I don't know why, but right now I want really badly to say 'google' like you say the 'cookie' in the cookie crisp commercials. So yeah, Google. Today I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted at the Boulder Google office, called Google.GetAJob(). It was specifically for female college students in tech.
I was sofaking excited, you have no idea. I'm going to Google! Whooo hoo! I'm going to get to see the inside of the offices and talk to people who work there and YAY. They're going to love me and offer me an job and I'm going to get to play with them forever and ever!
Everything you've heard about the offices is true. (I signed an NDA but I don't think the presence of kitchens in their offices was covered, so I'm going to risk it - plus, it's nothing that hasn't been said before). There really is food within 300 feet of you at all times. There really are massages available three days a week. There is a 'decompression room' with curtained off lounge chairs. In the Boulder office, at least, there is a bouldering wall and a Rock Band set up. There are bean bag chairs.
There is a teepee.
There are two cafes in addition to the micro kitchens found every 300 feet.
Some of it's a little silly. For example, the dishes in the cafeteria have color coded labels - green, yellow, and red. Green means good for you, red bad. I find that cute but oddly invasive. If you only provide foods you feel good about serving to your employees, that's a little much, but at least you're sticking with your guns. This way feels sort of shaming, which I'm never a fan of. 'Should you be eating that? Are you sure?'
I'm being a little judgey, I know. I think that's because of the point I'm about to make that I've taken my dear sweet time getting around to:
I didn't like it there.
There were three main reasons.
First, everyone I had the opportunity to talk to was self congratulatory to the extreme. You know that famous speech they give at Ivy League schools - look left, look right, only one of you is going to make it here? It was like that, except everyone was young and pretty and called themselves Googlers. Perhaps that was a function of the type of individuals who volunteer to spend their day escorting a bunch of college women around, though?
Second, there were very few women there. The Boulder office has about 200 people, and I saw rooms full of men everywhere we went - and every woman I saw was somehow involved in the event. There was a definite feeling that they'd all been dragged front and center just to show us that they exist. According to the always reliable internets, Google gets somewhere between 1300 and 6000 applications a day. With that many applicants, if you can't diversify, you're not trying. (The event was ostensibly a step in the right direction, but they weren't actually recruiting us and one person actually told me that they find men do better with their interviews so they're trying to help us interview like men. If your interview process isn't bringing in the range of employees that you want, does it make more sense to change the process or to change the applicants? Oh wait, I know this one - THE PROCESS.)
Third and most importantly, the amenities felt like slight of hand. I can't think of any better way to explain it.
- 'So what kind of hours do the employees on this project put in?' 'Hey look, a teepee!'
- 'What's the plan for diversifying the workforce?' 'The air in the office is cleaner than the air outside!'
- 'What kind of opportunities are there for working with the research group?' 'Let's go look at the Flatirons from the private deck!' (Yes, they were gorgeous. Obviously.)
- 'What's your favorite thing about working here?' 'Here, have a Google tee shirt!'
Oh, also a fourth thing:
I was given these two stickers simultaneously. (If you can't see it, one is a sticker that says 'I'm a woman in tech. That doesn't mean everything has to be pink.' The other is the Google name with the second o replaced by a female sign that's pink.)
COME ON, GOOGLE.
I'm disappointed. I really wanted them to love me - it never even occurred to me that I wouldn't love them. After I got home, I did some perusing, and I quite a bit of proof that Google is not for everyone. (No one on that thread explaining why they left mentioned the unfortunate male/female ratio - but it appears that no one on that thread is a woman, either.)
I feel like Google was my career Santa Claus, and I just found out it he's actually a regular dude in a fake beard.
I hope no one ever offers to let me tour Whole Foods.
P.S. Just to head this off - yes, Google's male/female engineer ratio is probably similar to other big technology companies. A) I don't think that's ideal anywhere, and B) IT'S GOOGLE. They set the bar higher all by themselves, it's only fair for me to ask them to live up to that.