Google CEO Pichai commits to lasting, meaningful change

Pichai promised to make Google's products more inclusive, announced an overhaul of internal leadership, and a $175 million package to support Black business owners, startup founders, job seekers, and developers.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has made a commitment to his staff to "translate the energy of this moment into lasting, meaningful change".

In a note sent company wide, Pichai announced a handful of "concrete" commitments, including building sustainable equity for Google's own Black+ community, and externally, to make the tech giant's products and programs helpful in the moments that matter most to Black users. 

"Creating meaningful change starts within our own company. Strengthening our commitment to racial equity and inclusion will help Google build more helpful products for our users and the world," the CEO said.

With bias at product development stage condemning a final product to do much the same, Pichai wants his company to create products and programs that help Black users in the moments that matter most.

"Two weeks ago, I put out a call for ideas, and Googlers from all over the world have submitted more than 500 suggestions," he explained. "We've assembled a product task force to prioritise and implement these ideas in partnership with our Black Leadership Advisory Group and members of our Black Googler Network."

Pichai said Google is working quickly to give US merchants the option of adding a "Black-owned" business attribute to their business profile on Google to make it easier for people to find and support Black-owned local businesses by using Search and Maps.

Google's product policies are also under review to strengthen them against hate and harassment.

"Creating products for everyone is a core principle at Google, so our product teams will work to ensure that all users, and particularly Black users, see themselves reflected in our products," he said.

With YouTube announcing a $100 million fund earlier this month dedicated to amplifying and developing the voices of Black creators and artists and their stories, Pichai has pledged another $175 million economic opportunity package to support Black business owners, startup founders, job seekers, and developers.

This will comprise $50 million in financing and grants for small businesses focused on the Black community and in partnership with Opportunity Finance Network; $100 million in funding participation in Black-led capital firms, startups, and organisations supporting Black entrepreneurs; $15 million in training, through partners like the National Urban League, to help Black job seekers grow their skills; and at least $10 million to help improve the Black community's access to education, equipment, and economic opportunities in Google's developer ecosystem.

Pichai wants the funding to be used to increase equity, representation, and inclusion across his company's developer platforms, including Android, Chrome, Flutter, Firebase, and Google Play.

The first internal goal Pichai has set is to improve leadership representation of underrepresented groups by 30% by 2025.

It isn't just leadership roles Pichai wants to shake up, he wants to address representation challenges and focus on hiring, retention, and promotion at all levels.

"I'm also convening a task force, including senior members of the Black+ community at Google, to develop concrete recommendations and proposals for accountability across all of the areas that affect the Black+ Googler experience, from recruiting and hiring, to performance management, to career progression and retention," he wrote.

The third internal goal is to create a stronger sense of inclusion and belonging for Googlers, focusing on the company's Black+ community.

To drive a feeling of belonging within Google, Pichai said he's committed to building more inclusive practices and policies, and "revisiting them when we don't get them right".

A range of anti-racism educational programs will be developed and accessible company wide.

The CEO will be bringing in experts to educate Googlers on racial history and structural inequities, hoping also to start conversations on education, allyship, and self-reflection.

With a pilot already underway that includes training exploring systemic racism and racial consciousness, Pichai has plans to roll this out globally by early next year.

"We'll also integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our mandatory manager trainings," he added.

Google's last immediate internal goal is a focus on better supporting the mental and physical health and wellbeing of Google's Black+ community.

The Google for Startups Accelerator for Black Founders has also been launched. It's a three-month digital accelerator program for "high potential Seed to Series A startups".  

Google's Digital Coaches program will also be expanded to eight new cities, including Memphis, Birmingham, and Cleveland, aiming to provide 50,000 Black-owned businesses with mentorship, networking, and training capabilities so they can grow.

Pichai has also committed just shy of $3 million to help close the racial equity gaps in computer science education and increase Black+ representation in STEM fields.

Google is also expanding its CS First curriculum to 7,000 more teachers who reach 100,000+ Black students, scaling its Applied Digital Skills program to reach 400,000 Black middle and high school students, and making a $1 million Google.org grant to the DonorsChoose #ISeeMe campaign to help teachers access materials to make their classrooms more inclusive. 

The exploreCSR awards have been expanded to 16 more universities to address racial gaps in computer science research and academia, and Black in AI will receive a $250,000 investment to help increase Black representation in the field of AI. 

"Thank you to the many Googlers who have come together to drive these efforts," Pichai said.


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