Tag Archives: Diversity and Inclusion

Being a mom is hard work. Becoming one is, too.

For seven years, Mother’s Day was the worst day of the year for me. It was an observance that felt completely out of reach, yet commercially and socially it was a reminder that I couldn't escape. I wanted to be a mom, but I was having trouble becoming one. For my husband and I, the inner walls of our bedroom became clinical, timed and invaded by fertility specialists. The outside world didn’t understand what we were going through—they saw us as a couple who decided to "take their time" to start a family. I began doing my own research and found out that 1 in 8 women in America are struggling, too. There are over 7 million of us who want a child but have a disease or other barrier that stands in our way.

Using Google and YouTube, I found support groups, blogs and resources. I wasn’t as alone as I thought—like many, I had been silent about my struggles with infertility. It’s a less-than-tasty casserole of heartache, injections and surgeries, failed adoption placements and financial devastation.

So I learned how to be my own advocate. I’ve spoken out, written articles and—most recently—lent my voice to the video above to raise awareness about the barriers to building a family. I want to better educate people on how to support their friends and family who are struggling with infertility.

As today marks the start of National Infertility Awareness Week, I—along with the other brave women in this video—am dedicated to sparking a bigger conversation, and overcoming the stigmas and barriers that surround infertility. I'm excited Google is using its platform to help put this message out into the world ahead of Mother's Day. I hope that this year, even one more person out there will realize they’re not alone.

A library’s next chapter: digital skills with help from Google

Editor's note: It's National Library Week, and to recognize the impact of libraries of local communities, we'll hear from Robyn Jonston of the Memphis Public Libraries. To share how libraries have affected your life, use the #MyLibraryStory hashtag.

Local libraries are essential community hubs and one of the few places that are free and open to anyone. An important part of a library’s mission is providing free access to information and opportunities, a goal we have in common with Google. Our Memphis Public Libraries and libraries across the U.S. are partnering with Grow with Google to make digital skills even more accessible to more people. Technology has changed the way people live, and in response, libraries have changed the way we fulfill our mission. We’ve taken the lead in helping people learn the skills they need to be successful in finding jobs.

At the Memphis Public Library, it’s so important to us to help people learn skills and find jobs that we’ve taken our efforts outside of the library’s walls. In 2018, we launched JobLINC, a 38-foot bus with 10 computer stations for job seekers and a station for employers to come on board and recruit. The bus travels throughout the city, reaching people who don’t have access to technology or transportation. With help from librarians, people can work on their resumes, search for jobs and practice interviewing. We serve more than 6,000 people in Memphis on this bus each year.

The program helps us reach people like Wanda Gray, who worked as a letter carrier for 20 years before being laid off. She didn’t have access to technology or a smartphone, so she turned to JobLINC to build her digital skills, get help with her resume and learn about interviewing for jobs. Now, Wanda has a new job as a receptionist.

We’re not alone in this important work at the Memphis Public Library. 90 percent of libraries help members of their communities learn basic digital skills. And thousands of librarians across the country are dedicated to making free resources and training available to everyone. In the U.S., Grow with Google hosts in-person workshops that help people learn new skills, like creating resumes and growing their businesses online. Together, we’re helping people grow their skills and businesses, find new jobs and get ahead.

I’m humbled to share my library story and the stories of Googlers whose lives were impacted by their local libraries. Show your support for librarians during National Library Week by sharing a story about what your local library means to you, using the #MyLibraryMyStory hashtag.

Free digital skills programs make learning a lifelong journey

Janitor, seamstress, housekeeper, gardener: These were some of the jobs my parents held after we immigrated to the United States. Growing up in a lower-income neighborhood, I never knew anyone who worked with computers professionally. That changed when my brother signed up for a computer course, providing him the digital skills that would lead to a four-year university and ultimately a career as an engineer.

These days, whether someone is a janitor or a housekeeper or an engineer, they can benefit from—and deserve access to—basic digital skills. In today’s job market, it is critical to know how to navigate job search websites, write a resume, craft a professional email, develop a budget, and so much more.

That’s why, as part of our Grow with Google initiative to drive economic opportunity for all, Google’s Applied Digital Skills is partnering with the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) to train educators in all 50 states on essential digital skills for the evolving workforce. In the two years since launching Applied Digital Skills, a core part of the Grow with Google program, over a half-million students, including many adult learners, have used the curriculum to help them achieve their personal and professional goals.

Tamara Rood-Spenker, an adult education instructor who teaches down the road from our Google office in Mountain View, California, told me recently that Applied Digital Skills lessons expose her students to new job skills, like using formulas to analyze data in spreadsheets, showing them how technology can make many tasks simpler in their day-to-day lives.

