Despite spending billions, companies can’t buy diversity
But Newkirk misses a chance to really get inside modern institutions that have blown it despite allocating significant resources to the challenge. Google, she notes, reportedly spent $114 million on diversity programs in 2014 and $150 million in 2015, yet in 2019 African Americans made up only 2 percent of its tech workforce. Newkirk faults Google for failing to address the shortage of African American and Hispanic students entering computer science programs — and that’s a legitimate critique. How is it that a company that can autocomplete my email messages and tell me how to drive to virtually any destination in the world can’t figure out how to solve the “pipeline” problem and attract and retain more engineers of color? But even accounting for a smaller pool of black and Hispanic computer scientists, Google, with its lucrative pay packages, generous perks and interesting projects, theoretically should have an overrepresentation of diverse tech talent. There’s probably a larger culture problem at one of the world’s most influential companies, but “Diversity, Inc.” doesn’t pursue it.
Newkirk does offer one significant corporate success story. As part of a $192 million bias settlement in 2000, Coca-Cola agreed to change its personnel policies to ensure fair compensation and promotion. Newkirk credits Coca-Cola’s progress — in February, the company boasted that people of color make up a quarter of its top leadership team — to a court-approved task force that ensured Coca-Cola lived up to its promises, underscoring the need for outside watchdogs. She also praises chief executives E. Neville Isdell and Muhtar Kent for personally making diversity a priority. But she resorts to jargon — “systems” and “assessments” — to describe the hard work of reversing decades of discrimination. There surely are important pragmatic lessons from Coke’s experience: How do you redesign worker evaluations to eliminate bias? How do you suss out and fix pay gaps? How do you build training programs that don’t elicit eye rolls? (read more)