What do Google and Microsoft have in common right now? No, the response isn’t their Indian-American CEOs, but rather the emails that the two sent to their employees about the layoffs that the companies have already started having. “I am confident about the huge opportunity in front of us thanks to the strength of our mission, the value of our products and services, and our early investments in AI,” wrote Sundar Pichai.
Satya Nadella too expressed the exact same sentiment as he mentioned, “I’m confident that Microsoft will emerge from this stronger and more competitive, but it requires us to take actions grounded in three priorities.” Sadly, the employees who have just lost their jobs or are about to lose one might not show the same faith in the two multinational tech companies.
Numerous companies across the globe have been cutting down on their workforce since last year by discharging thousands of their employees all at once. The total number of layoffs is estimated to be around 12,000 for Google and 10,000 for Microsoft. These two, however, aren’t the only ones from the Big Five to start firing their employees. Amazon, in fact, is at a higher number right now with the total number of employees losing or about to lose their jobs being around 18,000.
The reason behind the same, as Pichai and Nadella point out in their emails, is related to the growth rate of users of Google and Amazon during the pandemic being far greater than the current rate. The two also claim that the companies wish to invest in AI moving forward.
While the CEOs of these companies have sounded apologetic in their emails, multiple employees who have been affected by the layoffs have voiced their disappointment with the lack of proper communication from their sides. Justin Moore, a former employee of Google, took to LinkedIn on the 21st and stated how he didn’t receive any information even after serving in the company for over 16 years and exclaimed that “big, faceless” companies like Google view their employees as 100% disposable. Moore is certainly not the only one who has voiced his feelings publicly.
Alongside individuals like Moore, many women, especially those of colour have come forward over the past few days to share how they have personally been hit by the decisions taken by Google, Microsoft and Amazon, all at the same time, quite coincidentally. This seems to be even more disappointing in the current day and time considering the tech industry is, as it is, a male-dominated space with white men having an edge over women, members of the LGBTQI+ community and other minorities.
Harshita Jhavar is another such woman of Indian descent who recently lost her job at Microsoft. The list of women of colour from ethnic minorities, of course, goes on with others like Amina Khalid’s role being eliminated from Amazon. Khalid happens to be a single mother who is the sole provider for both herself and her daughter.
If the statistics of the most underrepresented employees in the tech industry are analysed, it would become clear that white people take up around 62% of the jobs while only 7% are actually taken up by those who are black. Additionally, men make up 75% of the workforce when it comes to this industry. Earlier this month, it was pointed out in an article by Computer World, United Kingdom that around 63% of women in engineering roles had lost their jobs during the Twitter layoffs as compared to 48% of men. This, as was pointed out in the writing, was a disproportionate removal considering the fact that women, as it is, had and continue to have less representation in the tech industry. Twitter even faced a lawsuit as a result of the same.
CNN Business published an article about this issue in 2019 in which it was highlighted that women and other minorities are affected the most during company layoffs. Since most workplaces have historically been dominated by white men, non-white men are relatively hired more recently. That makes it difficult for them to both establish themselves at their places of work and establish connections with their seniors and supervisors there. Thus, during layoffs, they are the ones who are more easily removed instead of the white male employees who are as it is a majority. Alexandra Kalev who carried out research on the same mentions how minorities are “Last in, first out.”
These aforementioned statistics certainly hold true when it comes to how Indians working in the tech industry have been impacted. As reported by NDTV, out of the 200,000 IT workers who have lost their jobs since last year, around 30-40% are Indians. The report, further, gives the example of two more Indian women who have lost their jobs recently. One of them happens to be a single mother, just like Khalid and the other had started working for Amazon just three months back. As can be understood, even within the percentage of Indians affected by the layoffs, women seem to be the worst hit.
Even though Google, Microsoft and Amazon have only mentioned the total number of employees they are planning to lay off without talking about the statistics and demographics of their identities, there are a significant number of stories from women of colour that are being made public.