Human Capital: Dr. Timnit Gebru says Google’s memo was ‘dehumanizing’

Welcome back to Human Capital, where I break down the latest in diversity, equity and inclusion, and labor in tech. This week, Twitter dropped its latest diversity report and Tesla released its first one ever. Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologized for the way things went down with Dr. Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher in artificial intelligence ethics.

Sign up here to get this as a weekly newsletter in your inbox every Friday at 1 p.m.

Google’s Sundar Pichai will investigate events that led up to Dr. Timnit Gebru’s exit

In light of artificial intelligence researcher Dr. Timnit Gebru’s exit from Google last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a memo to staffers, obtained by Axios, saying the company would investigate “the circumstances that led up to Dr. Gebru’s departure, examining where we could have improved and led a more respectful process.”

In Pichai’s memo, he said the company needs to “accept responsibility for the fact that a prominent Black, female leader with immense talent left Google unhappily.” He also noted how it’s had a “ripple effect” through underrepresented communities at Google.

In response, on Twitter, Gebru said she didn’t see any plans for accountability. Instead, she said she saw “further gaslighting.” In an interview with Venture Beat, Gebru said Pichai’s memo is “dehumanizing” and makes her “sound like an angry Black woman.”

They paint me as this angry Black woman because they put you in this terrible workplace, and if you speak up about it, then you become a problem, and then they start talking about de-escalation strategies.

You write emails, they get ignored. You write documents, and they get ignored. Then you discuss how it’s being done and then they talk about you as if you’re like some angry Black woman who needs to be contained.

More Black women and Latinas are founding startups, according to Project Diane

Since 2018, the number of Black women and Latina founders doubled from 334 startups to more than 650, according to Project Diane. These women have also raised more money than they did in 2018, but they’re still raising less than the national average. 

This year, Black women and Latina founders raised $3.1 billion compared to just $1 billion in 2018. Still, the median seed round for Black women is $125,000 and $200,000 for Latina founders, while the national median seed is $2.5 million.

Tesla finally released a diversity report

Tesla released its first-ever diversity report, showing the company is 34% white, 22% Hispanic, 10% Black, 21% Asian and 7% “additional groups” in the United States. Those breakdowns are not bad, but it’s worth noting Tesla employs many of those folks in its factories, which are notoriously problematic and have been the subject of allegations around racism and discrimination.  

At the leadership level, Tesla is 59% white, 25% Asian, 4% Black and 4% Hispanic. Just 1% of those in leadership roles are from “additional groups.”

Meanwhile, Tesla’s gender diversity is objectively bad. Men account for 79% of Tesla’s overall workplace and 83% of its leaders in the United States.

Twitter shows slight improvement in latest diversity report

Twitter released its latest quarterly diversity report showing an increase in the representation of women, Black, Latinx and multiracial employees across the whole company. Additionally, representation of women and Black people increased at the leadership level. Despite those gains, Twitter is still 56.7% male and 41% white. 

Uber wants drivers and delivery workers to get priority access to COVID-19 vaccine

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent a letter to all 50 governors asking them to prioritize giving drivers and delivery workers the vaccine as essential workers. In the letter, Khosrowshahi argues that the work of drivers and delivery people has become essential. That’s why Uber wants them to get the vaccine “quickly, easily and for free,” he wrote in the letter. Additionally, Uber has offered to help share information about the vaccine and encouraging those who are eligible to get vaccinated.

Apple was reportedly complicit in violating Chinese labor laws

Three former Apple Supplier Responsibility employees recently said the company did nothing when its suppliers violated the temporary worker labor law in China. That law required that no more than 10% of a factory’s workforce be temporary workers. According to The Information, Apple didn’t take action because it was worried about an increase in costs, a drain on resources and delays in product launches. 

Leave a Comment