Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Cut of DEI Programs in BigTech: Google and Meta’s In 2023

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1. How did Google and Meta’s DEI Programs Change in 2023?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs in the tech industry have taken a hit in 2023, with companies like Google and Meta making substantial cuts despite earlier commitments. The aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 prompted tech giants to announce initiatives to support underrepresented groups, but the landscape has shifted. Job postings related to DEI declined significantly, with a 44% drop by mid-2023. Google and Meta, both leaders in the tech sector, implemented layoffs, downsized programs, and cut budgets related to DEI efforts.

The Cut of DEI Programs in BigTech: Google and Meta's In 2023

Impact on Google’s DEI Programs

Google, in response to earlier complaints about pay equity, phased out its Engineering Residency program in 2021. However, the new program, Early Career Immersion (ECI), faced uncertainties in hiring outlooks, leading to a decision not to hire a 2023 cohort. Complaints from participants in Google’s Apprenticeships program highlighted pay inequities despite contributions to the company’s codebase. Additionally, DEI leaders at Google were reportedly let go, impacting the company’s commitment to underrepresented communities.

Meta’s DEI Efforts

Meta, previously Facebook, witnessed layoffs in its Sourcer Development Program and cuts to several DEI managers. Layoffs extended to leaders of Black employee resource groups, raising concerns about the impact on psychological safety and burnout within these groups. Meta defended its commitment to DEI but acknowledged company-wide efforts to streamline operations.

The Cut of DEI Programs in BigTech: Google and Meta's In 2023

The Broader Ramifications

The repercussions extend beyond internal teams, affecting external organizations that relied on corporate sponsorships. Cuts in 2023 left these organizations struggling, with some even requesting free services. The external impact further underscores the fragility of DEI progress made in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

In the next section, we delve into the specifics of Google and Meta’s internal cuts and their implications.

2. Internal Cuts: Google’s Decision on ECI and Apprenticeships

Google’s internal restructuring in 2023 included decisions on the Early Career Immersion (ECI) program and the Apprenticeships initiative. Despite claims that the sunsetting of the Engineering Residency program in 2021 was an unrelated business decision, Google decided not to hire a 2023 cohort for ECI due to uncertainties in hiring outlooks. This move impacted underrepresented talent development and resulted in layoffs of associated staff.

Apprenticeships Challenges

The Cut of DEI Programs in BigTech: Google and Meta's In 2023

Participants in Google’s Apprenticeships program raised concerns about pay inequities, stating that they were paid less than other engineers despite contributing significantly. The discrepancy between their contributions and compensation highlighted ongoing challenges in achieving pay equity within tech companies.

Google’s Response

Google defended its decisions, stating that apprentices are paid for the learning and training received during the program. The company emphasized its commitment to DEI work, citing new investments in partnerships, including $5 million for historically Black colleges and universities.

3. Meta’s Layoffs and Restructuring in DEI

Meta, too, witnessed internal changes in its DEI efforts, including layoffs and restructuring. The Sourcer Development Program, intended to help workers from diverse backgrounds enter corporate technology recruiting, faced significant cuts. Over 60 workers in this program were let go as part of Meta’s broader layoff of over 11,000 employees.

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Impact on DEI Managers

DEI managers at Meta also faced cuts, with several managers hired in 2020 being affected. The company, however, stated an increased engagement with some third-party organizations, such as The Executive Leadership Council, as part of its commitment to DEI.

Layoffs in ERGs

Leadership roles in Black employee resource groups (ERGs) at both Google and Meta were not spared from layoffs. The impact on psychological safety within these groups raised concerns, highlighting the broader challenges of maintaining diversity and inclusion during periods of layoffs.

4. Learning and Development: Cuts and Streamlining

Both Google and Meta implemented cuts to planned learning and development training for underrepresented talent. The rationale provided by Meta was that the programs were “streamlined to make them more impactful.” However, concerns were raised about the consistency and effectiveness of such programs in the absence of dedicated internal teams.

