Tech Employees Disagree With Their Companies on BLM

Nearly 1/3 of Facebook staff members aren’t satisfied with the company’s response

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Photo by AJ Colores on Unsplash

According to a new survey of tech professionals from data company Blind, a significant number of tech professionals at major companies disagree with their company’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement. More troubling, a large number also feel that they can’t discuss their perspectives openly at work.

The survey revealed that 30% of Facebook employees disagree or strongly disagree with their company’s stance on Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd, as do 20% at Microsoft. More than half (56%) of Facebook staff members don’t feel comfortable raising their opinions on the situation to colleagues, and the same goes for 49% of people working at Google.

This is a surprising result, especially for Google. The company usually prides itself on encouraging lively discussion and debate among its staff, using a network of Google-only private chat rooms and affinity groups. These groups often shape the company’s policies.

When Google considered inking a deal with the Department of Defense to use its AI capabilities to analyze drone footage, staff members quickly organized using these internal groups and shut the efforts down. In an infamous case, a Googler also published an allegedly sexist memo on the company’s internal websites, which led to a backlash from other staff members who felt no qualms about speaking up.

So it’s uncharacteristic for Googlers to feel they have to be reserved about a political and social movement, especially one that seems to fit relatively directly into Google’s “Don’t be Evil” ethos. It’s also unclear why Googlers felt uncomfortable. The company may feel that politically, it can’t comment as directly on the movement as it does on other issues. As a search engine that controls much of the world’s information, Google may feel that it has to remain neutral, even on important movements like #BLM. That’s a liability for a company with socially engaged staff members, and some may be feeling the impact of restrictions on their ability to take a strong stance.

Encouragingly, a majority (62%) of African-American staff members agree with their company’s BLM stance and response. But at the same time, only 10% of Black and 20% of Latino staff members felt that their ethnicity was represented in the upper management of their tech company, versus 76% of white respondents. And nearly half of Google and Facebook employees of any ethnicity say that their personal values are represented by upper management.

Diversity in tech is a challenging and important issue. Tech companies are clearly still navigating the best ways to respond to movements like Black Lives Matter, and how to find their own role in advancing these causes. Blind’s survey shows that they’re making progress, but have more work to do on this front.

But even more importantly than their response to the movement, tech companies need to integrate diversity more directly into the core of the operations. Responding to a movement is one thing — ensuring representation at the upper echelons of a company is another. Tech should continue to evaluate its response to BLM, but should also consider diversity more broadly and continue working towards more inclusivity and representation of people of all ethnicities on boards and in leadership positions.

Written by

Co-Founder & CEO of Gado Images. I write, speak and consult about tech, privacy, AI and photography. tom@gadoimages.com

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