Category Archives: African American

Google wants to fix tech’s diversity problem with an outpost for historically black colleges

A worker rides a bike on Google’s campus in Mountain View, Calif. The company is partnering with Howard University to start a “Howard West” campus ultimately aimed at boosting its ranks of black engineers. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

March 23, The Washington Post

Four years ago, Google began sending engineers to historically black colleges such as Howard University for its “Google in Residence” program, an attempt to improve its recruiting from these campuses, prepare students for Google’s peculiar hiring practices, and inject their computer science courses with more of the up-to-date skills that Silicon Valley needs.

Now, it is trying the reverse, starting an on-campus outpost known as “Howard West” that brings students from Washington to Mountain View, Calif., for three months of computer science classes, one-on-one mentorships with black Google tech employees, and even the Googleplex’s famous free food and shuttles. Faculty will come with them, spending an “externship” teaching and learning alongside Google engineers.

The new program, announced Thursday, is the search giant’s latest effort to try to boost its stubbornly low numbers of black employees, which account for just 1 percent of its technology employees — the same number as in 2014 — and only 2 percent of its employees overall, according to the company’s most recent diversity report. Besides its Google in Residence program, the company has expanded its recruiting to a broader range of schools, trains its workers on “implicit biases” and re-examines resumes to make sure recruiters don’t overlook diverse talent.

“We’d been focused on narrowing or, really, eliminating the digital divide,” said Bonita Stewart, vice president of partnerships for Google, in an interview. “Now we’re seeing there’s an opportunity to look at the geographical divide. By having this immersive program, we will have the opportunity to focus on the hard technical skills, but more important are some of the softer skills, in terms of working and understanding the Valley culture.”

As part of the new program, rising juniors and seniors will spend three months in classes at a dedicated space on Google’s campus. Tuition will be paid for by Howard and private donors; funding will also cover their housing and a summer stipend. The program is likely to include events such as networking sessions with Howard alumni throughout the Valley, opportunities to shadow Google employees, and formal and informal conversations about their experiences. It launches this summer with 25 students from Howard University, but the aim is to expand it next year to other historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.

Howard University President Wayne Frederick said he hopes the program will help retain students in computer science programs who might not have the financial means to remain. “A large number of our students are Pell Grant-eligible, and support is a real concern,” said Frederick in an interview. “This also helps address their ability to matriculate more quickly.”

The idea began after Frederick made some visits to Silicon Valley companies in 2014 and recognized the gulf between the two cultures. “Until you actually walk around and see it in action, I don’t think you really get it,” he said. A medical doctor, he recognized the value of more clinical experience earlier in medical students’ education, something that could be applied to computer science majors, too. At an event, he met Stewart, a Howard alumna who herself had seen the opportunity for HBCUs to get an outpost at the Googleplex after her office in New York provided space for the Cornell Tech program and the nonprofit Black Girls Code.

“We thought by moving it out west and creating this more immersive environment, we could perhaps accelerate our diversity effort in a new and interesting way,” Stewart said.

The new program could also help fix some concerns about the company’s “Google in Residence” program. In a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story early last year, a former Google engineer cited the difficulty of luring Google employees to Howard’s campus in Washington, which took them out of the regular promotion and evaluation cycles back on campus. The new program would allow engineers to remain local as they got involved in the program.

It could also help expose students earlier to the culture shock that awaits some of them when they come to Silicon Valley. One black student said she was startled by how homogeneous the area was on a visit and noted the playground-style perks at tech campuses armed with ping-pong tables didn’t interest her. “Slides are not really appealing,” she told Bloomberg. “There are not a lot of people of color in the Valley — and that, by itself, makes it kind of unwelcoming.”

Diversity experts briefed on general details about the program said that while the concept is intriguing, there are also important questions to consider about how to prepare students for the experience. “I don’t know how many of the cultural nuances everybody has thought through,” said Freada Kapor Klein, who co-chairs the Kapor Center for Social Impact and founded a summer math and science program for low-income, underrepresented high school students of color. Students are coming from … a predominantly people-of-color campus and being parachuted into a an overwhelmingly white, Asian and male environment.”