Impact on External Organizations

While internal DEI programs faced cuts, the impact on external organizations was arguably more severe. Tech leaders, including Google and Meta, reduced their engagement with third-party organizations, affecting projects and contracts. The financial constraints left external organizations backpedaling on the progress made in creating more inclusive workplaces.

The retreat of DEI programs in the tech industry is part of a broader trend, evident in the decline of DEI-related job postings. By mid-2023, postings had declined by 44%, marking a stark contrast to the growth observed from 2020 to 2021. Google and Meta’s cuts reflect a shift in priorities, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI) development.

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The AI Shift

The cuts in DEI programs come at a crucial time when the tech industry is doubling down on artificial intelligence. The lack of diverse voices in AI development poses risks of biased products that may be less accurate or even harmful to users. Experts warn that without inclusive representation in AI development, power imbalances may exacerbate for both corporate workers and consumers.

Commitment Amid Cuts

Both Google and Meta have maintained their commitment to DEI work, emphasizing new investments and partnerships. However, the discrepancy between commitments and actions raises questions about the sustainability of DEI efforts during economic downturns in the tech industry.

In the next section, we explore how the cuts to DEI programs are impacting external organizations and their ability to advance diversity and inclusion.

6. Impact on External Organizations: Struggling Amid Budget Cuts

While tech giants like Google and Meta implement internal cuts to DEI programs, external organizations are grappling with the fallout. The budget cuts, especially in corporate sponsorships, have left these organizations struggling to maintain the momentum built over the previous years.

Requests for Free Work

Google, Meta, other tech giants cut DEI programs in 2023

Some companies, facing budget constraints, have resorted to asking external organizations to provide their services for free. This shift in expectations represents a significant setback for organizations working towards building an effective workforce for underrepresented workers.

Setbacks in Progress

Organizations that made progress before the cuts are now facing setbacks, undoing the work done in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The financial limitations imposed by tech companies have led to a reevaluation of priorities, with diversity and inclusion taking a backseat.

7. Backlash and Challenges: DEI in 2023

The challenges faced by DEI programs in 2023 extend beyond budget cuts and layoffs. Backlash against DEI efforts, evidenced by legislative decisions and societal dynamics, adds complexity to the landscape. The Supreme Court’s decision to end affirmative action at colleges and legislative actions against DEI programs contribute to a challenging environment.

Impact on Tech Conferences

Tech conferences, crucial for networking and showcasing diversity, have also felt the impact. Some large tech companies, including Meta, reduced sponsorship

or attendance for employees at conferences like Grace Hopper 2023. The shift to virtual attendance, driven by cost-cutting measures, reflects the broader challenges faced by DEI stakeholders.

Future Outlook

While 2023 presents challenges, some remain optimistic about a potential turnaround in 2024. The backlash against DEI efforts, coupled with broader societal challenges, highlights the need for ongoing commitment and resilience in advancing diversity and inclusion.

In the next section, we explore the intersection of DEI and artificial intelligence, emphasizing the critical role of diverse representation in shaping AI technologies.

8. DEI and AI: The Crucial Intersection

As the tech industry pivots towards a significant technology shift, artificial intelligence (AI) takes center stage. In 2023, AI development is at a critical inflection point, with companies like Apple and Google grappling with challenges related to accurate image identification.

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Bias in AI

A New York Times investigation revealed that Apple and Google’s Android software disabled the ability to visually search for primates to avoid mislabeling individuals as animals. The incident highlights the inherent biases in AI, shaped by historical data that often excludes critical segments of the population.

Importance of DEI in AI

Experts emphasize the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in AI development. The lack of diverse decision-makers in the field poses risks of perpetuating biases and inaccuracies in AI technologies. As AI becomes more integral to daily life, ensuring inclusive representation becomes paramount.

9. Challenges in Rebuilding DEI Relationships

Companies that made cuts to DEI programs in 2023 may face challenges in rebuilding relationships with DEI stakeholders. The impact on external organizations, coupled with the scrutiny of the broader public, raises questions about the long-term commitment of tech companies to diversity and inclusion.

