Google opening ‘Howard West’ in move to boost diversity

Google is taking recruiting from historically black colleges to a new level by opening a “Howard West” right at its headquarters in Mountain View.

Starting this summer, 25 to 30 juniors and seniors who are computer science majors at Washingt0n, D.C.-based Howard University will attend a three-month program at Google, the company announced Thursday. The students will be taught by Google engineers and Howard faculty.

Google hopes to expand the program to other HCBUs “in the near future,” said Bonita Stewart, vice president of global partnerships, in a blog post Thursday.

“Howard happens to be my alma mater, so I am especially proud to share that our formal recruiting from the university has evolved into a residency for Black CS majors right here at the Googleplex,” Stewart wrote. She said Howard West hopes to solve “critical gaps” that black computer-science majors face in getting jobs in the tech industry, such as access to mentors and role models.

According to Google’s most recent diversity report (from January 2016), its technical workforce is 57 percent white, 37 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic and 1 percent African-American.

Howard West is an offshoot of the Google In Residence program, which has embedded Google engineers in HCBUs such as Howard, Morehouse College in Atlanta and several other universities. The GIR program has placed interns at Google, with 62 interns from HCBUs coming to the company this summer, according to USA Today.

Last year, Bloomberg wrote a story titled “Why Doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders?” Howard’s GIR program was mentioned in the story, along with the tidbit that in 2016, just two Howard computer-science students had secured jobs in the valley.

That story, like other stories about the lack of diversity in the tech industry, mentioned “cultural fit” as a factor.

That’s something Howard West hopes to help with, with the program hoping “to make [Howard students] feel right at home here in Mountain View,” Stewart said in her post.

Howard West tuition will be paid for by Howard and private donors, according to the Washington Post, and the students will also get housing and a spending stipend.


Photo: Google employees ride bicycles along Shorebird Way in Mountain View on June 24, 2014. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)


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