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Google releases first diversity report since the infamous anti-diversity memo

Google has released its first diversity report since the infamous James Damore memo and the fallout that resulted from it. Those are both long stories but the TL;DR is that Damore said some sexist things in a memo that went viral. He got fired and then sued Google for firing him. That lawsuit, however, was shot down by the National Labor Relations Board in February. Then, it turned out another employee, Tim Chevalier, alleges he was fired for advocating for diversity, as reported by Gizmodo later that month. Now, Chevalier is suing Google.

“I was retaliated against for pointing out white privilege and sexism as they exist in the workplace at Google and I think that’s wrong,” Chevalier told TechCrunch few months ago about why he decided to sue. “I wanted to be public about it so that the public would know about what’s going on with treatment of minorities at Google.”

In court, Google is trying to move the case into arbitration. Earlier this month, Google’s attorney said Chevalier previously “agreed in writing to arbitrate the claims asserted” in his original complaint, according to court documents filed June 11, 2018.

Now that I’ve briefly laid out the state of diversity and inclusion at Google, here’s the actual report, which is Google’s fifth diversity report to date and by far the most comprehensive. For the first time, Google has provided information around employee retention and intersectionality.

First, here are some high-level numbers:

  • 30.9 percent female globally
  • 2.5 percent black in U.S.
  • 3.6 percent Latinx In U.S.
  • 0.3 percent Native American in U.S.
  • 4.2 percent two or more races in U.S.

Google also recognizes its gender reporting is “not inclusive of our non-binary population” and is looking for the best way to measure gender moving forward. As Google itself notes, representation for women, black and Latinx people has barely increased, and for Latinx representation, it’s actually gotten worse. Last year, Google was 31 percent female, two percent black and four percent Latinx.

At the leadership level, Google has made some progress year over year, but the company’s higher ranks are still 74.5 percent male and 66.9 percent white. So, congrats on the progress but please do better next time because this is not good enough.

Moving forward, Google says its goal is to reach or exceed the available talent pool in terms of underrepresented talent. But what that would actually look like is not clear. In an interview with TechCrunch, Google VP of Diversity and Inclusion Danielle Brown told me Google looks at skills, jobs and census data around underrepresented groups graduating with relevant degrees. Still, she said she’s not sure what the representation numbers would look like if Google achieved that. In response to what a job well done would look like, Brown said:

You know as well as we do that it’s a long game. Do we ever get to good? I don’t know. I’m optimistic we’ll continue to make progress. It’s not a challenge we’ll solve over night. It’s quite systemic. Despite doing it for a long time, my team and I remain really optimistic that this is possible.

As noted above, Google has also provided data around attrition for the first time. It’s no surprise — to me, at least — that attrition rates for black and Latinx employees were the highest in 2017. To be clear, attrition rates are an indicator of how many people leave a company. When one works at a company that has so few black and brown people in leadership positions, and at the company as a whole, the unfortunate opportunity to be the unwelcome recipient of othering, micro-aggressions, discrimination and so forth are plentiful.

“A clear low light, obviously, in the data is the attrition for black and Latinx men and women in the U.S.,” Brown told TechCrunch. “That’s an area where we’re going to be laser-focused.”

She added that some of Google’s internal survey data shows employees are more likely to leave when they report feeling like they’re not included. That’s why Google is doing some work around ally training and “what it means to be a good ally,” Brown told me.

“One thing we’ve all learned is that if you stop with unconscious bias training and don’t get to conscious action, you’re not going to get the type of action you need,” she said.

From an attrition stand point, where Google is doing well is around the retention of women versus men. It turns out women are staying at Google at higher rates than men, across both technical and non-technical areas. Meanwhile, Brown has provided bi-weekly attrition numbers to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and his leadership team since January in an attempt to intervene in potential issues before they become bigger problems, she said.

via Google: Attrition figures have been weighted to account for seniority differences across demographic groups to ensure a consistent baseline for comparison.

As noted above, Google for the first time broke out information around intersectionality. According to the company’s data, women of all races are less represented than men of the same race. That’s, again, not surprising. While Google is 3 percent black, just 1.2 percent of its black population is female. And Latinx women make up just 1.7 percent of Google’s 5.3 percent Latinx employee base. That means, as Google notes, the company’s gains in representation of women has “largely been driven by” white and Asian women.

Since joining Google last June from Intel, Brown has had a full plate. Shortly after the Damore memo went viral in August — just a couple of months after Brown joined — Brown said “part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

Brown also said the document is “not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”

Today, Brown told me the whole anti-diversity memo was “an interesting learning opportunity for me to understand the culture and how some Googlers view this work.”

“I hope what this report underscores is our commitment to this work,” Brown told me. “That we know we have a systemic and persistent challenge to solve at Google and in the tech industry.”

