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“Google wilfully ill-equipped to deal caste discrimination”

Google’s senior manager Tanuja Gupta gives her account on the organising and cancelling of Dalit activist,Thenmozhi Soundararajan’s talk

Sabrangindia 06 Jun 2022

Google
Image Courtesy:Twitter

Google is woefully and wilfully ill-equipped to deal with matters of caste discrimination, said Google’s senior manager in her Goodbye letter following the Soundararajan controversy.

The company was to hold a talk on caste equity within the conglomerate, for its employees on April 18. However, it later cancelled the meet citing claims that employees were calling her “anti-Hindu” and “Hindu-phobic”. The letter shared by Gupta, available in the public domain is clear: both she, Tanuja Gupta and Soundararajan fought hard and appealed for the discussion, even after opposition poured in. However, when all efforts failed, Gupta took a final decision to resign from the company.

“My career at Google has come to an end because of this company’s wilful ignorance of caste discrimination, the double standards of its DEI programming, the weaponization of confidentiality to avoid accountability, and a normalized practice of retaliation against those who speak out,” said Gupta in the letter.

Aside from detailing her own background as half-Hindu, half-Jain the seven-page letter listed the series of events that took place from April 13 to May 31, 2022. This includes a backgrounder on how two employees in September 2021 approached Gupta and spoke about the caste discrimination they had witnessed at the company. She decided to hold the meet with the activist considering her organization Equality Labs and its contribution in the Cisco caste discrimination lawsuit.

When this talk fell through, she wrote, “Of all the organizing I have done at this company, I think many are surprised that fighting for caste equity was the lightning rod issue that took me down. But I have an Indian CEO and SVP who both know exactly what’s going on and tacitly approve of everything that’s happened.”

CEO Sundar Pichai is a Tamilian from a dominant caste in India. As per earlier reports, Soundararajan – a Tamilian herself – reached out to Pichai regarding the cancellation but to no avail. Moreover, Gupta said that multiple VPs and Directors confirmed to her that Sundardiscussed the need for a new universal vetting process of speakers in his Leads meeting to ensure such things don’t happen again.

Gupta said she hoped that the employees start to understand the magnitude of this issue and the threat that their greater understanding poses to the South Asians in power. For this, she listed a series of measures to disassemble and rebuild the company HR.

She pointedly criticised the vague Google policies and the weaponization of “confidentiality” enforced on every employee to “avoid accountability”. She said that this instils fear among people of further penalties. This makes it difficult to verify information.

Regarding the HR management she said, “The very structure of HR is a shell game. All of these teams use different terms that obscure the fact they are all ultimately in HR. If you’re a Googler [Google employee] who is going through an investigation for the first time, you may not realize that Employee Relations and People Ops are HR. Or that the other teams you’re working with are NOT in HR. And they’re all pointing to one another - or your management - for who has the final say on what.”

As an example, she talked about her own Diversity Equity Inclusivity (DEI) model whose officials are also lumped into HR.From the Chief Diversity Officer to the ERG Advisors and Diversity Business Partners, all personnel report to HR.

Gupta concluded her letter with the acknowledgement that the real victims in this case are Soundararajan and the people who experience caste discrimination every day but cannot speak out for fear of losing their immigration visas or being the target of hate crimes. “The fight for all of them continues whether I’m here or not - I hope you’ll join me,” she said.

Tanuja’s own track record is impressive, someone who has been promoted three times at Google. When she was an individual contributor (ie not a people manager), she co-organised the Google Walkout to protest how sexual harassment and discrimination were handled at Google, going on to successfully advocate for ending forced arbitration within the company. Outside of Google, she continued to advocate for both the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act and the recently passed HR 4445 to end forced arbitration for sexual misconduct in the workplace. In April 2019, after Google ended its policy of forcing arbitration, Tanuja then became a people manager for our Google News team. In 2020, sheI received that third promotion to “Level 7”. Aside from being entrusted to lead several key initiatives for the 700+ cross-functional News team, she also founded a diversity, equity and inclusion model that became the blueprint for other teams at Google. After two years of building this program, Tanuja Gupta was co-awarded Google’s Search Superlative Award in 2021 for the impact of my work and this DEI model

Despite all this background, in supporting the victims of caste discrimination within Google, via petitions and talks, Gupta was told she violated the People Manager Code of Conduct and received a warning letter. To know and understand full details of the controversy, read the following letter by Gupta.