Educators will now be better positioned to help adult learners prepare for and find jobs, build their businesses and even work toward earning their high school equivalency credentials. COABE represents over 55,000 adult educators in the United States who support underserved adults to master the skills they need to build their careers.

Together with COABE, Google will hold 200 hours of in-person professional development sessions for adult educators. We will also build new support guides and training materials, hold webinars and feature best practices in digital skills training. And we will also provide new, free Applied Digital Skills lessons on digital skills that adult educators can utilize in their classrooms.

I know firsthand that learning never ends. As an immigrant to the United States from a working class family, a former community college instructor, and now a Googler leading outreach for computer science and digital skills training, I know education is an ongoing process. We’re excited to be a part of that process with the teachers who make learning a reality, organizations like COABE who support educators and the Americans who wake up every day ready to take their next step.

Supporting people with disabilities: Be My Eyes and phone support now available

15 percent of the world’s population has some form of disability—that’s over 1 billion people. Last January, we introduced a dedicated Disability Support team available to help answer questions about assistive features and functionalities within Google products. Access to a Disability Support team—and specifically, video and phone support—was a popular request we heard from the community.

Now, people with questions on assistive technology and/or accessibility features within Google’s products can utilize the Specialized Help section on the Be My Eyes app or connect directly through phone support with a Google Disability Support specialist, Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. PT, in English only.

Be My Eyes is a free app available for both iOS and Android that connects people who are blind and low-vision to nearly two million sighted volunteers in the Be My Eyes community. Through a live connection, a volunteer can assist someone with a task that requires visual assistance, such as checking expiry dates, distinguishing colors, reading instructions or navigating new surroundings. This new partnership comes from a common goal between Be My Eyes and Google to help people with disabilities live more independent lives.

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Image showing two phones in front of the other displaying the Google profile on the Specialized Help section of the Be My Eyes app.

Google’s Disability Support team is composed of strong advocates for inclusion who are eager to work with Googlers to continuously improve and shape Google’s products with user feedback. The team has been working on implementing Be My Eyes and phone support to the community and looks forward to rolling out this support starting today.

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The Disability Support team at work providing phone support

Visit the Google Accessibility Help Center to learn more about Google Accessibility and head to g.co/disabilitysupport for steps to use Be My Eyes and more ways to connect with a Disability Support specialist.

With Lookout, discover your surroundings with the help of AI

Whether it’s helping to detect cancer cells or drive our cars, artificial intelligence is playing an increasingly larger role in our lives. With Lookout, our goal is to use AI to provide more independence to the nearly 253 million people in the world who are blind or visually impaired.

Now available to people with Pixel devices in the U.S. (in English only), Lookout helps those who are blind or have low vision identify information about their surroundings. It draws upon similar underlying technology as Google Lens, which lets you search and take action on the objects around you, simply by pointing your phone. Since we announced Lookout at Google I/O last year, we’ve been working on testing and improving the quality of the app’s results.

We designed Lookout to work in situations where people might typically have to ask for help—like learning about a new space for the first time, reading text and documents, and completing daily routines such as cooking, cleaning and shopping. By holding or wearing your device (we recommend hanging your Pixel phone from a lanyard around your neck or placing it in a shirt front pocket), Lookout tells you about people, text, objects and much more as you move through a space. Once you’ve opened the Lookout app, all you have to do is keep your phone pointed forward. You won’t have to tap through any further buttons within the app, so you can focus on what you're doing in the moment.

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Screenshot image of Lookout’s modes including, “Explore,” “Shopping,” “Quick read” Second screenshot of Lookout detecting a dog in the camera frame.

As with any new technology, Lookout will not always be 100 percent perfect. Lookout detects items in the scene and takes a best guess at what they are, reporting this to you. We’re very interested in hearing your feedback and learning about times when Lookout works well (and not so well) as we continue to improve the app. Send us feedback by contacting the Disability Support team at g.co/disabilitysupport.

We hope to bring Lookout to more devices, countries and platforms soon. People with a Pixel device in the US can download Lookout on Google Play today. To learn more about how Lookout works, visit the Help Center.

A VR series about women with the “courage to question”

Many of us who fight for women’s rights have the privilege of knowing mighty women and girls. They are the courageous ones--those who insist on and fight for a future where women and girls are free from violence and can live out their full potential. Most of these women’s rights defenders are not widely known, yet work tirelessly at grave risk to themselves and their families. But they are dogged. They are fearless. They are unbowed. They are leaders. And on this International Women's Day, we celebrate them, and the impact that women have had all around the world.

