — blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Native Pacific Islanders — took the Principles final this year compared with 9,000 for the traditional exam.

It was a banner year for both AP computer science courses.

Principles tackles larger computer science concepts and isn’t constrained to one programming language. And as part of their Principles final exam, students submit a portfolio of apps they’ve created rather than simply taking a multiple-choice test. It’s meant to appeal to a wider array of students in general, which also means more women and minorities.

Last summer, taught 500 teachers its AP Computer Science Principles curriculum and is teaching nearly another 1,000 this summer. Currently, 15 percent of high schools offer computer science AP courses, up from 5 percent when — which is funded partly by Microsoft, Facebook and Infosys — began its work four years ago.

Twenty-seven percent of students finishing computer science AP courses in 2017 were women, up from 23 percent in 2016. Similarly, underrepresented minorities now make up 20 percent of these test takers, up 5 percentage points from last year.

Of students who took’s CS Principles AP course, 70 percent said they wanted to study computer science after graduating high school. Half of the students taking’s AP curriculum are underrepresented minorities.

These AP courses are a way to give high school students college credit and steer them toward an industry with high pay and prestige, but one that has been plagued by inequality in representation, pay and treatment.

The AP trend is positive but computer science participation and the tech industry in general is still far from being equitable.

“We can’t just change it by changing the pipeline because there’s still major issues of culture — unconscious bias and unfair promoting practices in the workplace,” founder Hadi Partovi said. “Similarly, it’s impossible if we only change workplace culture.”

Source: More women and minorities than ever are taking college-level computer courses in high school – Recode

Canadian tech companies say they value diversity — but what are they doing about it? 

Good and needed reporting – particularly surprised with the lack of response of the larger companies (to be fair, Blackberry had bigger survival issues):

After U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January blocking citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S., a long list of Canadian tech companies signed a pledge opposing the ban.

Members of Canada’s tech community saw Trump’s move as a rejection of the diversity on which they felt their industry was built and decided to speak out.

“We believe that this diversity is a source of strength and opportunity,” read the open letter admonishing the ban, which was signed by executives and employees from some of the most well-known companies in the country — BlackBerry, Hootsuite, Shopify and more.

But when CBC News sought to gauge what this commitment to diversity looks like in practice, Canada’s tech community had remarkably little to say.

In May, we asked 31 Canadian technology companies if they collected data on the diversity of their employees, and if so, whether they would share this data with CBC News.

Only two companies — OTTO Motors, the commercial division of Waterloo, Ont.-based Clearpath Robotics, a maker of self-driving warehouse robots, and the Toronto-based investing app Wealthsimple — were willing to do so.

A third company, the Toronto-based online retail marketing startup Hubba, said it was preparing to conduct its first diversity survey and release the results in the coming month. It expects to publish a report on its progress every six months thereafter.

The sheer number of holdouts came as a surprise to Y-Vonne Hutchinson, founder of Oakland, Calif.-based diversity solutions firm ReadySet, in particular, given the number of U.S. companies that have published annual reports since 2014.

“It does make me question their commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Hutchinson, who is also on the team behind Project Include, which guides tech startups toward more diverse and inclusive practices. The project’s founding members include well-known diversity advocates such as Ellen Pao and Tracy Chou.

“By publishing these numbers, you increase transparency and accountability around how the organization looks and the way in which it prioritizes diversity and inclusion,” Hutchinson said.

Mostly white, mostly male

Many companies in tech and beyond have realized the key to building successful products and services is to have a range of employees — ones who think and look differently from one another — working together to solve problems.

The idea is that employees with varying backgrounds and skills can bring unique perspectives that aren’t necessarily represented by the tech sectors white, male majority.

That’s where diversity reports can help. One way for a company to better understand the types of people it employs — and where the gaps are — is to quantify that information and use it to build more diverse teams.

But that’s not to say measuring the problem alone leads to change. As recently as 2016, we learned that just 145 of Facebook’s nearly 8,500 employees are black. We learned that 12 per cent of Apple employees are Hispanic, versus just four per cent at Google.

And we learned that Uber has an engineering department where only 15 per cent of employees are women — a telling statistic for a company still smarting from a searing indictment of its workplace culture by one of its former engineers and the sexual harassment investigations launched in its wake.

Among the industry’s biggest players, there has been little progress in recent years.

Diversity reports also don’t include as much information as some would like — for example, how long employees stay, which can tell a story of its own, or how many employees are disabled or identify as LGTBQ. In their most basic form, they typically provide a snapshot of how tech’s most-influential companies are doing across job categories in terms of gender and race.

