Posted on December 28, 2023

Tech Companies Like Google and Meta Made Cuts to DEI Programs in 2023 After Big Promises in Prior Years

Jennifer Elias, CNBC, December 22, 2023

Shortly after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020, Google was among many tech companies that set up new programs aimed at supporting Black employees. The goal, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote, was “to build sustainable equity for Google’s Black+ community, and externally, to make our products and programs helpful in the moments that matter most to Black users.”

Google’s vocal commitments included improving representation of underrepresented groups in leadership by 30% by 2025; more than doubling the number of Black workers at nonsenior levels by 2025; addressing representation issues in hiring, retention and promotions; and establishing better support for the mental and physical health for Black employees.

The move was part of a broader trend in the wake of the Floyd killing, which sparked societal unrest and drew attention to the power imbalances in corporate America and the tech industry specifically. Corporations pledged to invest millions of dollars to improve diversity in their ranks and support external groups doing work on diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI.

But in 2023, some of those programs are in retreat.

By mid-2023, DEI-related job postings had declined 44% from the same time a year prior, according to data provided by job site Indeed. In November 2023, the last full month for which data was available, it dropped 23% year over year.

That’s a sharp contrast with the period from 2020 to 2021, when those postings expanded nearly 30%.

In line with this broader trend, both Google and Meta have cut staffers and downsized programs that fell under DEI investment.

The year’s cuts have also impacted smaller, third-party organizations who counted on big tech clients for work, despite the continued growth of those tech giants.


“When George Floyd began to become the topic of conversations, companies and executives doubled down on their commitments and here we are only a couple years later, and folks are looking for opportunities to cut those teams,” said Devika Brij, CEO of Brij the Gap Consulting, which works with tech companies’ DEI efforts. Brij said some of her clients had cut their DEI budgets by as much as 90% by midyear.

However, more than just broken promises are at stake, experts told CNBC in a series of interviews.

The cuts come at a time when technology companies are forging ahead on the biggest technology shift in a decade: artificial intelligence. If diverse people are not included in AI development, that may result in even greater power imbalances for both corporate workers, as well as consumers who will use their products.

“Our commitment to DEI remains at the center of who we are as a company,” a Meta spokesperson wrote in a statement to CNBC. {snip}


In 2021, after facing complaints about pay equity in its Engineering Residency program, Google said it would be sunsetting the program and replacing it with a new one called Early Career Immersion, or ECI, which is aimed at helping underrepresented talent develop skills. (Google said sunsetting Engineering Residency was an unrelated business decision.)

But Google decided not to hire a 2023 cohort of ECI software engineers, citing an uncertain hiring outlook, according to correspondence viewed by CNBC. It also laid off some staffers associated with the program.

Participants in a separate Google program called Apprenticeships also lodged complaints about a lack of pathways and pay inequities in the last year, CNBC found.


But Apprenticeships participants complained they were getting paid less than other engineers during the course of the 20-month program despite doing similar work. They said they were doing “Level 3” work with L3 expectations and contributing significantly to Google’s codebase while earning half of full-time L3 software engineers’ base salary, according to internal correspondence seen by CNBC.

The apprentices even confronted the executive sponsor of the program, Aparna Pappu, vice president of Google Workspace, pointing out the executive’s prior stated goal “to increase representation of underrepresented talent across Google.”

The company said that apprentices are paid a salary for the learning and training they receive as part of the program, and that it reviews compensation annually to ensure alignment with the market.

The Apprenticeships program, which included real-work job training for underrepresented backgrounds, followed other failed efforts to improve diversity. In 2021, for instance, Google said it shut down a long-running program aimed at entry-level engineers from underrepresented backgrounds after participants said it enforced “systemic pay inequities.” That same year, CNBC found the company’s separate program that worked with students from historically Black colleges, suffered extreme disorganization, racism and broken promises to students.

Google and Meta also made cuts to personnel who were in charge of recruiting underrepresented people, according to several sources and documentation.

Nearly every member of Meta’s Sourcer Development Program, more than 60 workers, was let go from the company as part of its layoff of over 11,000 workers, CNBC learned. They claimed to have received inferior severance packages compared with other workers who were laid off in the same time period. Meta’s Sourcer Development Program was intended to help workers from diverse backgrounds obtain careers in corporate technology recruiting.

Google also cut DEI leaders who worked with Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Parker, while Meta made cuts to several DEI managers — some of whom it hired in 2020.

Layoffs at Google and Meta also included employees who held leadership roles in their respective Black employee resource groups, known as ERGs.


While internal DEI programs have suffered, the cuts were arguably even harder for external organizations who expected the same amount of corporate sponsorship and support from tech companies in 2023 as they had the prior few years.

In early 2023, big tech leaders, including Google and Meta were among companies that lessened their work with third parties that were counting on projects, according to several organizations and sources who spoke with CNBC.


Some large tech companies, including Meta, pulled back from sponsorship or attendance for employees to attend Grace Hopper 2023, according to sources who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak to the media. Some companies, including Microsoft, ended up sending some leaders to attend virtually so they wouldn’t have to pay for travel, according to two sources who wished to remain anonymous.