Diversity Report Shows Google Still Has A Diversity Problem

In the last 12 months, there’s been a great deal of attention paid to the lack of diversity in the tech sector. There are few places in America more white and male than Silicon Valley, and increasingly, companies are feeling the public pressure to do something about that. So far, though, it doesn’t appear that they’ve made much progress. The Washington Post just shined a bright light on Google’s annual diversity reportand the numbers show that the tech behemoth still has a long way to go. 

Parent company Alphabet, which has roughly 85,000 employees worldwide primarily at Google, revealed that Google’s global workforce is 69.1 percent men and 30.9 percent women, which represents virtually no change from a year ago. Only 2.5 percent of the company’s staff is African-American or black, while 3.6 percent identified as Latinx. Each of these figures represents an increase of 0.1 percent over 2017—modest progress at best.

“The data in this report shows that despite significant effort, and some pockets of success, we need to do more to achieve our desired diversity and inclusion outcomes,” Google said in its report.

“In order to achieve our desired outcomes, we need to do more,” added Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president and chief diversity officer. “We are really committed to that.”

The debate over diversity in Silicon Valley picked up in mid-2017, when one employee’s internal memo claimed that “genetic differences” were “why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.” The writer of the memo was fired, and Google moved quickly to make diversity a greater priority. Brown launched a new strategy, which included reviewing representation data every two weeks.

Simply studying the numbers won’t be enough, though. Google is up against a multi-faceted problem. Not only has the company been sluggish to hire women and people of color, but it’s had trouble keeping them as well. Google’s latest diversity report included information on not just hiring, but attrition as well. One alarming finding was that attrition rates were highest among black and Latinx employees.

It will be tough for Silicon Valley to find diversity in the years ahead, but it will be just as difficult to hold onto it.

Why Consumers Should Be Worried About AT&T’s Growth

Net neutrality is coming to an end, and that means Internet service providers (ISPs) will now have more leeway to meddle in the types of access their users have and the content available to them. That alone is scary. But as The Washington Post notes, that’s just one part of a one-two punch that could seriously hurt both competing businesses and consumers. The other part is that AT&T is now looking to buy Time Warner. If it’s successful, the corporation will form a massive conglomerate with an unprecedented level of control over Americans’ Internet use.

AT&T is already the country’s second-largest wireless network. If it gets even bigger by adding a major player in the content production game, it might be able to rig the system by steering people toward viewing their own TV shows and other content as opposed to that of their rivals’. If AT&T is able to use its economic clout to eliminate rivals, consumers would have little recourse against such a move.

“I think this could be a one-two punch to consumers and online competition,” Public Knowledge President Gene Kimmelman told the Post. “The combination of no net neutrality and video consolidation creates new bottlenecks that empower the traditional media industry to raise prices and limit online competition.”

The Federal Communications Commission passed a series of net neutrality protections in 2015 under President Barack Obama. These measures were designed to prevent companies like AT&T and Comcast from controlling people’s Internet use by slowing their connections, blocking access to certain sites, or charging more for certain movies or videos. Now that these protections are expiring, there’s little to stop them.

The new Republican administration running the FCC insists that the American people have no need to worry about any shady practices from ISPs. Chairman Ajit Pai told the Post that any such claims were simply false.

“Some of the politicians who’ve been grandstanding on this issue have been misinforming the public,” the chairman said, referring to Senate Democrats.

Either one side or the other will be proven right. In the coming months, we will find out which.

Does the #DeleteFacebook Movement Have Staying Power?

Never in its 15-year history has Facebook faced more public criticism than it does right now. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg is under immense pressure. Stock prices are falling, censure from the press is increasing, and #DeleteFacebook is trending on all major social networks. 

However, according to USA Today, there’s a good chance that talk of the site’s decline is just that—talk.

The news source recently shed light on survey data from Raymond James about people’s changing opinions regarding Facebook. Interestingly, 84 percent of users admitted that they’re “somewhat” or “very” concerned about how the company might be taking advantage of their data. In contrast, only 45 percent said they would use the site “somewhat less” or “significantly less,” and a mere 8 percent said they would quit altogether.

It may simply be the case that Facebook has become an indispensable part of people’s lives.

“It is part of the global internet infrastructure now,” USC professor Safiya Noble told USA Today. “Many people no longer use the phone book to find people or Consumer Reports to evaluate products and services. They rely upon their social networks through Facebook.”

If people can’t find it within themselves to quit Facebook, then the natural question is what alternative they have. Short of leaving the site altogether, some users are choosing to take short sabbaticals or “detox” periods from using social media. In some cases, they’re turning to other platforms like Twitter or Instagram instead.

For the most part, though, people are simply coming to grips with the fact that Facebook addiction is a reality of the modern world.

