California’s tech industry has a long way to go in regard to racial and gender parity in both employment opportunities and upward mobility, yet one African American woman has managed to defy the odds.
Just recently, tech giant Google announced the promotion of Valeisha Butterfield Jones. She was tapped to head the company’s global women and Black community engagement initiative.
Many believe the well-deserved appointment did not come out of the blue. The tech industry is playing catch-up in providing opportunities for Blacks, educated in STEM, to find opportunities in the tech companies and the industry has been criticized for its complacency.
When the appointment was announced, Jones, a proud graduate of HBCU Clark Atlanta University in Georgia, said, “I met one-on-one with Googlers and heard their stories and watched senior leaders experience an awakening as they learned some of the challenges young Black professionals face in tech.”
Jones has established a reputation as a clarion voice in the high-tech industry who works to promote and advocate for Historically Black Colleges and Universities to be included relative to the promotion of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. An effort that, over time, could help change the demographics of the Google empire.
The broader tech industry in California hasn’t progressed much further in this regard. On average, in Silicon Valley, less than eight percent of tech employees are Black. This was most evident when an analysis of the industry’s employment demographics from 2016 showed 90 percent of the industry’s workforce was White and Asian.
Google is not only feeling pressure from African Americans and other minorities to level the playing field in regard to diversity, the women’s movement has also raised its voice for equality. The cries for gender parity sweeping the nation has reached the employment ranks at Google as well.
Last September, three former employees filed a lawsuit against the corporation, claiming it systematically paid women less than men, slow-walked female promotions, assigned them to lower paying jobs and overall denied them opportunities without consideration that were allegedly afforded men.
Although the women also sought class action status for their claim, last December a California judge rejected that request. Ruling in Google’s favor, the judge stated the class as defined was overbroad. According to the judge, it did not, “purport to distinguish between female employees who may have valid claims against Google based upon its alleged conduct from those who do not.”
In the ongoing controversy over how Google values its minority and female employees, advocates of both groups believe the company made a successful step in the right direction with the promotion of Jones.Stephanie Williams, Features WriterStephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager in the telecommunications industry before retiring to pursue her passion as a reporter and non-fiction writer. Beyond writing, Williams’ personal interests include stone-carving, drumming and sculpting.