On Friday (January 29), leaders at five HBCUs met with Google CEO Sundar Pichai to discuss the company’s relationship with Black colleges following allegations of discriminatory practices.
The presidents of Howard University, North Carolina A&T University, Morgan State University, Prairie View A&M University, and Florida A&M University, attended the virtual hour-long session with Pichai and seven members of the company’s leadership team, as reported by CNN.
The meeting comes in the wake of the controversial termination of Dr. Timnit Gebru, a top A.I. researcher, and former diversity recruiter April Curley who both created viral Twitter threads sharing their experience working for the company and repeated attempts of getting Google to address discrimination.
Curley claims Google felt that graduates of HBCUs didn’t have the necessary technical skills to keep up with demand at the company. Curley told CNN Business the company repeatedly rejected her work of getting more Black graduates into tech careers, despite having been hired to do just that.
HBCU 20X20, a national diversity and inclusion organization, cancelled their partnership with Google in response to the claims, catching the attention of leaders at the schools who have programs with the company.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund president and CEO Harry Williams organized the meeting.
“We are all encouraged about the future partnership,” a joint statement from Google and the HBCU presidents said. “The meeting paved the way for a more substantive partnership in a number of areas, from increased hiring to capacity building efforts that will increase the pipeline of tech talent from HBCUs.”
Williams revealed that the allegations from Curley and Gebru weren’t discussed during the meeting.
“That’s a personal matter,” he said. “The presidents made it very clear as it relates to the students, if they send students [to Google] they had to feel about the situation.”
Ahead of the meeting, Morgan State president David Wilson organized a focus group of alumni currently working at Google and students in the tech exchange program to get a pulse on their experience.
Wilson told the Google execs at the meeting the feedback was mostly positive.
“One of our Black female [students] did inform me she was the first Black woman to be on her immediate team there at Google and one of only two Blacks on the larger team,” Wilson said to CNN Business. “But she was never made to feel like she didn’t belong… They are having good experiences,” Wilson added.
Curley said she wasn’t surprised to hear the students at Morgan State were having a good experience.
“Those kids were my kids that I brought into the company,” Curley told CNN on Friday night (January 29). “[Google is] able to take credit for it because I laid the ground work, myself and two other Black women.”
According to its latest diversity report, only 3.7% of the Google workforce in the US is Black. The claim says it hired graduates from 19 HBCUs in 2019 and expanded recruiting efforts to over 800 schools. Curley says her team work over the course of six years is to thank for that.
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