Category Archives: Diversity

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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Silicone Valley Diversity Challenge

There is an old axiom that says “The more things change the more they remain the same.”  In this day and age of technology and the rich pools of diverse talent at our disposal, it’s hard to imagine that we continue to struggle with diversity issues.  The following article sheds light on the issue and offers a remedy.

Silicon Valley wants to send rockets to the moon, but can’t even figure out diversity

Published on March 13, 2017, Featured in: Editor’s Picks, Entrepreneurship, Technology
Caroline Fairchild, New Economy Editor at LinkedIn

Two years ago when I interviewed Tristan Walker, he shared a simple message: Companies are “doomed if they don’t start changing” and taking diversity seriously.

The founder of Walker & Company Brands — a health and beauty startup catering to people of color – Walker has in many ways become an iconic symbol for Black male founders. A graduate from Stanford Business School who was named a USA Today Person of the Year, Walker gets the kind of media attention that most founders would dream of. He was an Entrepreneur-in-Resident at Andreessen Horowitz before launching his own startup now with more than $30 million in funding and his popular Bevel razors are now sold widely at places like Target.

Despite all the perceived success, Walker is less than optimistic about where the technology industry is headed. Just last week at The New York Times’ New Work Summit, I caught up with him again and asked him how much from a diversity perspective has really changed. His answer? Not much.

“It’s the same as two years ago. Maybe this is a contrarian view, maybe it’s not, but I don’t think anything has changed,” he said. “It is going to require more folks than I to change this thing. But if they don’t want to change it, that’s their problem. We want the best people with the most diverse ideas and if you are unwilling to hire or fund those folks, it is your loss.”

In the wake of Uber’s internal investigation into its company culture, Walker and I talked about the importance of building diverse and “courageous” teams, running a startup as a Black founder and the progress he feels the industry must make in the next 10 to 20 years to stay competitive.

Edited excerpts:

CF: It’s challenging recruiting diverse talent in tech right now. How have you created a culture at Walker & Company that has allowed you to do that?

TW: Walker & Company is 25 employees now. We have the right talent come work for us. We are majority minority and have reached parity on gender. Most of my senior leadership members are women of color. Most of them also come from the East Coast, which means people self select into this. Walker & Company didn’t mean anything three years ago. We only find our meaning through our values and that carries the brand into what it will become. But the fact that we have such a diverse group of folks come work for us lets me know that we have done something right.

CF: Uber is dealing with what can be described as a company culture crisis right now. How would you advise tech companies to be more inclusive?

TW: I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole idea around diversity committees at all these things at companies. They are in every single industry. Whether it is tech, finance or insurance, companies have these diversity committees. That just shows that there is no way that it will be a default state. It will always be some project and it shouldn’t be. At Walker & Brands, we made it our default state. Now the only thing we have to worry about is almost becoming too diverse, which doesn’t make any sense. So my advice to them would be to think about what it would take to make diversity your default state. Maybe that will take 10 to 15 years, but you have to have a plan and that plan is different than how you fix things in the next nine months to get people off our backs.

CF: Are you surprised that this is still an issue among tech companies?

TW: There is no shortage of research that shows that diversity leads to better outcomes, so why aren’t people taking this more seriously? I don’t understand the logic. We are sending rockets to the moon in 18 months, why can’t we figure this out? And actually, we do ourselves a disservice by saying we need to “figure out” diversity because, it just is. And if it isn’t there at your company, it will be, because America is changing very quickly.

CF: You are a Black founder creating products that predominately serve people of color. How does that impact your success?

TW: Everyone always talks about us about being a niche Procter & Gamble or a niche Johnson & Johnson. But the majority of the world is people of color. Why do you think that is niche? It’s laziness and an unwillingness to acquire that context. It’s on me now to prove that we are right. That’s entrepreneurship at it’s most pure, which I can appreciate. It also makes us focus even more on building a business that is great and can sustain itself. There is a reason we don’t need to hire so many people or spend a lot on marketing. If folks are not going to acquire the context to understand what we are doing, it will just be harder for us to raise money down the road. So we want to create our own destiny rather than just grow for growth’s sake.

CF: Did you set out to become the symbol that you have become for Black male founders?