The timeline of events that unfold is telling.

Tanuja Gupta’s detailed communication exposes a mega corporation, influential in its reach, Google, which, she states “is woefully and wilfully ill-equipped to deal with matters of caste discrimination.” She states that of all the issues around which she has organised within the company, “many are surprised that fighting for caste equity was the lightning rod issue that took me down.” But, she says, “I have an Indian CEO and SVP who both know exactly what’s going on and tacitly approve of everything that’s happened. I know this because multiple VPs and Directors confirmed that in Sundar’s Leads meeting, they discussed the need for a new universal vetting process of speakers to ensure this doesn't happen again.”

Is there hope? Tanuja Gupta ends her communique with the “hope that Googlers start to understand the magnitude of this issue, and the threat that their greater understanding poses to the South Asians in power.”

So what can you do?

  1. Learn everything you can about caste discrimination at go/caste-equity-learn. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USTm1CbmExc&ab_channel=GoogleCloud
  2. To get started: watch this talk, listen to this interview and read this article.

Resist checking in with South Asian colleagues. Google has unwittingly just told every caste-oppressed Googler to go back in the closet, affecting their psychological safety, jeopardizing their future at the company and potentially their immigration status. Don’t put the burden of your education on the excluded.

  1. Demand that Google specify caste as a protected class in all locations (not just India) and that all managers are trained on what this means for the workforce. We recognize caste in our product policies (YouTube, Google), so let’s make sure this is recognised in people policies as well.

[from Tanuja Gupta’s letter]

Related:

Google cancels caste-based talk with Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan!
Stop Killing Us: Sanitation workers
India will remember Gail Omvedt forever
Internationalising Caste
Combat caste-based discrimination: IAAAC to US tech CEOs

 

“Google wilfully ill-equipped to deal caste discrimination”

Google’s senior manager Tanuja Gupta gives her account on the organising and cancelling of Dalit activist,Thenmozhi Soundararajan’s talk

Google
Image Courtesy:Twitter

Google is woefully and wilfully ill-equipped to deal with matters of caste discrimination, said Google’s senior manager in her Goodbye letter following the Soundararajan controversy.

The company was to hold a talk on caste equity within the conglomerate, for its employees on April 18. However, it later cancelled the meet citing claims that employees were calling her “anti-Hindu” and “Hindu-phobic”. The letter shared by Gupta, available in the public domain is clear: both she, Tanuja Gupta and Soundararajan fought hard and appealed for the discussion, even after opposition poured in. However, when all efforts failed, Gupta took a final decision to resign from the company.

“My career at Google has come to an end because of this company’s wilful ignorance of caste discrimination, the double standards of its DEI programming, the weaponization of confidentiality to avoid accountability, and a normalized practice of retaliation against those who speak out,” said Gupta in the letter.

Aside from detailing her own background as half-Hindu, half-Jain the seven-page letter listed the series of events that took place from April 13 to May 31, 2022. This includes a backgrounder on how two employees in September 2021 approached Gupta and spoke about the caste discrimination they had witnessed at the company. She decided to hold the meet with the activist considering her organization Equality Labs and its contribution in the Cisco caste discrimination lawsuit.

When this talk fell through, she wrote, “Of all the organizing I have done at this company, I think many are surprised that fighting for caste equity was the lightning rod issue that took me down. But I have an Indian CEO and SVP who both know exactly what’s going on and tacitly approve of everything that’s happened.”

CEO Sundar Pichai is a Tamilian from a dominant caste in India. As per earlier reports, Soundararajan – a Tamilian herself – reached out to Pichai regarding the cancellation but to no avail. Moreover, Gupta said that multiple VPs and Directors confirmed to her that Sundardiscussed the need for a new universal vetting process of speakers in his Leads meeting to ensure such things don’t happen again.