Along with UN Women, and the civil society organizations Vital Voices and Global Fund for Women, we identified four women’s rights defenders who are building movements against mass incarceration, human trafficking, child marriage and sexual violence. Their stories are the stories of our virtual reality series, “Courage to Question.”

Courage to Question: Series Trailer

Now pardoned and free after 21 years of confinement, Alice Johnson discusses her wrenching as a mother behind bars, the impact of mass incarceration on women, and why she fights for the women she left behind.

Lydia Cacho shares her experience as a Mexican journalist, author, and human rights activist who, despite receiving multiple threats to her safety and life over the years, fights tirelessly to tell the stories of women and girls who have been trafficked. (link to video)

Asha Kowtal—General Secretary of the Dalit Women’s Rights movement in India—walks us through a day in the life of Dalit women. Formerly known as “untouchables,” they’re members of the lowest caste in India and are fighting back against systems of oppression. (link to video)

Chief Theresa Kachindamoto of the Dedza District in the central region of Malawi shares the story of her upbringing, the practice of child marriage in her country, and her fight to eradicate it. (link to video)

Captured by an all-female crew in VR180, these films make you feel like you’re actually there with these brave women, who are remaking a world that allows women and girls to be free and equal. The films are best viewed in a VR headset like Cardboard, but you can also view them on YouTube with your phone or desktop.

As a human rights lawyer, I know that so often human rights organizations receive the scraps of new technology. “Courage to Question” gives these four amazing women a platform to tell their stories and advance their human rights work.

We’ll be premiering these videos at the United Nations today for the opening ceremony of International Women’s Day. This kicks off an ongoing discussion around digital rights as women’s rights, and gender inclusion and equity in the context of tech. We’ll also be sharing that Google has signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles, which have been developed by the United Nations Global Compact and UN Women to help organizations advance and empower women in the workplace and beyond. These principles build on our ongoing commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace for all, as well as support for education and economic opportunity for women globally.

In honor of all that has been fought for and hard-won—and all that is still left to do—we give thanks to these four women, and the many others, on whose shoulders we stand, and whose work we are grateful for.

Inspiring girls and women to pursue their career ambitions

Today is International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme, #BalanceforBetter, is all about achieving a gender-balanced world. If we’re going to achieve that, it’s important to know that boys and girls begin making pivotal decisions about their future at a very young age. But education options, career interests and gender stereotypes quickly begin to widen the gap between the ambitions of girls and their ability to pursue them. This trend often continues into adulthood (a 2018 McKinsey study indicates that women and underrepresented groups are less able or willing to promote their skills and accomplishments), setting limitations on goals and lowering the number of women who put themselves forward for leadership roles. Jobs at tech companies are growing quickly, yet for too many women a career in tech—as a computer systems engineer or a software developer, for example—is still out of reach.

That’s why we’re partnering with Inspiring Girls International to launch a video hub of filmed talks by diverse female role models as a go-to motivational resource for young girls. Inspiring Girls International is an organization that aims to raise the aspirations of young girls around the world. Inspiring Girls believes that leading by example is the best way to truly show girls what they can achieve. The video series features more than a dozen women from different backgrounds who work at Google, talking about their careers and inspirations—and crucially, giving valuable advice on how girls can pursue their dreams.

This initiative is part of Grow with Google, a program which provides free training courses, tools and in-person coaching to help people get the right skills to find a job, advance their careers or grow their businesses. So far, women make up 46 percent of the 10 million people Grow with Google has trained across Europe, the Middle East and Africa—and this number is steadily rising.

Working with Inspiring Girls, we’ve created videos addressing some of the most pressing issues young girls face today when considering their future careers. “Issues such as the pressure of labels and the lack of access to female role models affect most girls around the world,” says Founder and Chair of Inspiring Girls, Miriam González. “We’ve partnered with Google to break down gender clichés in the tech sector and empower girls to explore some of the careers that women are still under-represented in. We’re delighted to have Google supporting our global campaign. Together, we can inspire the next generation of women.”

But our goal isn’t just inspiring young women to pursue careers in tech—we also want them to succeed. #IamRemarkable is another Grow with Google initiative that aims to empower women and underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements and use them for career advancement. Both companies and individuals can access a 90-minute workshop, which is free and open to anyone. The workshop teaches the importance of confidence and self-promotion, providing tools to help participants start promoting their achievements. So far, the initiative has reached more than 25,000 participants across over 50 countries, resulting in 69 percent of participants pursuing a promotion within three months of attending the workshop.

