Ex-Google Employee Leaves Company With Some Parental Policy Advice

18 hours ago
Originally published on August 10, 2019 5:52 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's an election year, as you know, and the big issues - health care, the climate, immigration, gun safety - are finding their way into the national conversation. But when it comes to one big issue, parental leave or family leave, companies are still the ones really making policy in how much leave, latitude and support they offer. And many caregivers, even ones with good jobs and benefits, are finding it's still hard to make it all work.

That's Cristina Tcheyan's story. She decided to leave her job at Google to stay home with her youngest, but she didn't go quietly. In true tech fashion, she did the research and sent it all to the company's CEO and head of HR when she resigned in March, outlining ways she thinks the company can do more to support working parents. She posted her findings on Medium. And when we caught up with her, she told us, when it comes to policies that help working parents, child care at work is a good start.

CRISTINA TCHEYAN: I came to think of onsite child care as one of the really more important ones, but it has to be in kind of in combination with paid family leave and then also kind of a conversation around flexibility at work. But basically, I found that certainly smaller companies were having really good success with it. And on their books, it was totally paying for itself. And then you would see in their leadership and their senior manager levels where, you know, many companies see a drop-off in the number of women, and more diversity kind of falls off there. Those companies were maintaining at least a gender diversity ratio of more like 50/50.

Again, at a small company, it didn't cost a lot. And then I kind of looked at my company that is incredibly profitable and makes many billions of dollars in profit a quarter. And that might be quite possible at a company like mine. And then I found, you know, a case study about another very large company with more employees than Google that had done or had tried it.

MARTIN: So there are a couple other things that were interesting. I mean, the piece is very interesting. But you said pay for interviewees' child care so that they can attend onsite interviews. And you said that, particularly with underrepresented groups, lack of access to child care may even keep them from interviewing from even interviewing. That's an interesting idea.

TCHEYAN: Yeah. This is a very active conversation. Certainly in tech, where, you know, where I work, where it's very underrepresented in all kinds of categories, but there's an active conversation, and there's a lot of intention around having a more diverse team. That's good for us. That's good for our users. And it struck me in looking at all of this stuff. And then it's really relatable when you think about it. But sometimes you're in a position where you don't - you can't really arrange the child care until you have the. Job it's a little bit of this chicken and egg. And so, you know, the interview is really - it's untenable in a way.

But then you just miss out on all - on plenty of people who are - maybe haven't taken care of children or, for them, up until this point, the equation worked out such that it was more-cost effective for them to stay home with their children than to have the job. And so, yeah, it just seems like you're leaving people on the sidelines, and that's certainly an expensive one relatively.

MARTIN: But I guess the $64,000 question is - you sent this very sort of comprehensive kind of idea here, you sent it to HR, you sent it to the CEO - did you get a response?

TCHEYAN: I did. I heard back from the head of YouTube HR who clearly read it and was really thoughtful in their response and said that, you know, this - supporting YouTube's parents - because that was my subject line - is a priority, it's a total priority and that, you know, there are some really good ideas in there, and I'd like to talk further. So that was the response that I got.

MARTIN: OK. It sounds like yay. I mean, that was - what is that? I don't even know what to say to that. What does that even mean?

TCHEYAN: I think I had an assumption that really large companies like mine would have the easiest time implementing these things because they had the resources, and they had these huge piles of money to throw at this stuff. But what I've heard really is much smaller companies are more nimble and can more quickly make policy change.

And so I've heard from startup founders who have reached out who want to have, you know, a diverse team from the start, a company culture that supports everyone from the get-go as they grow. And they've made changes readily like adding reimbursement for interviewees' child care. So I think maybe - I don't know if I underestimated how hard it would be to institutionalize something like this at a big global company, but yeah, it would have been great to hear - and tomorrow, onsite child care for everyone, you know (laughter).

MARTIN: Well, what do you think? Now that you've put it out there, what do you think? Do you feel hopeful? Do you feel pessimistic?

TCHEYAN: No. I think - I do feel quite hopeful. I heard back directly from companies that decided to make policy changes as a result of the research. So my sort of experiment there, you know, if you have the information then you might do something with it, so far, is proving positive.

MARTIN: That's Cristina Tcheyan. She's a former employee at Google. We're talking about her piece in Working Mother magazine describing a letter of advice she wrote to her former employers about why they should institute better and more supportive family policies. Cristina Tcheyan, thanks so much for talking to us.

TCHEYAN: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.