Google Inc. has created a new version of its 20 percent time perk — which allows employees to dedicate one-fifth of their time to promising side projects — that is focused solely on diversity.
The original version of this employee benefit led to the creation of many popular online Google services, such as Gmail and Google News. This new version focuses on a different type of innovation that is of growing importance to the tech company: increasing the diversity of its workforce.
Through its formal program Diversity Core, employees contribute 20 percent of their time to initiatives aimed at attracting more women and minorities and creating a more welcoming culture for them — both at Google and in the tech industry at large.
Thus far, about 500 employees at 53 offices have participated in the program. “We want all Googlers to care about diversity, not just the leadership or the diverse population,” says Nancy Lee, vice president of people operations for Google.
For Aruna Kommu, a 33-year-old program manager who works for the company in India, Diversity Core gave her the opportunity to highlight the contributions of women business leaders in her country.
When speaking about Google products at conferences, she had often found herself to be one of the only — if not the only — woman in the room. Through the program, Kommu was able to work on Women Techmakers, Google’s global diversity program aimed at increasing the visibility of women in technology.
Jonathan Brack, an independent diversity consultant, says the program serves as a model for other technology companies.
“It institutionalizes this conversation about diversity so that it’s not just seen as an extra or as an afterthought, but something that is built into the company itself with senior leadership buy-in,” Brack says. “Google is not only leveraging the innovative thinking and brain power that it is known for, it’s allowing people to work on something they care about without having to stack it on top of everything else they do.”
*This story was originally published online by USA Today on May 14, 2015.