Google gives employees 20% time to work on diversity

Google gives employees 20% time to work on diversity

One of the most famous perks at Google is 20% time — the free time the company’s brightest and most determined employees are granted to tinker with promising side projects.
That’s how Google came up with some of its most popular products, including Gmail and Google News. Even the idea for Google shuttle buses that ferry employees to and from work was born from this off-the-official-clock ingenuity.
Now Google has created a new version of 20% time to innovate in an area of growing importance for the Internet giant: Increasing the diversity of its workforce.

Diversity Core is a formal program in which Google employees contribute one-fifth of their time to initiatives aimed at attracting more women and minorities and creating a more welcoming culture for them — both at Google and in the tech industry.

Some 500 employees in 53 offices have taken part in Diversity Core, which is just one of a number of programs designed to disrupt the status quo at Google, says Nancy Lee, Google’s vice president of people operations.

“We want all Googlers to care about diversity, not just the leadership or the diverse population,” Lee says. “You have to figure out: Where’s the tipping point to changing the culture?”

When Aruna Kommu, a 33-year-old program manager, worked for Google in India, she was frequently one of the few women — and sometimes the only woman — in the room when speaking about Google products at conferences.

Through Diversity Core, she got the opportunity to work on Women Techmakers, Google’s global program to raise the visibility of women in technology. She highlighted the contributions of women business leaders in India.

“If there was no Diversity Core, I probably would not have found the opportunity to work with them,” Kommu says. “It’s a lot of progress we have made in terms of diversity and how we talk about it and how we are opening up venues for people to contribute.”

Ashley Carrick, a 27-year-old finance analyst who belongs to the Hispanic Googler Network, a group of Google employees trying to recruit and retain Latinos, says she works on increasing the diversity of the pool of small businesses that supply Google with goods and services.

“My parents had a small business and they eventually lost it,” Carrick says. “It’s great to be on the other side and make it really easy for small businesses to work with Google.”

Jessica Moore is a 25-year-old people operations associate who is active in the Black Googler Network. After joining Diversity Core, Moore says she felt she could be more open about how “invested” she is in her diversity work.

“It just brings light to the work that you are doing,” Moore says. “You can share it with your team and with others and you can be recognized for it.”

Independent diversity consultant Jonathan Brack says the program is a blueprint for other technology companies.

“It institutionalizes this conversation about diversity so that it’s not just seen as an extra or as an after thought but something that is built into the company itself with senior leadership buy-in,” Brack says. “Google is not only leveraging the innovative thinking and brain power that it is known for, it’s allowing people to work on something they care about without having to stack it on top of everything else they do.”


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