Tech giant Google aims to strengthen partnerships with HBCUs
Recently at the University of California’s Berkeley campus, Google aims to create partnerships with HBCUs (Historical Black Colleges and Universities). Graduate students from across the country came together at UC Berkeley earlier this month to compete in the John E. Martin Mental Healthcare Challenge, which was co-hosted by both Berkeley and Google.
Teams presented strategies for how companies could implement programs and benefits to support the mental health of employees. Eight historically Black colleges took part, which included Alabama A&M University, Claflin University, Florida A&M University, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, Tennessee State University, and Winston-Salem State University. This signaled a larger shift in Google’s attitude toward partnerships with HBCUs.
Besides providing support by solely funding, Google aims to create opportunities to meet with people directly. According to Derek McGowan, Google’s Head of Talent Pathways & Collaborations, the company’s focus used to be on developing pipelines to HBCUs, but now it’s more about forming deliberate partnerships with HBCUs.
Google was engulfed in a scandal just months before McGowan joined the business, following the termination of two notable Black women, recruiter April Curley and AI researcher Timnit Gebru. Because of the firings, HBCU 20×20, an organization that connects students and graduates with jobs and internships, decided to cancel their association with Google due to claims of discrimination by the women.
According to Google’s 2021 diversity annual report, only 4.4 percent of their U.S. workforce is Black, which is significantly less than the 13 percent proportion of the American labor force that Black people currently make up. In its diversity report, Google mentions its partnerships with HBCUs as a means to improve the number of Black Googlers.
The Grow with Google HBCU Career Readiness Program is one of these efforts, which will be launched in October 2020 in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and will bring the company’s training tools to school career centers. Google has invested over $1 million in these centers.
Another initiative came this summer, when Google awarded a total of $50 million to ten historically black colleges and universities, with each receiving a $5 million unrestricted grant to be used for scholarships, building tech infrastructure on campuses, developing curricula, and career readiness programs. It was Google’s biggest investment in HCBUs to date.
With Google Annexes, the name of their sites at five HCBUs, Google aims to trains students and professors with Google technology and knowledge. Although Google is delivering a significant amount of content in partnerships with HBCUs, the viability of this new strategy will be determined by the hiring and retention of new voices.