A coder and engineer for tech giant Google is opening up about her unique experience as one of the company’s very few Black employees as the firm and Silicon Valley as whole struggle to diversify its hiring pool.
During a recent appearance on the GHOGH podcast, mobile app developer Bria Sullivan spoke about her work at the billion-dollar company, as well as her efforts to help others like her get a shot in the tech industry.
Like most, however, Sullivan had a few bones to pick with her current employer.
“This is my problem. I feel like they hire the whitest black candidate,” the California native opined. “They hire someone who’s exactly like them, but Black.”
“It feels very obvious,” Sullivan added, noting how the Black community falls prey to it much of the time. “We cheer on … yes, it’s really great that, that person is there. [But] I feel like … actually put someone in a position where they’re running an organization.”
Sullivan lauded the fact that a Black person heads Google’s diversity office and said that while it’s great to have someone who can empathize with her, “at the end of the day, they still work for you (Google).”
Speaking to whether the company has a “Clarence Thomas problem” in that it hires Black professionals that aren’t “really going to move the needle” or work in the interest of Black folks, Sullivan said it absolutely does.
“I feel like they hire someone that meets exactly their qualifications and I feel like this is a problem,” she told host Jamarlin Martin. “And when I was saying there’s a hiring problem, a lot of what people are asking for is they don’t realize that they’re asking for a white person. They might find a black person that does (meet the criteria), and it’s … probably not going to be the type of black person that’s actually going to do the thing that we want because it’s what THEY want.”
Leading tech companies like Facebook, Google and Apple have faced criticism for the lack of melanin among their top leadership positions and have tried improving its diversity, but to little avail. In its 2019 Diversity Report, released in April, Google reported the percentage of Black and Latino hires rose 0.7 percent to 4.8 percent globally and 0.5 percent to 6.8 percent in the U.S.
“Both Black+ and Latinx+ tech hiring have increased since last year and are contributing to gains in representation,” the company said of its tech hires.
Hiring rates for women in the company also saw an increase, reaching 33.2 percent — up 1.9 percent — globally and 34.9 percent — up 4.5 percent — in the U.S., per the report.
Sullivan, a former Microsoft intern, said its been the support of her current team and manager that’s kept her on board at Google.
“I can say any radical thing I want or check someone and I’m not reprimanded for it or I haven’t really had to do that, at least on my immediate team,” which she described as one of the “most diverse teams at Google.” She proudly leads a group that consists of two Black interns, and three Black engineers.
Additionally, Sullivan said she has a “manager who will stick up for me and will say like, ‘don’t talk over her’ or something like that. And that’s actually pretty rare.”