Yet in Canada, there have been no comparable public efforts to date.

Little to say

The companies approached by CBC News ranged from some of the largest and well-known in the country — including BlackBerry, Shopify and Hootsuite — to up-and-coming players such as ecobee, Thalmic and Breather.

We sent each company the following questions:

  • Does your company collect data on the diversity of your employees?
  • ​How is this data collected?
  • Why do you collect this data?
  • Can you provide your company’s most recently collected diversity data to CBC News?
  • Can you offer any details about programs/initiatives to support diversity and inclusion at your company?

The overwhelming majority of companies declined to participate while two of the biggest names in Canadian tech, BlackBerry and Hootsuite, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


E-commerce company Shopify said it was still analyzing its employee data and was hoping to have more information to share by the fall “or early next year.”

Others, such as the messaging app Kik and the satellite imaging company Urthecast, said they didn’t have the resources to collect this sort of information and would not say how long it would take to do so.

Many more, including ecobee, Wave, WattPad, Vision Critical, Lightspeed, Bench, TopHat, Vidyard, Sandvine and Hopper, said they didn’t formally collect diversity information.

Source: Canadian tech companies say they value diversity — but what are they doing about it? – Technology & Science – CBC News

Uber: Diversity Chief Bernard Coleman Speaks in Interview |

Not the easiest job in the world:

Bernard Coleman jokes that his first week on the job at Uber was all he got as a “honeymoon period.”

He had logged little time as the company’s new head of diversity this January — the same job he did for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — before the hashtag #DeleteUber began trending. But while that PR firestorm (related to Trump’s controversial immigration order) was the start of months of tumult for the company, it was also proof to Coleman that he had chosen the right gig following an intense election. “The only difference between Uber and a campaign is campaigns end,” he says.

TIME spoke to Coleman in late May for a feature on diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley, and while he declined to comment on the investigation into Uber’s workplace practices being carried out by former Attorney General Eric Holder’s law firm, he did talk about his own assessments of the company. Though Uber has acknowledged, repeatedly, that parts of its culture are “broken,” Coleman says the culture isn’t as “toxic” as it often appears in the media: “I don’t think could get this big or survive if it were so toxic. It would destroy itself.”

Do you think the amount of scrutiny that Uber has been getting for diversity issues is fair?

No. … On the campaign, we had to contend with [scrutiny]. As we’d scale, people would say, ‘Look at them, they didn’t move the needle at all.’ It’s like, if you look at how we’re scaling and how difficult it is to even maintain your diversity numbers, let alone increase them … It can be disingenuous, in terms of understanding.

So moving the percentages becomes difficult.

More and more difficult. I wish people would call that out. But I understand we should do better, and Silicon Valley has been known for not doing so well. Working here at Uber, I think we can do better.

The industry as a whole has gotten a lot of scrutiny on diversity and inclusion issues. Why do you think that is?

For one, you have these talented and smart people and they’re solving all these other things and creating these wonderful innovations, products. You would think they could solve for this, if they put some of their effort into it … And I really do think it’s about scale. You start off with a small thing where you’re working on a product and that’s where all your focus is … If we need to get this thing launched or hit this city, that’s the priority. If my thoughts are on that, those other things fall by the wayside … You think of it as — I’ll get to that, I’ll get to that. And next thing you know, it’s a much bigger thing than you could have anticipated. And I don’t think it’s unique to Uber or Silicon Valley. I think it’s a general problem.

….One thing some tech companies have struggled with is that, inadvertently or not, they’ve turned out to be places where young white males have a better chance of success. Has Uber’s culture been that way?

If it’s built that way, in the beginning, if you’re a venture capitalist, and you’re a small group, then you suffer from culture myopia. You can’t see it. [Unless] you expand your circles, you’re not going to understand or fully appreciate how that culture is impacting others … That is why Silicon Valley is structured that way, just because when it first starts, maybe that core group is not extremely diverse. So we’re all sharing the same world view, and I’m not going to see the issues a black person or a woman might encounter, because it’s just not my reality.

….In terms of Uber’s first diversity report, released in March, what did you see as the most promising numbers and the most troubling numbers?

I was surprised that our women levels were that high … It’s 36.1%. We’ve got 13.9% to get to at least parity. So obviously there’s way more to do, but that was a happy surprise. Then our diversity numbers were like 50% people of color. Even though it’s over-indexed in some areas, that still was very surprising. Another one was our African-American numbers were actually much higher than [other companies in the tech industry] … I would like to see more women and people of color in leadership. That’s one thing that’s critically important, trying to build leadership pipelines to help folks.

