Google has a diversity problem. The company recently gave in to demands for transparency, revealing that only 30 percent of its staff are women. Now the tech giant has meritocratic pricing plan to encourage more women to attend their banner Google I/O conference.
This goes beyond Google's Made with Code initiative to encourage female engineers, which enlisted Chelsea Clinton and Mindy Kaling as part of its launch. According to TechCrunch, the company is going to cover ticket and travel costs to Google I/O for women who performed well in its "CodeJam" coding competition. On top of that, Google is also offering scholarships for minorities:
"It's a chicken-and-egg problem," [Google CodeJam Project Manager Emily Miller] explained in a phone interview. The tech industry's views and culture won't change until more women are involved, but many women won't feel comfortable until the culture changes. So Google is taking the initiative, paying the price of a ticket and $500 worth of travel expenses to bring 100 of the top scorers to I/O from the more than 500 who entered its competition.
Google is also launching a scholarship program in North America to cover the costs of attendance and $500 in travel expenses for select tech conferences for women and minorities, which includes (but isn't limited to) African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, persons with disabilities, women and veterans. Google also confirmed that those in the queer and trans* communities are also welcome to apply.
The scholarship program is reportedly being operated by Google's human resources department, signaling the company seeing this as a recruitment mechanism. Google has also reached out to groups such as the National Society Of Black Engineers to drum up interest in its programs.
One free ticket recipient told Valleywag that Google was actively recruiting women to attend this week's conference. Despite seeming to create a two-tiered pricing program, she was still supportive of the program—and optimistic that it could help bring more women into tech.
TechCrunch was less impressed, calling the move "fairly weak." Ultimately, Google I/O is a 6,000 person conference, and knocking down the price for a few hundred people is "only nudging the needle" of their diversity numbers. Even with the discounted tickets, Google only expects 20 percent of I/O's attendees to be women.
Regardless, Google has a long way to go before their internal demographics are representative of the rest of the country's. Any effort they make is welcome. But now that Google has made its prices more friendly, how about the culture part?