TW: I had no idea what Silicon Valley was before I came here. I fell into this. Folks think I had some plan. I have been very lucky and I had great timing and great supporters. It wasn’t all that and me is fine. As long as we are serving our customers in the best way that we want to serve them, that is all that I can do, and that creates a virtuous cycle. We get more appreciation for the brand and better recruits and it makes people want to promote us more. It will never be my plan to be an icon of sorts. If anything, I want to create way more of those folks. There is also something to say about people talking about me way too much because it is a crutch. There are plenty of great founders who look like me and deserve that recognition. That is the one thing I want to evangelize.

CF: How do you think about prioritizing your time?

TW: It’s easy. I only care about three things in my life: My faith, my family and my work in that order. I only allocate my time to those three things and anything else is superfluous. My team knows that I come into the office between 8:30 and 9 and I leave between 6:30 and 7 because I have to eat with my son and put him to bed. There is no question about that. I need to practice what I preach. I don’t have email on my phone. What’s fascinating is that if something blows up, someone would call me. No one ever calls me. It shows that it is easier than people make it. You just need to define it. That is something that I planned.

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Is Hispanic Marketing Dying Or Maturing?

by , December 3, 2015, 10:21 AM (A MediaPost Op-Ed)


All industries go through cycles and evolve. Most follow a common trajectory that begins with rapid growth, then slows down, matures and ultimately faces creative destruction (which J. Schumpeter coined the “ultimate fact of capitalism.”) I’ve been thinking about this in relation to the state of the Hispanic marketing industry, as the industry trade association AHAA recently celebrated its 20thanniversary.

Not a Growth Industry Anymore

The state of the Hispanic ad business generates a lot of emotional responses, as seen in my January 2011 article, “2011: The Year of Creative Destruction.” Ask anyone who works in Hispanic marketing for their perspective and you’re likely to get a gloomy response. You’ll hear, “It’s in decline” or “it’s never been harder” or “the future is uncertain.”

Is Hispanic Marketing Dying? 

A number of indicators point that way.

There has been an appreciable decline in the number and size of Hispanic agencies in the last five years. From the closing of former powerhouse agencies like Bromley, to consolidation of shops like Vidal Partnership and MGSCOMM, the Hispanic ad business seems to be heading in the wrong direction. There are very few mid-sized Hispanic agencies left in some of the biggest Hispanic markets in the U.S. like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. A simple comparison of the 2007 membership roster of AHAA shows 93 member agencies compared to only 48 in 2015.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are another gauge for the vitality of an industry. M&A in the Hispanic ad business has dropped off a cliff since its peak in the early 2000s. All the big agency holding companies have Hispanic shops and do not appear to be in the market for Hispanic agencies. The only Hispanic ad agency to be purchased by a major network in the last 10 years was La Comunidad by SapientNitro in 2014. The valuation multiples I hear for Hispanic agencies are pretty low – probably the best indicator of the bearish outlook on the business. The situation is similar in the Hispanic media business.

A Growing Market?

Yet the Hispanic population continues to grow and is quickly approaching 60 million and 20% of the total U.S. population. Investment in Hispanic marketing has never been higher. Hispanic ad spend continues to post annual increases, with 12% growth in 2014 following almost continuous year-over-year growth since 2003 (Kantar Media). Hispanic consumers are also generally viewed as one of the most attractive consumer segments in the U.S. with their rising socioeconomic status, large and growing families, and increasing consumer spending.

Maybe it’s Maturity

Hispanic marketing has all the markers of a mature industry whether you look at media or ad agencies.

Most of the largest Hispanic advertising accounts are consolidating with a handful of agencies. Of the top 50 Hispanic ad spenders in 2014, 50% of the ad spend is occurring among 27 companies that are working with just seven Hispanic ad agencies. Hispanic ad agency revenue in 2014 paints a similar picture: the top 10 Hispanic ad agencies represent 48% of the revenue generated by the top 50 Hispanic ad agencies (as reported by Advertising Age).

On the media side, TV represents 76% of all Hispanic ad spend in 2014. That media spend is concentrated within eight companies, with Univision, NBC Universal and 21st Century Fox dominating.

Looking Ahead

Two macro-trends point to further industry maturation:

  • The growing trend towards a Total Market Approach by marketers
  • The net negative immigration trend among Mexican immigrants

The next five years will likely see more consolidation. Instead of new start-up Hispanic agencies or media companies, we’re likely to see something akin to what happened in the African American marketing business – fewer agencies, fewer media companies and the continued move of multicultural marketing out of the silos.

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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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