It’s Obvious That Companies Don’t Want To Hear About Their Diversity Issues

Last week a series of tweets from Dr. Timnit Gebru, a well-respected and renowned researcher, went viral. Dr. Gebru, who was working as one of the leaders of Google’s ethical AI team, claims that she was dismissed from the company because of an email she sent. Dr. Gebru explains in her tweets that she was not notified of the termination but rather, Google accepted her resignation which indicated that Google did not meet her demands. In her tweets, Dr. Gebru explains that she was asked to retract a research paper she co-authored. Google claims that Dr. Gebru did not give them the mandated amount of time necessary to review and accept the paper. On Twitter, Dr. Gebru expounded on her frustrations when it came to the company’s diversity efforts. She explained that regardless of the amount of conversations that were had, without accountability for these diversity efforts, little progress would be made.  

Medium article written by Google Walkout For Real Change outlines demands for Google’s Research leadership. There is an obvious need for more transparency when it comes to leadership decisions. Dr. Gebru’s story is a familiar one to many people of color in the workplace. Often times leadership encourages employees to speak up about workplace inequities, yet when employees do speak up, they are dismissed and gaslighted. Despite how accomplished and respected a person is, they can find themselves being pushed out for voicing contrary opinions or views that cast their company in a negative light. In the summer of 2020, companies made pledges and promises for greater equity. To Dr. Gebru’s point, no amount of discussions and dialogue will be productive if organizations are not holding leaders accountable for diversity initiatives. Without accountability, little progress will be made.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 07: Google AI Research Scientist Timnit Gebru speaks onstage during … [+] GETTY IMAGES FOR TECHCRUNCH

A recent study conducted by a non-profit think tank found that the number one reason why there was a lack of involvement in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives was because of employees being “too busy.” Based on the study, there is not enough of a prioritization placed on DEI efforts because of a perception by white males that it does not benefit them. To piggyback off of Dr. Gebru’s sentiments, without that leadership accountability, DEI efforts will fall to the waist side. Companies that are committed to change must design strategies to incentivize leaders to work towards equity objectives. Some ways to do this include evaluating leaders based on their progress and accomplishment of DEI initiatives. In addition, linking bonuses and compensation to DEI objectives has proven effective at a number of different companies.

The other elephant in the room that must be discussed is the fact that many companies don’t actually want to listen to employees. They claim they are committed to DEI yet many of these claims are false. The commitment seems to be there only when employees are silent, speaking highly of their companies and not criticizing them in any way. If the goal is to actually foster an inclusive culture, leadership cannot be afraid of dissent. The way that companies will evolve, and grow is through employee feedback. Sometimes this feedback may be jarring, but employees are giving this feedback with a vested interest in seeing the organization develop and progress. Being invested in DEI means being willing to listen to the ways that you may have fallen short when it comes to recruiting and retaining underrepresented groups. Social media has given more power to the people. You can no longer silence employees who speak out against these inequities. Now more than ever employees feel encouraged and emboldened to speak up and speak out about bias. Refusing to address and fix the problem will only cause it to metastasize

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