Brown said she learned “not every employee is going to agree with Google’s viewpoint.” Still, she does want employees to feel empowered to discuss either positive or negative views. But “just like any workplace, that does not mean anything goes.”

When someone doesn’t follow Google’s code of conduct, she said, “we have to take it very seriously” and “try to make those decisions without regard to political views.”

Megan Rose Dickey’s PGP fingerprint for email is: 2FA7 6E54 4652 781A B365 BE2E FBD7 9C5F 3DAE 56BD

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Rumored full mouse and keyboard support for Xbox One could change the gaming landscape

Microsoft may be readying a new weapon that could shift the balance in the interminable console wars: the mouse. Wait, you say, didn’t they promise that years ago, and aren’t there peripherals already available? Kind of. But going whole hog into PC-style controls allows Microsoft to create powerful synergies with Windows, performing a flanking maneuver against arch-rival Sony.

Mouse and keyboard is, of course, the control method of choice for many games on PC, but it has remained elusive on consoles. Some fancy accessories have made it possible to do it, and years ago Microsoft said it would be adding in mouse support to games on its console, but the feature has in practice proved frustratingly limited. More on-screen pointing has been done with Wiimotes by far.

Windows Central got hold of an internal presentation ostensibly from Microsoft that details what could be a full-court press on the mouse and keyboard front, which is one the company is uniquely suited to attempting.

In fact, you may very rightly wonder why it hasn’t been attempted before now. The trouble isn’t implementing it but the changes that have to be made downstream of that implementation.

One of these things? Why not?

For one thing, hardly any games will support the control method out of the box. They’ve all been made with very specific hardware in mind and it’s nontrivial to add a pointer to menus, change relative camera movement to absolute movement, and so on.

And for another, mouse and keyboard is simply a superior form of input for some games. Certainly for the likes of real-time strategy and simulations, which involve a lot of menus and precise clicking — which accounts for the relative lack of those on consoles. But more importantly in the gaming economy, first-person shooters are massively dominated by mouse users.

That may sound sort of like a gauntlet thrown to the ground between PC and console players, but this argument has played out before many times and the mouse and keyboard players always come out on top, often by embarrassing margins.

Usually that doesn’t present a big problem, since, for example, competitive Call of Duty leagues are pretty much all on console. You just don’t have match-ups between mice and controllers.

That’s starting to change, however, with the introduction of major cross-platform games like Fortnite. When you have Xbox, Switch, and PC players all on the same server, the latter arguably has a huge advantage for a number of reasons.

You don’t bring an analog stick to a sniper fight.

And on the other hand, the Xbox One is lagging behind the PlayStation 4 in sales and in attractive exclusives. A fresh play that expands the Xbone into a growing niche — say, pro and competitive gaming — would be a huge boon just about now.

That’s why the document Windows Central received makes so much sense. The presentation suggests that all Windows-compatible USB mice and keyboards will work with Xbox One, including wireless ones that work via dongle. That would change the game considerably, so to speak.

The devices would have to report themselves and be monitored, of course: it wouldn’t do for a game to think it’s receiving controller input but instead getting mouse input. And that leaves the door open to cheating and so on as well. So device IDs and such will be carefully monitored.

Whether and how to implement mouse and keyboard controls will still be left entirely to the developer, the slides note, which of course leaves us with the same problems as before. But what allowing any mouse to be used does, combined with a huge amount of players doing so on a major property like Fortnite, is create a sort of critical mass.

Right now the handful of players with custom, expensive setups to mouse around in a handful of games just isn’t enough for developers to dedicate significant resources to accommodating. But say a few hundred thousand people decide to connect their spare peripherals to the console? All of the sudden that’s an addressable market — it provides a competitive advantage to be the developer that supports it.

Mouse support may also provide the bridge that enables the longstanding Microsoft fantasy of merging its Xbox and Windows ecosystems at least in part. It unifies the experience, allows for improved library sharing, and generally shifts the Xbox One from a dedicated console to essentially a standardized low-cost, high performance gaming PC.

This may have the further effect of helping put pressure on Valve and its Steam store, which dominates the PC gaming world to the point of near monopoly. Being able to play on Xbox or Windows, share achievements and save games, have gameplay parity and so on — this is the kind of compelling multi-platform experience Microsoft has been flirting with for years.

Imagine that: a Microsoft ecosystem that spans PCs and consoles, embraces competitive gaming at all levels, and is easy and simple to set up. Sony would have little recourse, having no desktop business to leverage, and Valve’s own attempts to cross the console divide have been largely abortive. In a way it seems like Microsoft is poised for a critical hit — if only it manages to take advantage of it.