“We’re living in a digital age where everything we do, say, and search for is tracked, recorded, and logged away somewhere,” Facebook user Josh Johnson told USA Today. “If people are really beginning to delete their Facebook over these findings, they’d better go ahead and delete all their social accounts and go back to landline phones as well.”

Could Donald Trump Get Away With Firing Robert Mueller?

Image credit: Karen B. Jones / Shutterstock

To all outward appearances, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is now closing in on Donald Trump. Mueller’s team has already rolled out a series of indictments and secured several guilty pleas, including a couple from former members of Trump’s inner circle. As if that doesn’t look bad enough, multiple reports have confirmed that investigators are looking into the Trump Organization’s finances. If the president wants to save himself, he may only have one option left: firing Mueller. But could he ever survive such a move?

On one hand, dismissing the man who’s investigating him would be a bold move, reminiscent of the “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973 that led to the downfall of Richard Nixon. If Trump were to remove the very prosecutor who’s looking into his possible obstruction of justice, it could easily be perceived as only further obstruction of justice, which would only inch him closer to impeachment.

On the other hand, even threatening impeachment would require a Republican-controlled Congress to turn against its own standard bearer. Is this something Conservatives are willing to do?

According to the the New York Times, they’re at least saying the right things publiclySenator Jeff Flake of Arizona told the paper that firing Mueller is “a massive red line that can’t be crossed.” His colleague, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, added that such a firing “would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.” Both men are Republicans.

And yet, there’s a vast difference between words and actions. So far, we’ve heard a lot of words from these GOP senators but little action. A brief look at what they’ve previously let slide is already pretty damning.

We watched the GOP look on as Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, after admitting on national TV that the Russia investigation was on his mind. In addition, his son fielded an offer of Russian collusion via email, responding with, “I love it.” On top of that, Trump blatantly lied about his administration’s wrongdoings in a recent tweetstorm. “There was no crime,” wrote a man whose national security advisor has already pleaded guilty to multiple crimes. If Congress is willing to overlook all of this, isn’t it naive to think one more firing is a bridge too far?

The Trump administration has repeatedly said that they won’t fire the special counsel. Multiple members of Congress have reaffirmed that he shouldn’t. And yet, it’s getting increasingly difficult to believe either of them. A constitutional crisis might not be as far off as we think.

Drafting Women, or: Asking the Wrong Questions

If you didn’t live through it yourself, your parents probably remember the draft during the Vietnam War, which inspired more than one young man to escape to Canada after their number was drawn.

Today it’s far less likely that we’d ever institute another draft. Nevertheless, politicians are discussing whether or not women should be included in the draft, assuming the issue ever comes up. After all, isn’t that what equality is all about? Equal opportunity in being forced to protect your country and kill others?

In an era where we’re more concerned about the latest ridiculous thing President Trump posted on Twitter than we are with, say, the massive number of documented sexual harassment charges involving him, it’s no surprise that we’ve come to focus on things like so-called gender equality in a situation that will likely never arise.

The usual arguments against drafting women into the military often have to do with the physiological differences between men and women. There is some merit in this: a study from the Marine Corps Force Integration Plan found that “a mixed-gender unit was injured twice as often as an all-male unit, was less accurate with infantry weapons, and was less efficient at removing wounded troops from the battlefield.” All-male squads were found to be faster, have greater accuracy with weapons, and generally performed better on basic combat tasks like dealing with obstacles and evacuating casualties.

But it’s not really about physiology. And it’s not about using the draft as a method of promoting gender equality, either. As Andrew Bacevich points out in The LA Times, “it provides a classic illustration of how presidential campaigns trivialize American politics, with manufactured controversies distracting attention from genuinely substantive issues.

“Whether or not to support registering women is a sound bite question,” he continues. “How well our military system is performing is one worthy of sustained and serious discussion.”

As far as that goes, Congressional reports have found that the draft as a whole is a subpar method for staffing our military. An all-volunteer force is far more effective.

“A volunteer military can be choosy and set higher standards,” the report says. “Even when the army was reducing its requirements during the worst of the Iraq years, its quality standards remained well above those of conscript forces….The end of the draft also has dramatically improved commitment and morale.”

Never mind who gets drafted; the draft as a whole is ineffective.

Even from the point of view of gender equality, drafting women is sketchy at best. “There is nothing progressive about requiring women to register for the draft,” writes Myra Pearson for Bust. “Women should never be bound by law to fight wars that are started by governments disproportionately controlled by men, for resources controlled by men—especially while we’re still expected to do most of the child-rearing, paid less than men for the same work, and can’t get justice for sexual assault or domestic violence.”

Gender equality is a very real issue, as is improving and staffing our military. But to focus on the draft—whether it’s rules around who can be drafted or anything else—is merely a way of ignoring the larger issues for both men and women. It’s time to stop paying lip service to issues of gender and make some real progress.