Others agreed that the program’s success will lie in its details — as well as in how well it translates to hires. Data shows there are proportionally more students of color graduating from computer science programs than are being hired by big firms, making the real problem not the pipeline, but a lack of hiring, said Ellie Tumbuan, a principal at Vaya Consulting, which assists clients with diversity issues in the Bay Area. “Everyone is understanding that it’s more important to build long-term relationships,” she said. “The real commitment comes with what are you actually going to do about hiring.”

As of early last year, Bloomberg reported that just two computer science students from Howard had been hired by Google. A spokesperson would not provide updated numbers but said many students began as freshmen, so would not yet have had a chance to be hired.

Hiring more talented black computer science experts is, of course, an outcome both Google and Howard want to see. Asks Frederick: “Can we get more students into this pipeline in a way that would help retain them and ultimately, five to seven years down the road, really impact what the hiring looks like across the industry?” He hopes so.

Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.


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Elevator Pitch: SoftTech’s Charles Hudson on the next big thing — and the lack of diversity in VC – San Jose Mercury News

charleshudson_20140324__0325epitch~1_300Elevator Pitch: SoftTech’s Charles Hudson on the next big thing — and the lack of diversity in VC – San Jose Mercury News.

 “One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is failing to heed clear signs from the market that the idea they are pursuing just isn’t working. “



Image courtesy of SoftTech VC. ( Kathleen Dylan )

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Tanner Colby on Adland’s Diversity Problem | The Big Tent – Advertising Age


Considering all the diversity issues in the advertising/media industry, I think this article offers good insight on defining and dealing with bias in this industry.

Tanner Colby on Adland’s Diversity Problem | The Big Tent – Advertising Age.

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Where Does Multicultural Targeting Fit in a Diverse World?

Much is being discussed regarding President Obama’s campaign strategy in winning the election.  According to news reports, Blacks, Latinos, women and the youth vote propelled President Obama back into the White House.  If this rings true, and it does, then it should re-energize the discussions on how important demographic targeting is versus behavorial targeting.  

I thought I would re-post this piece from Ad Age (May 30, 2011).  Robert Groves, U.S. Census Bureau Director states “The delivering of a message about a product or a service is best done when the advertiser understands the lens through which a consumer is viewing both the culture they’re in … and how their own experiences map onto it”.

Race, Ethnicity Important in Reaching Socially Savvy Consumers, but Not as Much as You Might Think

By: Matt Carmichael Published: May 30, 2011

Advertisers on Facebook can single out profiles of married men who love cats, but what they can’t target is Hispanics. Or blacks. Or Asians.

That’s not to say social networks can’t still arrive at certain conclusions.

When Andrew Speyer got engaged, he and his fiancee didn’t change their relationship statuses on Facebook. But after friends started congratulating them with wall posts, ads began popping up offering the services of rabbis that perform interfaith ceremonies. Somehow, Facebook discerned that, unlike him, his fiancee was Jewish, although that wasn’t explicit in her profile.

Mr. Speyer, VP-head of strategy at Wing, a Hispanic marketing agency owned by Grey Advertising, feels his experience isn’t uncommon. Mention a brand in a status update and watch it appear as a page you might “like.” Facebook enables marketers to reach huge population swaths or a segment of fewer than 50 profiles — about 0.000008% of Facebook users. All planners have to do is toggle through a list of demographic and behavioral variables and watch the pie slice get thinner.

But think about this for a moment: An ad platform created by a millennial originally for other millennials — the most diverse U.S. generation ever — accounts for nearly one in three online ad impressions and spans all demographics, but it doesn’t ask for your race or ethnicity on your profile. It therefore can’t explicitly target in this key way. Nor can MySpace, or LinkedIn or Twitter.

While that might suggest race and ethnicity are no longer important when it comes to targeting a young, socially savvy consumer, that’s not exactly true.





Robert Groves

But demographic targeting in general is under renewed assault from several directions. Nielsen and CBS recently partnered on a research project aiming to replace age and gender targeting for TV, claiming higher correlation of purchasing intent using behavioral data.

