A former Google employee recently revealed how racial discrimination prompted her to leave the multinational technology company.
She narrated how, just months before she quit, a White male colleague’s comment would encapsulate her unpleasant working experience with Google.
“He said, ‘It must’ve been really easy for you to get your job because you’re an Asian woman and people assume you’re good at math,’” Zhang said.
“It was absolutely stunning. I remember me just emotionally shutting down.”
Zhang, a 27-year-old Harvard graduate, soon realized that being a woman of color in Google can be isolating.
“I didn’t see a lot of women, especially Asian women, black women or other women of color in the executive ranks,” she said.
“I didn’t see any opportunities for myself … The culture there is really discouraging, and that’s ultimately why I left.”
Zhang is now debunking Google’s reputation as a company that is intolerant towards discrimination.
“Google is seen as the pinnacle … a cultural beacon for a lot of people in the tech industry. People really try to emulate Google. The fact that the bar is so low really sets an example for the rest of the industry,” she said.
“People had this broad concept of ‘racism doesn’t exist at Google and sexism doesn’t exist at Google,’” she added.
“Just because your officemates aren’t saying racial slurs out loud doesn’t mean they’re not racist.”
Zhang said was initially excited after Google hired her in 2013, noting that she found the company’s “don’t be evil” motto to be particularly endearing. She was also enamored by its perceived reputation as a “politically progressive” company that uses “technology to improve the world.”
“Everybody wants to work at Google,” she said.
But the feeling of “disposable” soon built up over time in her stay at the company. Her value as an engineer also became increasingly underappreciated, especially since most of the engineers and her managers were men.
“It’s just these little daily aggressions that really add up over time,” she said. “Having a lack of people who look like you, in general, is demoralizing.”
Zhang, who now works at Spotify, pointed out that while Google has kept a good and transparent public image, the culture within the company is far less impressive.
“They care about getting good press, but they don’t actually want to put in the work to understand racism and sexism.”
Google has been under a lot of scrutiny ever since former Google software engineer James Damore penned an anti-diversity memo, which circulated internally. Damore was terminated shortly after.
Feature image via TDD