This statement comes from Google CEO Eric Schmidt on the corporate web page titled “Google Celebrates Diversity”: “Our products and tools serve an audience that is globally and culturally diverse—so it’s a strategic advantage that our teams not only encompass the world’s best talent but also reflect the rich diversity of our customers, users, and publishers. It is imperative that we hire people with disparate perspectives and ideas, and from a broad range of cultures and backgrounds. This philosophy won’t just ensure our access to the most gifted employees; it will also lead to better products and create more engaged and interesting teams.”“Diversity@Google: A place to be you,” Google, accessed May 31, 2011, http://www.google.com/corporate/diversity/index.html.
This is a very carefully worded paragraph, and beneath its motivational tone there are firm statements about diversity in the Google workplace. They include the following:
- Google carefully avoids mentioning race, gender, and similar requirements for any particular position. The company doesn’t get involved in discussions about how many Catholic females over fifty years old and with a disability work there. Like most contemporary organizations, Google avoids strict quota systems.
- Google will seek to hire “the world’s best talent.”
- Google, apart from hiring the best raw talent, will seek employees reflecting “the rich diversity of our customers.”
There are also clear justifications for the diversity side of the hiring strategy. Google will take action to contract a rainbow of workers because
- diversity in hiring will help Google connect with its diverse consumer base,
- diversity in hiring will ensure Google has access to all gifted employees,
- diversity in hiring will help Google produce better products,
- diversity in hiring will help Google create more engaged and interesting teams.
Concretely, what is Google doing to diversify the people forming its company? Besides directly hiring a diverse workforce, the company offers a number of scholarships and internships aimed at those historically underrepresented in the technology industry.“Diversity and students,” Google, accessed May 31, 2011, http://www.google.com/diversity/students.html.
- In a nutshell, the commonly cited arguments in favor of affirmative action include the following:
- It creates fairness and equal opportunity within organizations.
- It benefits third parties: society as a whole will be more harmonious as discrimination recedes.
- It reduces tensions in an organization.
- It benefits organizations by helping them reach their goals.
- It is compensation for past wrongs.
- Which of these arguments appear to stand behind affirmative action at Google? Explain. Are any of the other justifications applicable even though they may not be the reasonGoogle seeks diverse talent?
- In sweeping terms there are two types of arguments in favor of affirmative action. First, it serves a broad social good by integrating society. Second, companies employing affirmative action do better in the marketplace than those that don’t. If you had to choose one of these as a better and more persuasive argument for affirmative action, which would you choose? Why?
- At some publicly funded universities, scholarships are, in essence, set aside for minorities. Google privately funds scholarships that are, in essence, set aside for minorities. Taxpayers, in other words, fund one affirmative action endeavor and private investors the other. Now, is one endeavor ethically superior to the other? Why or why not?
- In a nutshell, the basic arguments against affirmative action include the following:
- It is essentially discrimination, and therefore it reinforces what it combats.
- The best way to eliminate discrimination is to let equal opportunity law, markets, and time do their work.
- It is unfair to minorities who are treated as tokens.
- Forcing organizations to evaluate talent in ways outside of merit diminishes their competitiveness.
- It creates resentment and tensions in an organization.
- It doesn’t compensate past wrongs (because those benefitting and suffering today aren’t those who suffered and benefitted in the past).
- Looking at this list, how do you suppose Google CEO Eric Schmidt might argue against each item?
- With an eye on these arguments against affirmative action, can you make the case that Google’s efforts are ethically reproachable?
- What does the veil of ignorance test for discrimination? Put yourself under the veil of ignorance. Now, do you believe Google’s hiring policies are ethically good or bad? Why?
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