Meanwhile, JD Power and Associates just released a white paper formalizing an opinion it had held for years: that targeting based on buyer profiles of its 28 vehicle segments was more effective than targeting the demographic profile most likely to buy a certain type of car.

So do demographics still fit into the marketing landscape?

“The delivering of a message about a product or a service is best done when the advertiser understands the lens through which a consumer is viewing both the culture they’re in … and how their own experiences map onto it,” said U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves.

While behavioral targeting can be critical, the more data you have on the consumer, the better picture you can draw. “We tend to want to simplify and specify and people are outstanding at having simultaneous identities,”said Wing’s Mr. Speyer.

In addition, the younger consumers don’t necessarily use the same identity frameworks marketers are used to dealing with. Multiracial children are the fastest-growing youth demographic according to the 2010 Census. “The need to look at demographics might be growing instead of shrinking,” said Kevin Brockenbrough, VP-associate director of account planning at African-American-focused agency Burrell, Chicago. “Unless you look at what’s motivating behavior, I’m not sure you’re taking full advantage of it. And what motivates it might be tied back to demographics.”

So it can be short-sighted to ignore large demographic cohorts. “There’s often a gap between the share of the population and the share held by a brand,” said Gustavo Razzetti, chief strategy and engagement officer at Grupo Gallegos. “If you want to grow your brand, [Hispanics are] the market that is growing.”

But it’s also dangerous to overgeneralize. “Grouping Hispanics together and making statements about them ignores a huge variation on all sorts of attributes,” said Mr. Groves.

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Diversity Matters, MediaPost Publications, July 6, 2012

I came across this interesting piece on marketing to the Millennial segment.  According to this MediaPost blog, Millennials are one of the most ethnically diverse adult population segment.  The article states that “Millennials are more likely than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers to interact with people who have a different ethnic or cultural background than themselves…”

What this is also saying is that Millennials reflect a broader definition of diversity which goes farther than ethnicity and includes gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, political affiliation.  Consequently, they also want to see diversity reflected in the media they consume.

Read more:

An important component of marketing is understanding that it is a social process, and diversity elements are important in any marketing plan addressing population subgroups.  An important fact to consider in branding and marketing strategies.  This article by Sharalyn Hartwell aptly points this out…check it out…


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Multicultural Marketing Is Very Much Alive

It amazes me to see that in 2011 we continue to debate the value of multicultural marketing!  The September 9, 2011 issue of Advertising Age presents a solid discussion on the relevancy of multicultural advertising in today’s marketing environment.  Key points made include the fact that multicultural ad agencies continue to grow, Hispanic advertising is growing faster than all other sectors of advertising, cultural relevance remains the trump card in marketing, language is and will continue to be a factor, cultural pride, empathy and relating to me are still important factors…read for yourself…Multicultural Marketing Is Very Much Alive

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Repost from Life Of A Nappy-Headed Fat Chic

Check out this opinion I am posting on the Nivea advertising campaign controversy from the cool blog


Here is my two cents on the Nivea Controversy, and much has been said on the topic of what many are calling an insensitive Nivea print ad. The campaign (“RE-CIVILIZE YOURSELF”…from Nivea’s Look Like You Give A Damn ad campaign which targets men) shows a clean-cut black male tossing his alter ego uncivilized head aside (literally).

I don’t think this creative execution is racism on the part of Nivea, as some have decried, but I do think it’s a case of falling asleep at the “insensitivity” switch. In my 30 plus years in the ad business, I’ve seen this happen way too many times…and the reasons are as varied as the number of days in a year. All to often companies (and/or their media agents) become complacent to the real world sensitivities…surrounded by people who often times look and think like them…and not the real world people who are buying their products and services…and consequently lose sight of what may/could be offensive and what’s not.

There’s a lesson here. The simple solution is to incorporate diverse creative and media perspectives, through a diverse management and creative team, to give a voice on what can be construed as offensive. Nivea should have at the very least, an African-American ad agency or media consultant to vet creative concepts…perhaps they do. I think its a small price to pay (for advice) compared to all that free negative press…basically this should not happen in this day and age…but the road to insensitive ads is a cluttered one unfortunately…


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