Based on your assessments so far, what are the biggest challenges for women working at Uber?

Just feeling safe and supported. You want to know there are opportunities. You want to know you’re going to invest in me. You want to make sure I’m advancing. It’s called promotional velocity, that I’m getting promoted at the same rate as others, so that when I look to my left and my right at my peers, we’re in the hunt. … I don’t think [it’s any different for women than for men]. I just think it’s different levels and intensity. People of color, same things. Everyone’s feeling the same things.

Source: Uber: Diversity Chief Bernard Coleman Speaks in Interview |

Toronto: Gender, racial diversity part of city’s tech push

Interesting approach that sends a message:

Mayor John Tory says he and other Toronto city officials are less likely to attend tech and innovation events if they feature all-man panels and programming with little ethnic diversity.

Tory made the pledge Thursday at the “Women founders and leaders in technology” event, part of the #MoveTheDial initiative aimed at increasing female participation and leadership in Canadian tech.

“Our city is home to a diverse array of talent that must be represented in the events and programming we put on for each other and for the world. . . ,” Tory said. “Diversity and inclusion are a huge part of our value proposition and I will be supporting and championing those events that help build that reputation at home and globally.”

In written responses to the Star after the event, Tory said he, his “advocate for the innovation economy” Councillor Michelle Holland, economic development chair Councillor Michael Thompson and others at the city will “prioritize” the many events they attend based on the gender and ethnic balance of people being presented.

He said he came up with the idea himself after observing many such events and speaking with people including Jodi Kovitz, founder of #MoveTheDial who was part of his trade delegation last fall to Israel.

“Many rooms contain almost all men in large crowds,” Tory said. “We will try to look at diversity overall in our selection of events with an emphasis on gender since that seems to be the bigger challenge.

“By doing this we are asking everyone to be intentional about the public face we put on our events and our conversations about tech. Our city is diverse and that should be reflected.”

California’s Silicon Valley in particular has been criticized for a “tech bro” culture populated by male, mostly white coders who, when they strike it rich, invest in other startups run by people who look mostly like them.

Source: Gender, racial diversity part of city’s tech push | Toronto Star

Lyft just published its first diversity report and it’s not much better than Uber’s – Recode

More tech diversity numbers:

Lyft has just raised the curtain on its corporate diversity numbers for the first time and — surprise, surprise — it’s not a pretty picture.

While 42 percent of the company’s 1,600 employees are women, only 18 percent of its tech and engineering teams identify as female. That’s just a little bit better than Uber, where only a little more than 15 percent in tech and engineering are women.

Looking at other kinds of employee diversity at the company paints an even bleaker picture.

Some 63 percent of its total employee base are white, and 70 percent of its executive team are white. Only 1 percent of its leadership team are black, and black people make up only 6 percent of its overall pool of employees.

For context, almost half of Uber — which also recently published its first diversity report and had fairly dismal numbers — employees are white and about 64 percent are men. Only 8 percent of Uber’s 12,000 employees are black, on last count.

Compare that to Google, which now has around 62,000 employees. As of 2016, the company’s workforce was 31 percent female and around 90 percent white and Asian. Only 5 percent of its employees are black or Hispanic.

When asked why Lyft hasn’t published a report before, a spokesperson said the company was one of 30 that signed a White House tech inclusion pledge in June 2016 and plans to publish a report every year. (In other words, Lyft didn’t provide a real answer.)

“Releasing our data will hold us accountable, but it’s the actions we take that will make a difference to the people who come to work every day at Lyft,” the company said in a blog post. “Our diversity data exposes gaps in important areas. So we’re doing something about it.”

When it comes to diversity, numbers are certainly not everything, but it’s definitely a start.

Source: Lyft just published its first diversity report and it’s not much better than Uber’s – Recode

Half of the most highly valued tech companies in the U.S. were founded by immigrants – Recode

Speaks for itself:

It turns out immigration is a boon for innovation in the United States. Sixty percent of the highest-valued tech companies were co-founded by first- or second-generation immigrants, according to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker’s annual internet trends report, which she presented at the Code Conference at Terranea Resort today.

Mary Meeker internet trends report

That number is still pretty high even if you count just first-generation Americans. Half of all of the most valuable private tech companies in the United Sates were co-founded by immigrants — including Uber, SpaceX, Instacart, AppNexus and FanDuel.

Mary Meeker internet trends report

Source: Half of the most highly valued tech companies in the U.S. were founded by immigrants – Recode