In a field where advancing forward is so important, the tech companies of Silicon Valley, including Google, have not done much in the advancement of diversifying their workforce. To correct that problem, the Googleplex is forming a partnership with the predominantly Black Howard University of Washington, DC and creating a “Howard West” campus so to speak, in an effort to recruit more Black software engineers. Qualified juniors and seniors in Computer Science (CS) will come out and attend Howard West for a three-month stretch and be taught by both Senior Google engineers and Howard faculty. Google VP Bonita Stewart, a Howard alum, writes, “the new "Howard West" program is a residency at Google's Mountain View campus for black computer science majors.” The program will start this summer but is only the beginning as Google plans to enlarge the project to include students from other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).
With so much going on at the Googleplex on the west coast, this program will give Black CS students on the east coast some much-needed exposure to the software world in Silicon Valley. Howard West can provide the mentors and role models these students need to start a crack in the system where they can join Google. Google already has a good relationship with Howard University through the Google in Residence (GIR) program where Google engineers are part of the faculty at Howard and other HBCUs. Through that partnership, Google has learned about the hurdles that Black students can face. Stewart said that Google believes these "systematic barriers lead to low engagement and enrollment in CS, low retention in CS programs and a lack of proximity and strong relationships between Silicon Valley, HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] and the larger African American Community."
Dr. Wayne Frederick, President of Howard University, is excited about the program and believes that Howard West will add hundreds of “industry-ready” Black Computer Science graduates that will be able to work in an industry that needs their input. Google did their first study on just how diverse the company was in 2014 and that numbers they got back were not flattering. Google was always viewed as a progressive company and was picked once again as the best company to work for by Fortune magazine, but the data they received for their study showed that over 90-percent of their employees were White and Asian and 70 percent were male. Google has since invested millions of dollars to recruit more minorities and women and Howard West will help them infuse some much-needed diversity.