Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai, speaking at a coding event for girls happening at Google’s campus today, emphasized the importance of engineers “building products for everyone in the world” and said that in order to do that, “we need to have people internally who represent the world in totality.”
“I want you to know there’s a place for you in this industry,” Pichai said to the teams of young women who were finalists in a months-long app-building competition. “There’s a place for you at Google. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here, and we need you.”
Pichai’s remarks were especially noteworthy because of their juxtaposition with the controversy happening at Google right now, after a software engineer posted a diversity-related memo that went viral both within the company and in public sphere. The author of the memo, which questioned Google’s diversity training and women’s aptitude for coding, has since been fired from the company, and has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
The public appearance by Pichai also came just after Google cancelled a company-wide town hall meeting, which had been scheduled to address some of the fallout from the memo. The meeting was cancelled, according to a report in Recode, after employees who had sent preliminary questions started getting harassed online.
“It’s really important that more women and girls have the opportunity to participate in technology, to learn how to code, create, and innovate,” Pichai said.
The coding event this evening was co-hosted by Iridescent Learning, an L.A.-based non-profit that has run the Technovation competition for the past several years. Google offers a variety of education opportunities focused on coding, as do many other large tech companies; this event was a part of its “Made with Code” program, aimed at young women.
Of course, as many workshops, coding camps, and initiatives that tech companies offer, many of them still struggle with creating truly diverse workplaces, as their volunteered annual reports have shown. And Google has also been sued for its salary records by the U.S. Department of Labor, which has alleged that Google doesn’t pay female employees fairly.
Pichai’s full comments are below:
Thank you all for joining, it’s a pleasure to be here tonight with many creators, coders, and budding entrepreneurs. I think as Google we are really proud to host the event, but I really want to thank … the organizers and the mentors who spent hundreds of hours to get the teams ready for today.
Seeing the girls here tonight gives me hope for the future.
At Google, we are very committed to building products for everyone in the world, and I think to do that well we really need to have people internally who represent the world in totality. And that’s how we think about it. So it’s really important that more women and girls have the opportunity to participate in technology, to learn how to code, create, and innovate.
We participate in a lot of things. We work with more than 4,000 schools to help introduce over 700,000 students to computer science. We do many efforts around the world. In India we do a program by which we have volunteers who go to over 300,000 villages — often on bicycles — teaching women how to get online for the very first time. We launched the Women Techmakers program, which has provided scholarships and training and helps people attend conferences. We have done it for more than 50,000 people in the technology industry. And that’s why we are also proud to host the Technovation Challenge.
I was surprised to find the girls here represent more than 100 countries from around the world. I think they’ve been chosen from over 11,000 girls. I think my job sometimes is hard, but I can’t even imagine the judges who had to choose from all those wonderful, wonderful participants to get the winners here.
To all of the girls tonight, I want to say thank you for joining us at Google. I hope it’s the beginning of a long career of building amazing things which we can all use one day.
I know the journey won’t always be easy, but to the girls who dream of being an engineer or an entrepreneur, and who dream of creating amazing things: I want you to know that there’s a place for you in this industry, there’s a place for you at Google. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here and we need you.
Thank you all so much and congratulations once again.