Google Employee Manifesto Continues Diversity Debate in Silicon Valley

One of the reasons that I argue the university is the best entrepreneurial ecosystem is that it has a diverse collection of people — diverse across multiple variables (life stage, place of origin, field of study, political persuasion, home country/state, full time v part time, etc).

This diverse population (when combined with available assets and liberty/freedom) leads the drive for change, creativity, innovation, production and commerce – in today’s world – entrepreneurship.

As the debate over diversity in Silicon Valley continues and grows — questions and definitions of diversity have been raised. Most recently by a Google engineer offering a manifesto criticizing the company’s diversity effort. From Matthew Lynley at TechCrunch:

A screed from a Googler against the company’s diversity policies appears to be circulating internally at the company, according to Gizmodo, which has published the memo.

Motherboard first reported on the existence of the document making the rounds, which Googlers condemned on Twitter. In it, the author of the “manifesto” appears to try to argue that the gender gap in technology is not a product of discrimination — but rather inherent biological differences between men and women in general.

“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes,” the memo states at the beginning as published by Gizmodo. “When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem. Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber.”

Update: It looks like Motherboard has an internal response from Danielle Brown, Google’s new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance. Here’s part of what she says, according to Motherboard:

“Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

Brown also says that document is “not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages,” according to Motherboard.

There is no doubt there is a lot that corporations and other large organizations could learn from diversity as it exists on university campuses — the kind that takes place day to day in classes, coffee shops, dorm rooms, labs, sports teams, bands and clubs, departments, and more. As my research argues, this diverse environment (with thousands pursuing their unique paths), leads to the creative, productive output and American research universities are lauded for.

Black Millennials Missing the Entrepreneurial Revolution? #diversityintech

My research on high growth firms created by students at US colleges and universities uncovered that lack of female participation in high impact entrepreneurship on campus.

Lack of diversity is a big issue in tech and Tech Crunch Contributor Duane Dennis offers a personal look, with some data, at the lack of black participation in high growth/high tech entrepreneurship. From Dennis:

I’ve found that accelerators are especially important in providing a more intensive education, especially when run by experienced entrepreneurs. The Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (GFSA) program director is Bill Aulet, famed educator, author and entrepreneur; the HAX accelerator is managed by Duncan Turner, entrepreneur and former IDEO designer.

However, in both cohorts, there were very few minorities. In GFSA, there were four blacksout of about 50 founders; in HAX there weren’t any represented among the 15 companies. This happened despite the worldwide diversity efforts that have been put in place by both organizations for general minority and state-specific populations.

The stats seem to back up my anecdotal evidence. Although most accelerator programs do not track the ethnicity or gender of participants, 500 Startups does. A voluntary poll of participants revealed that out of 250 startups and 500 founders, 80 were Asian, 60 were female, 15 were Hispanic and only nine were black.

and later….

For non-entrepreneurial families of first- or even second-generation graduates, the question is all about risk, regardless of color or nationality. Investing in a college fund is a big commitment, and entering the entrepreneurial sphere rather than the job market seems ridiculous when you have student loans, a lucrative job lined up after college and that looming 90 percent knockout rate.

Finding the investments, support and partnerships to do this is the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs. It is getting easier to start your own business — and this time, as we see more entrepreneurs step into the arena, it is important that we don’t leave behind our minority groups that are typically left behind.

Later in the piece Dennis offers specific policy and educational recommendations — which point to creating supportive environments for young entrepreneurs. His limited data offers some similarity to the lack of diversity that I see among the student founders of high growth firms.