Impact on Talent Attraction and Retention

Younger generations, increasingly valuing diversity and inclusion, may scrutinize companies’ actions in DEI. The decisions made during layoffs and the subsequent impact on ERGs and external organizations can influence the ability of tech companies to attract and retain diverse talent.

Rebuilding Trust

Rebuilding trust with DEI stakeholders requires a proactive and transparent approach. The decisions made in 2023, amid economic uncertainties, will shape perceptions of tech companies in the years to come. The intersection of DEI, AI, and corporate responsibility requires a holistic and sustained commitment.

10. The Future of DEI and Tech: Navigating Challenges

As the tech industry grapples with challenges in DEI programs and faces a critical juncture in AI development, the future remains uncertain. The backlash against DEI efforts, coupled with economic downturns and legislative decisions, underscores the need for resilience and adaptability.

The Role of Leadership

Leadership in tech companies plays a pivotal role in steering the future of DEI and tech. The decisions made during challenging times, such as layoffs and program cuts, shape the narrative around a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Call for Continued Commitment

Despite the challenges, there is a call for continued commitment to DEI in the tech industry. The intersection of societal dynamics, technological advancements, and the need for inclusive representation demands ongoing efforts. The decisions made today will influence the trajectory of diversity and inclusion in the tech landscape.

Summary

SectionsKey Points
1. Google and Meta’s DEI Changes in 2023– Decline in DEI-related job postings by 44%.
– Google and Meta’s internal cuts and downsizing.
2. Internal Cuts at Google: ECI and More– Google’s decision not to hire a 2023 cohort for ECI.
– Complaints from participants in Apprenticeships.
3. Meta’s Layoffs and DEI Restructuring– Layoffs in Sourcer Development Program.
– Cuts to DEI managers and leadership roles in ERGs.
4. Learning and Development Impact– Cuts to planned training for underrepresented talent.
– Streamlining of learning and development programs.
5. Tech Industry Trends: DEI Retreat– Broader decline in DEI-related job postings.
– Emphasis on AI development amidst DEI cuts.
6. Impact on External Organizations– Struggles of external organizations amid budget cuts.
– Requests for free work from some companies.
7. Backlash and Challenges in 2023– Legislative decisions impacting DEI efforts.
– Tech conferences facing reduced sponsorship.
8. DEI and AI: The Crucial Intersection– Challenges in AI development and accurate image identification.
– Importance of DEI in shaping AI.
9. Challenges in Rebuilding DEI Relationships– Potential impact on talent attraction and retention.
– The need for rebuilding trust with DEI stakeholders.
10. The Future of DEI and Tech– Uncertainties in the future of DEI programs.
– The role of leadership and the call for continued commitment.

FAQ

1. Why did Google and Meta make cuts to their DEI programs in 2023?

  • Both Google and Meta made cuts to streamline operations and focus on other business priorities. Economic downturns in the tech industry often result in cuts to DEI budgets.

2. How did the cuts impact internal programs at Google?

  • The cuts affected internal programs like Early Career Immersion (ECI) and Apprenticeships, with layoffs and uncertainties in hiring outlooks.

3. What were the challenges faced by participants in Google’s Apprenticeships program?

  • Participants in Apprenticeships complained about pay inequities, citing discrepancies between their contributions and compensation.

4. How did Meta handle layoffs in its Sourcer Development Program?

  • Meta laid off over 60 workers in its Sourcer Development Program as part of broader layoffs, raising concerns about severance packages.

5. What external organizations were impacted by tech companies’ budget cuts?

  • Organizations offering DEI services and programs externally faced challenges as tech companies reduced corporate sponsorships and support.

6. How did legislative decisions impact DEI efforts in 2023?

  • Legislative decisions, such as the Supreme Court’s ending of affirmative action, added challenges to DEI programs, contributing to a challenging environment.

7. What is the future outlook for DEI in the tech industry?

  • The future remains uncertain, with challenges in rebuilding trust, attracting diverse talent, and navigating the intersection of DEI and AI development. Ongoing commitment and adaptability are emphasized.

This comprehensive exploration highlights the nuanced challenges faced by tech companies, external organizations, and the broader landscape of DEI in the ever-evolving tech industry.

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