The #IamRemarkable initiative by Google empowers women and underrepresented groups to speak openly about their accomplishments and improve their self promotion skills.

Through partnerships like Inspiring Girls and the #IamRemarkable initiative, Grow with Google aims to challenge gender stereotypes and promote diversity in tech—working toward a future where women have access to the tools and training they need to pursue their ambitions with confidence.

A look into one woman’s job at Google: opening doors for other women

When I first talked to Elise Birkhofer, it was 5pm, the last phone call of the day. My energy was low and my feet were dragging—but that changed the moment I met Elise, whose enthusiasm is palpable (she described herself as “equally exhausted and inspired,” but I could only sense the inspired part). She was in Australia for a gathering of Google women from Asia Pacific, who stepped away from their jobs for a couple of days to meet other women at the company, talk about shared challenges and the future they envision for themselves at Google. This is, in a nutshell, Elise’s job.

In an industry that’s majority male, she spends her time listening to women of all backgrounds, so that they feel included, are represented and can succeed at Google. From these conversations she works on solutions to reach these goals, ranging from leadership trainings, to speaker series, to multi-day summits like the one she led in Australia. With International Women’s Day happening this week, it was the perfect time to sit down with Elise for the She Word. Here are a few things I took away from our conversation.

Talk about the things that matter

Elise is the global lead for women’s community and programs, including Women@Google, the company’s largest Employee Resource Group. ERGs are employee-led networks focused on diversity and inclusion within Google, and making an impact in their communities. Women@Google has more than 15,000 members, 120 chapters in 52 countries, with hundreds of women (and men, too) who volunteer their time leading programs and efforts. “They really care about making Google better for women,” says Elise. “When we come together, it’s my favorite part of the job. I get to cultivate and be a part of a diverse community who want to make a difference and talk about things that matter.”

Find a place to let your guard down

To Elise, the greatest value of Women@Google is its sense of community. It can be isolating if you’re the only woman on your floor or team, which we see more often for women of color and women engineers. “We want to create spaces where you can let your guard down and connect with one another, or an inspiring role model—someone who has navigated her own career at Google and wants to cultivate the next generation of leaders,” Elise says. Coffee Club, for example, is a program to get more women into leadership positions. Participants are in cohorts paired with a mentor who coaches you through a six-month goal—like speaking onstage or building a network outside of your team—that can help you get to the next step in your career.

We don’t have just one identity

There are many ERGs focused on race, ability, culture, sexual orientation, among other things. But “we don’t just have one identity—our identities are made up of many things, both physically and culturally, and the intersections matter,” says Elise. So Googlers across ERGs often partner up for a program or event series. Last year, the Black Googler Network and Women@Google put on the State of Black Women, an event that brought together Black female employees from around the world to talk about their experiences and share them with senior leadership, including our CEO.

Open doors, lift others up

Career development isn’t the only way to get more women in leadership roles. “It’s not just mentorship that helps women advance in the workforce,” says Elise. “It’s actual doors being opened.” So Elise started a sponsorship program for senior leaders to reach back and lift others up. Women are paired with (mostly male) vice presidents to help them think through where they want to go next, and provide support to make that happen.

There’s a sense of urgency to get things done

It’s long-term work to create equity for women in all the spaces they live in, and we haven’t yet gotten there at Google. Elise is driven by an “extreme sense of urgency,” knowing that there are women who aren’t being included or given the same opportunities as men in the tech industry. “Progress never feels fast enough. We all need more of that to courageously question the status quo,” she says.

Know you are enough

As an advocate for women across Google, what fuels Elise’s success? She credits her mindfulness practice: “being aware in the present moment with curiosity and compassion to whatever arises.” She’s a believer in meditation, journaling, and daily affirmations, particularly “I am enough.” Just take a look at her laptop stickers for a couple other affirmations which include, “Breathe” and “Done is better than perfect.”

We can and will do better

There’s a group within Women@Google that advises on product inclusion, and they (along with others) were behind the icon on Google Maps that calls out female-led small businesses. That doesn’t solve the representation gap, but creates a ripple effect beyond Google—it helps women entrepreneurs everywhere. So when asked if she’s optimistic about the future of women in tech, Elise doesn’t skip a beat. “Yes! I do this work because I believe that we can and will do better. There are women here with ideas for products that reach billions, and will shape the future of technology as we know it.”

Searches for “Black girl magic” are on the rise

As Black History Month comes to a close and we look toward International Women’s Day, people are searching for “Black girl magic” more than ever before. Searches hit an all-time high in February of this year.

