Google is giving $1 million to Silicon Valley organizations that serve Latino students and their families as it pushes to increase the diversity of its workforce.
The Internet giant’s philanthropic arm Google.org is making a $750,000 grant to Silicon Valley Education Foundation to support its work narrowing the achievement gap and $250,000 to the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley to increase high school and graduation rates for Latino students. Both organizations are working to build career pathways for Latinos into tech companies like Google.
Ron Gonzales, president and CEO of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, says programs like his are “low-cost, local solutions to this (tech) industry crisis of not having enough diversity in the work force.”
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Hispanics are the second-largest population group in the country after whites. In California, they make up nearly 40% of the population and in Silicon Valley 27%. They are heavy users of technology and social media and they adopt smartphones at a faster rate than other U.S. ethnic groups. Yet, in Silicon Valley tech companies, they comprise a distinct minority, making up 6% of employees, versus the 22% of employees in non-tech firms in the area, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The shortage of Latinos is a pressing problem for Silicon Valley’s tech industry which is competing in an increasingly global marketplace. And Hispanics, who have higher rates of unemployment in California and wide disparities in higher education and homeownership, are being shut out of one of the fastest-growing, highest-paying sectors of the American economy.
Google, like other major tech companies, is searching for innovative ways to put computers in the hands of kids from all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Google says its research with Gallup shows that 51% of African-American students and 47% of Hispanic students don’t have access to computer science classes in school. Google wants to encourage more students to pursue careers in the technology field and to raise awareness of other opportunities in the tech industry.
The Hispanic Googler Network, a group of Latino employees inside Google, is a big part of that effort. During Hispanic Heritage Month, the group put the spotlight on Latino heritage and culture with events and an exhibit. The Hispanic Googler Network held a discussion with Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters and published an online collection of artifacts, archives and stories that explores the breadth of Latino culture from ancient civilizations to contemporary street art.
Bobadilla says she was lucky. “Growing up, the only engineer I knew was a Latino engineer,” she says.
Her father, a civil engineer and a programmer, taught her how to code, how computers work, even how to troubleshoot the family printer. He also inspired her deep pride in her family’s Mexican heritage.
“I know that there is unfortunately a political climate that categorizes Latino immigrants as a detriment,” she says. “I’m proud of my father. He’s what Latino innovation looks like.”
Bobadilla says she hopes the Google grants will provide young Latinos the same opportunities she has had to experience “what tech can mean for their careers and for their communities.”