Gupta said she hoped that the employees start to understand the magnitude of this issue and the threat that their greater understanding poses to the South Asians in power. For this, she listed a series of measures to disassemble and rebuild the company HR.

She pointedly criticised the vague Google policies and the weaponization of “confidentiality” enforced on every employee to “avoid accountability”. She said that this instils fear among people of further penalties. This makes it difficult to verify information.

Regarding the HR management she said, “The very structure of HR is a shell game. All of these teams use different terms that obscure the fact they are all ultimately in HR. If you’re a Googler [Google employee] who is going through an investigation for the first time, you may not realize that Employee Relations and People Ops are HR. Or that the other teams you’re working with are NOT in HR. And they’re all pointing to one another - or your management - for who has the final say on what.”

As an example, she talked about her own Diversity Equity Inclusivity (DEI) model whose officials are also lumped into HR.From the Chief Diversity Officer to the ERG Advisors and Diversity Business Partners, all personnel report to HR.

Gupta concluded her letter with the acknowledgement that the real victims in this case are Soundararajan and the people who experience caste discrimination every day but cannot speak out for fear of losing their immigration visas or being the target of hate crimes. “The fight for all of them continues whether I’m here or not - I hope you’ll join me,” she said.

Tanuja’s own track record is impressive, someone who has been promoted three times at Google. When she was an individual contributor (ie not a people manager), she co-organised the Google Walkout to protest how sexual harassment and discrimination were handled at Google, going on to successfully advocate for ending forced arbitration within the company. Outside of Google, she continued to advocate for both the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act and the recently passed HR 4445 to end forced arbitration for sexual misconduct in the workplace. In April 2019, after Google ended its policy of forcing arbitration, Tanuja then became a people manager for our Google News team. In 2020, sheI received that third promotion to “Level 7”. Aside from being entrusted to lead several key initiatives for the 700+ cross-functional News team, she also founded a diversity, equity and inclusion model that became the blueprint for other teams at Google. After two years of building this program, Tanuja Gupta was co-awarded Google’s Search Superlative Award in 2021 for the impact of my work and this DEI model

Despite all this background, in supporting the victims of caste discrimination within Google, via petitions and talks, Gupta was told she violated the People Manager Code of Conduct and received a warning letter. To know and understand full details of the controversy, read the following letter by Gupta.

The timeline of events that unfold is telling.

Tanuja Gupta’s detailed communication exposes a mega corporation, influential in its reach, Google, which, she states “is woefully and wilfully ill-equipped to deal with matters of caste discrimination.” She states that of all the issues around which she has organised within the company, “many are surprised that fighting for caste equity was the lightning rod issue that took me down.” But, she says, “I have an Indian CEO and SVP who both know exactly what’s going on and tacitly approve of everything that’s happened. I know this because multiple VPs and Directors confirmed that in Sundar’s Leads meeting, they discussed the need for a new universal vetting process of speakers to ensure this doesn't happen again.”

Is there hope? Tanuja Gupta ends her communique with the “hope that Googlers start to understand the magnitude of this issue, and the threat that their greater understanding poses to the South Asians in power.”

So what can you do?

  1. Learn everything you can about caste discrimination at go/caste-equity-learn. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USTm1CbmExc&ab_channel=GoogleCloud
  2. To get started: watch this talk, listen to this interview and read this article.

Resist checking in with South Asian colleagues. Google has unwittingly just told every caste-oppressed Googler to go back in the closet, affecting their psychological safety, jeopardizing their future at the company and potentially their immigration status. Don’t put the burden of your education on the excluded.

  1. Demand that Google specify caste as a protected class in all locations (not just India) and that all managers are trained on what this means for the workforce. We recognize caste in our product policies (YouTube, Google), so let’s make sure this is recognised in people policies as well.

[from Tanuja Gupta’s letter]

Related:

Google cancels caste-based talk with Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan!
Stop Killing Us: Sanitation workers
India will remember Gail Omvedt forever
Internationalising Caste
Combat caste-based discrimination: IAAAC to US tech CEOs

 

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