October 20, 2014
By Alanna Nunez
Google has just launched .soy, a new web domain aimed at its Latino users, and while the response so far has been pretty hilarious, this feels like nothing more than simple pandering. Thanks for trying, Google!
People on Twitter pointed out that .soy is confusing (unless, who knows, maybe Google is trying to market the new domain to lactose-intolerant, vegan Latinos?), while others suggested the launch of the domain promotes "virtual segregation." After all, Google hasn't launched a domain specifically for Asians or African-Americans. Plus, what's wrong with .com? Plenty of Latinos already use that and find it just fine.
The word "soy" "describes the essence of Latino identity," Google's official launch ad says. "It expresses who you are, where you're from, what you do, and where you're going. The Internet now has domain that celebrates and empowers the Latino spirit."
If Google really wants to reach Latinos in a meaningful way, .soy probably isn't the answer. Why doesn't Google (I'm looking at you too, Apple and Intel, both of whom have also come under fire for a lack of diversity) examine its own hiring practices? Google's latest Diversity Report stated that its U.S. workforce is only 3 percent Hispanic and 2 percent black. Moreover, a 2014 study from nonprofit Working Partnerships USA suggests that Silicon's Valley's "invisible workforce" — made up of people in low-paying roles such as janitors, security guards, and landscape workers at big tech companies such as Google, among others — is dominated by blacks and Latinos, while technical roles are overwhelmingly white and Asian.
And STEM careers in general still tend to be mostly white and male. In fact, in 2010, Latina women made up only 2 percent of science and engineering roles nationwide, while white men made up 51 percent of engineers nationwide and white women made up 18 percent.
In the past, Google acknowledged that it's trying to increase diversity and has even launched initiatives, such as Made with Code (though to be fair, lack of diversity in tech isn't just Google's problem), to encourage high school girls to follow their interest in science and tech subjects. And that's something, it really is. Still, Google says that it wants to "empower and celebrate the Latino spirit." If that's really the case, the company should push more for an end to the institutionalized barriers that have kept Latinas — and women in general — out of STEM fields, rather than focus its energy on a domain that makes no sense.