Google addresses the white male culture of tech

Google I/O developer

Attendees wear Google Glass while posing for a group photo during the Google I/O developer conference last year in San Francisco, California.

Google kicks off its big developer conference Wednesday. Less than a month after admitting it has a diversity problem, the company is taking measures to address the white male culture of the tech world. Google committed $50 million to a project called Made With Code, meant to inspire girls to get into coding.

Education is crucial, says Alaina Percival, who heads the group Women Who Code. But she says tech culture also contributes to the problem, like when industry people talk about hiring, say, a new iOS specialist.

“They’ll say, oh we need a great iOS guy,” Percival says -- not a great iOS person.

“Little things like that, that happen over and over again, that if you complained about any one of them, you would sound crazy,” she adds.

Lisa Cook is an economist at Michigan State University who researches the participation of women and minorities in the basic research and commercialization of inventions. She points out that culture plays into recruitment as well. Cook says people tend to recruit from the schools and labs they themselves experienced. The problem is that those social networks might leave out places like historically black colleges and universities.

“While HBCUs are responsible for a declining number of bachelor’s degrees, they’re responsible for an increasing number of STEM graduates,” she says.

Cook says those are the places that recruiters who want to increase diversity should target.

About the author

Kate Davidson is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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