To me, “Black girl magic” is an empowering phrase that celebrates the achievements, beauty and irrepressibility of Black women and girls. The phrase is appropriate for moments both big and small, and ignites the internal spark that motivates both personal and professional achievements.

As black women, it’s rare to see our own, varied images reflected back to us in media and pop culture. But this film celebrates women—past and present, famous and unknown—who have broken down barriers in many fields and industries. It reminds me that whether you’re getting your diploma, winning your 23rd grand slam, or simply putting one foot in front of the other, you’re making magic.

To learn more about magic created by women all over the world, visit g.co/IWD.

How retention helps make Google more representative

My mother was the first African American bank teller in my hometown in North Carolina in the 1960s. As you can imagine, this came with a lot of challenges. Team lunches and office holiday parties were sometimes hosted at racially segregated restaurants where they wouldn't serve my mother, and customers refused to work with her because of the color of her skin. Though these experiences were disconcerting for her, she stayed at the bank for more than 20 years where she progressed her career, helped transition the bank to a more inclusive workplace and paved the way for other women to take on similar roles.

Her story left an imprint on me. While she persevered through these challenges, she could have just as easily left. How would that have affected her career, the culture of the bank and its community and the experiences of people who worked there after her? How would her experience have been different if she wasn’t the only one? These questions fuel my work to address diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

Measuring up the challenges

Lack of diversity in corporate America is a well-documented problem and improvements have been slow. I’ve seen this first hand throughout my career: from serving as a champion for the Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy Initiative and leading diversity programs at Lockheed Martin to my current role where I lead our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Google.

I’ve learned over the years that you can’t fix what you don’t measure. Representation is a function of many factors such as hiring, development, progression, retention and culture. Without measuring these things, it is hard to know what changes need to be made. Which is why, at Google, we’ve been taking a second look at what and who we measure.

Specifically, we started paying closer attention to attrition rates so we know how many employees stay and leave our company each year. Why? Because we can’t improve representation without knowing which employees are leaving faster than others. More importantly, there are human beings behind the numbers we report each year, and how well we retain and develop talent has a real impact on people's careers and lives. That’s why we care about getting this right, and getting better.

Last year, Google published its first attrition index, and the results were mixed. Attrition rates indicate how many employees leave a company annually. Globally, women were leaving Google at lower rates than the average, and in the U.S., where we are able to report across race, Black and Latinx Googlers were leaving at faster rates than the average. Looking at these numbers, I always think about my mother’s experience at the bank. What would they have lost if they had failed to keep her there? Would they have been able to fix the roadblocks that ended her career? Thankfully, by measuring these numbers at Google, we can implement initiatives across Google to find solutions. Here’s a look at the improvements and progress we have made over the past year, and the work we have ahead.

Finding the gaps and mending them

To improve attrition, it’s our job to make sure underrepresented employees find satisfaction in their role, feel included at work and have opportunities to develop and grow.

It can be difficult to know where to go for career support, especially when you’re talking about a company as big as Google. This can be even more challenging for underrepresented groups who might not have representation in leadership, sponsorship or an existing network to rely on. To combat this, we created a new team of Retention Case Managers that I help lead. Retention Case Managers help connect employees with the right resources, whether it’s training for a new role or providing a safe space to share concerns and find community. We’ve already seen the positive impact this has on attrition, and look forward to expanding this program more broadly across the company.

We’re also always looking for ways to build and support community across the company. For example, my team created a State of Black Women event at Google where we brought together more than 500 black female employees from across the globe to meet with Google’s CEO, VP of Employee Engagement and myself. This not only created a space for the community to come together, but also allowed us as leaders to get closer to the challenges that our employees face.

We've learned that fostering community from the very beginning is important. Over the past year, we worked with internal Employee Resource Groups to make sure Black and Latinx Googlers have access to a community and a mentor to help navigate the beginning of their careers at Google. To date, nearly 200 Black and Latinx new employees have been paired with mentors across three countries. In 2019, we will be expanding this partnership to more Employee Resource Groups that support women and employees with disabilities.

Improvements in attrition year over year

A year after implementing these changes, 2018 attrition rates have improved for the majority of demographic groups across the company. Specially, Black and Latinx Googlers in the U.S. saw some of the largest year over year improvements in attrition.

While there are positive trends, there is still work to be done. Specifically, attrition for Native Americans worsened. And while rates improved for Black and Latinx Googlers, they are still not on par with the average. These are all areas we plan to focus on over the coming year.

attrition at google 2018

Diversity in the workplace is a hard problem to solve. By identifying challenges that we face across hiring, development, progression and attrition, we can understand where we should focus our efforts and affect real change to build a diverse and inclusive workplace for everyone.