Will this just be the latest chapter in the long story of failed mouse support by consoles? Or is Microsoft laying the groundwork for a major change to how it approaches the gaming world? We didn’t see anything at E3 this year, so the answer isn’t forthcoming, but Microsoft may be spurred by this leak (assuming it’s genuine) to publicize the program a bit more and speak in more concrete terms how this potential shift would take place.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Chirp brings Twitter to Apple Watch

Twitter’s history of being a bit unfriendly to developers building third-party clients hasn’t frightened off Will Bishop. The young Australian developer recently released a version of Twitter for Apple Watch called Chirp, in order to fill the void created by Twitter pulling its official app last fall. (Let’s see how long it will last, shall we?)

Bishop says he was already interested in building for Apple Watch before Chirp, having previously developed a micro version of Reddit called Nano. Afterwards, he heard from a lot of people asking for a Twitter watch app, he says.

“Seeing as so many people were disappointed when Twitter pulled their official app, it only made sense to at least try,” Bishop says of building Chirp. “A lot of people think using your watch for more than 30 seconds is ridiculous, but I figure if people want to use it, let them.”

The Apple Watch hasn’t served to become a sizable new app platform for developers, and actually saw a number of bigger names pull their dedicated Watch apps last year besides just Twitter, like Amazon, Google Maps, Instagram, Slack, TripAdvisor, eBay, and others. Instead, users tend to interact with their Watch through notifications – not by launching apps directly and tapping the tiny screen. It just doesn’t make that much sense for anything more than a quick reply, as your iPhone is likely nearby and does a better job.

But Chirp could fill the role of needing to quickly reply to Twitter notifications, like @mentions or DMs.

The app lets you interact with Twitter from the Apple Watch’s interface, including browsing your timeline, catching up on trends, viewing people’s individual profiles, and favoriting and replying to tweets, and more.

In an updated released over the weekend, the app now also adds support for reading and replying to Direct Messages and using Twitter Lists.

These features are available via Chirp’s paid tier, Chirp Pro, which is a pay-what-you-want upgrade starting at $1.99 and going up to $4.99 USD.

In addition to DMs and Lists, Chirp Pro lets you post and reply to tweets, search for users and tweets, and view more than five trends.

In other words, if you want to actually use Twitter not just view it from your wrist, you’ll want Chirp Pro.

Despite having a niche user base, attention detail has been paid here – Chirp even lets you customize the Watch app’s user interface by toggling on or off various elements like Images, the Retweet Counter, Like Counter, Retweet & Like Buttons, and Timestamps. This helps to reduce screen clutter, which is useful given the area Chirp has to work with.

Because of how Chirp is designed, Bishop said the app isn’t as impacted by the forthcoming API changes as other clients.

“The new API restrictions are mainly for the activity APIs, streaming in particular. However, the watch does not support streaming anyway, so fortunately I am not [impacted],” he said. “The only API I was affected by were the changes to the direct messaging API,” Bishop added, noting this is why Chirp didn’t have messaging right away.

Bishop says he plans to keep Chirp free, as “downloads mean more to me than money,” he says. But he hopes people who like using it will pay to unlock the expanded features. The app competes with Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and Bluebird on Apple Watch.

To use Chirp, download the iOS app and add it to your Apple Watch.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Meru Health wants to make mental health care more accessible

Getting mental health services can be burdensome. And if you’re already going through a tough time, you’re probably looking for help sooner than later. But based on the current landscape, it can take months to find the right therapist who also takes your insurance.

This is where Meru Health hopes to come in. By providing its service as a benefit for employers to offer to their employees, Meru Health can operate as a first line of treatment where people can get help in a matter of weeks, Meru Health co-founder and CEO Kristian Ranta told TechCrunch.

Ranta, who lost his brother to suicide a few years ago, said there are “unfortunately lots of people suffering from depression and who are vulnerable to burnout.”

It’s true. Worldwide, more than 300 million people suffer from depression and 260 million suffer from anxiety disorders, according to the World Health Organization.

Meru Health offers an eight-week treatment program for depression, burnout and anxiety. The program, currently led by five licensed therapists, utilizes both cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral activation and mindfulness-based intervention. Provided as an employee benefit, Meru Health only charges companies if the patients report feeling any better.

Meru Health’s current customers include WeWork and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. To date, Meru Health says 75 percent of the people who go through its program report symptom reduction.

Other startups working in the mental health space include Pacifica and Lantern, a mental health startup that offers tools to deal with stress, anxiety and body image. To date, Lantern has raised more than $20 million in funding. Another one is Talkspace, which aims to be an alternative to traditional therapy.

Down the road, Meru Health may make its service available to everyday consumers, but right now, Ranta said the focus is on selling to larger employers and doing clinical research. Meru Health is also looking to bring on board a doctor to help with medication management and, possibly, even providing prescriptions, Ranta said. Meru Health, which is currently participating in Y Combinator, envisions bringing on a medical doctor post-YC.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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