Representatives from several minority-rights groups gathered at the Google campus on Feb. 10 to protest what they say is a lack of transparency surrounding the search giant's hiring practices.
The picketers' complaints revolved around two key issues: diversity and the perception among those protesting that Google favors foreign workers over locals.
Leaders and members of the Black Economic Council, the Latino Business Chamber of Greater Los Angeles and the National Asian American Coalition carried signs and took up a bullhorn to demand that Google publicly disclose data about the ethnic makeup of its employees.
According to several protesters, Google hires disproportionate numbers of men compared to women and far more whites and Indians than any other ethnic group. Furthermore, the protesters complained, the company would rather ship workers on temporary work visas in from overseas -- most commonly from India -- than hire qualified individuals already living in Silicon Valley.
Google representative Jordan Newman said the protestors' criticisms were off base, but would not elaborate on the record beyond a short written statement.
"Our philosophy has always been that a diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures means better products for our users," Newman wrote in an official e-mail statement.
Won't release report
The groups involved in the protest say that diversity is a problem throughout Silicon Valley. Collectively the groups have requested that 34 major companies throughout the Bay Area publicize their EEO-1 Reports. Only 12 companies agreed to do so.
Private businesses with 100 employees or more must file these reports annually with the United States' Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEO-1 is used by the commission to determine whether a particular business is in compliance with federal equal employment opportunity laws.
Jorge C. Corralejo, chairman and CEO of the Latino Business Chamber of Greater Los Angeles, said that Google, along with 21 others refused to make their reports public. In the case of Google, Corralejo believes the company is violating its own transparency policies, skirting its legal obligation and flagrantly disregarding its "don't be evil" corporate motto.
In analyzing the data of the 12 companies that agreed to share their EEO-1 information, the three groups reported that all of the forthcoming companies had no more than 4 percent black workers and some had only 1 percent. For Hispanics the number was higher -- between 4 and 9 percent. An analysis of Asian Americans in the obliging companies was not useful, the report concluded, because it was not clear which among them were foreigners and which were U.S. citizens.
The report -- written by statistician Michael Phillips, an expert analyst retained by the three groups -- concluded that "it would be unusual for a non-complying company to have a higher percentage of blacks than the reporting companies," and that when estimating an organization's Hispanic workforce it would be "safe to assume that the non-reporting companies had records at or well below the lowest number of those voluntarily reporting."
Google, the protesters said, has refused to provide its EEO-1 information, calling it a trade secret.
"Ha!" exclaimed Bob Gnaizda, a lawyer who provides counsel for the three organizations. "It's not a trade secret. It's an embarrassment. That's the argument the Chinese government often uses when it hides data."
Intel, Cisco and eBay didn't bring up the issue of secrecy, Gnaizda said. Furthermore, Google recently announced that it would be hiring more than 6,000 new employees in 2011 -- which the lawyer said tells competitors much more than divulging the ethnic makeup of its workforce would.
A national issue
Gnaizda does not dispute the fact that there are a higher number of whites than women and minorities graduating with computer science degrees in America. However, he said, a company with only 1 percent black or 4 percent Hispanic employees does accurately mirror the percentage of those same minorities with computer science degrees in the greater population.
According to the National Science Foundation, in 2008 there were a total of 38,916 people -- men and women of all races -- with a bachelor's degree in computer science living in the U.S. Of those with a computer science degree in 2008:
-There were roughly five times as many men as women.
-Whites (both men and women) accounted for more than half.
-There were 2,923 Hispanics, 4,011 blacks, and 3,133 Asians and Pacific Islanders -- a little less than half the number of total whites.
-There were 1,804 temporary residents.
Even with far fewer minorities holding computer science degrees in the U.S., Gnaizda said, Google is not doing a good enough job in keeping a diverse workforce and is hiring far too many foreign workers from India, which he said is a country with relatively fewer engineers per capita than the United States.
Newman, the Google representative, again disagreed with the conclusions of the Black Economic Council, Latino Business Chamber of Greater Los Angeles and the National Asian American Coalition.
"We have an inclusive work environment and constantly promote diversity at Google, through scholarship programs, internship opportunities and partnerships with organizations working to educate the next generation of engineers and professionals," Newman said in his statement.