Black Google engineer claims Silicon Valley tech giants only hire the ‘Whitest Black candidates’

September 02, 2019 at 04:00 pm | Tech & Innovation, Women

Theodora Aidoo

Theodora Aidoo | Staff Writer

September 02, 2019 at 04:00 pm | Tech & Innovation, Women

It’s no surprise that the lack of black people in leadership positions in major tech companies like Google, Facebook and Apple is abysmal, but what is being done to combat this?

There have been talks on “diversity” and “inclusion” with no evident change even though it is obvious that a more diverse workforce leads to higher revenues and more creative teams.

Recently, a coder and engineer for tech giant Google opened up about her unique experience as one of the company’s very few Black employees in the midst of a whole struggle by the firm and Silicon Valley to diversify its hiring pool.

The mobile app developer, Bria Sullivan, highlighted her efforts to help others like her get a shot in the tech industry, as well as, her work at the billion-dollar company.

In an appearance on the GHOGH podcast, Sullivan said: “This is my problem. I feel like they hire the whitest black candidate. “They hire someone who’s exactly like them, but Black.”

Photo credit: zimbio.com

According to her, the Black community falls prey to it much of the time. She commended the fact that a Black person heads Google’s diversity office and said that while it’s great to have someone who can empathize with her, “at the end of the day, they still work for Google.”

Sullivan said the company has a “Clarence Thomas problem”, in that it hires Black professionals that aren’t “really going to move the needle” or work in the interest of Black folks.

She told host Jamarlin Martin: “They might find a black person that does meet the criteria, and it’s … probably not going to be the type of black person that’s actually going to do the thing that we want because it’s what THEY want.”

Sullivan, a former Microsoft intern, who proudly leads a group that consists of two Black interns, and three Black engineers said it’s been the support of her current team and manager that has kept her on board at Google.

Sullivan also points out that just as Silicon Valley has to change, so do Black and Brown families that focus on sports and entertainment for their children’s future.

She points out that not everyone is an entrepreneur or a professional basketball player or even a successful rapper.  

As a black woman in tech, Sullivan is taking the lead on her own accord by teaching a course focused on helping non-technical startup founders hire technical talents.

Photo credit: whatsnew2day.com

The lack of black people and other minorities in tech isn’t something new in Silicon Valley. In 1999, Jesse Jackson launched a campaign for tech companies to hire a more diverse workforce and was called a “terrorist” by Scott McNealy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and now the chairman of a digital marketing startup.

In mid-August, a memo called “The Weight of Silence,” obtained by Motherboard, was released by a former Google employee describing “the burden of being Black” at Google.

“Over the last five years, I’ve heard co-workers spew hateful words about immigrants, boast unabashedly about gentrifying neighborhoods, mockingly imitate people who speak different languages, reject candidates of color without evidence of ‘fit’ and so much more,” the author wrote.

In its April 2019 Diversity Report, Google reported the percentage of Black and Latino hires rose 0.7 percent to 4.8 percent globally and 0.5 percent to 6.8 percent in the U.S.

According to the report, hiring rates for women in the company also saw an increase, reaching 33.2 per cent — up 1.9 per cent — globally.

With tech companies creating bigger pipelines to feed in a diverse workforce, there is hope for the future, analysts believe.

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