Tag Archives: Diversity and Inclusion

How I’m making Maps better for wheelchair users like me

If you visit a city and don’t see anyone using a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. It means the city hasn’t been built in such a way as to let them be part of things. I know this firsthand: I’m one of 65 million people around the world who uses a wheelchair, and I see every day how a city’s infrastructure can prevent people like me from being active, visible members of society.

On July 29, 2009, I was taking my usual morning walk through New York’s Central Park when a dead tree branch snapped and fell on my head. The spinal damage partly paralyzed my lower body. I spent the next seven months in the hospital, where I got the first glimpse of what my life would be like from then on. I was going to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life—and my experience as a born and bred New Yorker was about to change forever.  

That’s because much of the city isn’t accessible for people like me. Fewer than one in four subway stations in New York City have wheelchair access. And plenty of places, from restaurants to schools, lack a way for me to even get inside. It was humbling to realize these  barriers had been there throughout my growing up in New York; I simply hadn’t noticed.

Those realizations were in my mind when I returned to work in 2011 as an engineer on the Search team, especially because I could no longer take my usual subway route to work. However, the more I shared with colleagues, the more I found people who wanted to help solve real-world access needs. Using “20 percent time”—time spent outside day-to-day job descriptions—my colleagues like Rio Akasaka and Dianna Hu pitched in and we launched wheelchair-friendly transit directions. That initial work has now led to a full-time team dedicated to accessibility on Maps.

I’ve also collaborated with another group of great allies, stretching far beyond Google. For the past several years, I’ve worked with our Local Guides, a community of 120 million people worldwide who contribute information to Google Maps. By answering questions like “Does this place have a wheelchair accessible entrance,” Local Guides help people with mobility impairments decide where to go. Thanks to them, we can now provide crowdsourced accessibility information for more than 50 million places on Google Maps. At our annual event last year and againseveral weeks ago, I met some amazing Guides--like Emeka from NigeriaandIlankovan from Sri Lanka--who have become informal accessibility ambassadors themselves, promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities around the world.

Today, on International Day of Persons With Disabilities, I hope our work to make Google Maps more inclusive underscores what Angela Glover Blackwell wrote so powerfully about in “The Curb-Cut Effect.” When we build with accessibility in mind, it doesn’t just help people with disabilities. It helps everyone. Curb cuts in sidewalks don’t just help me cross the street—they also help parents pushing strollers, workers with deliveries and tourists with suitcases. As Blackwell puts it, building equity is not a zero-sum game—everyone benefits.

The people in wheelchairs you don’t see in your city? They've been shut out, and may not be able to be a part of society because their environment isn't accessible. And that’s not merely a loss for them. It’s a loss for everyone, including friends, colleagues and loved ones of people with disabilities. I’m grateful to those who stay mindful of the issues faced by people like me to ensure that our solutions truly help the greater community.

Source: Google LatLong


37 students accepted to CS Research mentorship program

Computer science research addresses problems that affect all of our lives, from producing better flood forecasts to live captions and more. To ensure that CS research explores the issues that affect all communities, the researchers themselves need to be representative of those communities But in 2018, less than 25 percent of computer science PhD degrees in the United States were awarded to researchers from groups historically underrepresented in technology.

As part of our efforts to broaden participation in CS research careers and make them more accessible to everyone, we accepted 37 outstanding undergraduates to Google’s CS Research Mentorship Program (CSRMP) this fall. The program encourages students to pursue graduate and doctorate-level CS studies by matching them with Google mentors. As the students work toward their goals, they attend a CS research conference and travel to Mountain View as guests for the PhD Fellowship Summit.

We caught up with Sam Steinberg, a junior in Information Science at Cornell University, to learn about her journey to the program and what she wants to accomplish with CS research. 

What led you to CS?

At six years old, I walked into my room and threw the family laptop onto the ceramic floor. I wanted to  see its insides, and there they were: circuits, capacitors, resistors and motors scattered like cookie crumbs across the ground. While my parents were certainly upset about the mess I made (sorry mom and dad!), I was in awe, and that’s how my love affair with technology began.

What were some defining moments in your CS journey?

In high school, I was the only girl in my CS classes. After a Girls Who Code summer program, I started a club at my school. I found that so much of learning difficulty doesn’t have to do with the content, but the environment in which you absorb material. In the Girls Who Code club, I felt undaunted to ask questions, work alongside my peers, and help teach other girls. 

One of the most humbling moments was being named the inaugural winner of The Society of Women Engineers SWENext Award. As a young Latina aspiring to work in tech, it was eye-opening to learn about the discrepancies in retention for minorities in STEM. SWE has helped further instill my passion for advocating about the importance of gender and ethinic diversity in STEM fields.

Why are you interested in CS research?

I'm a 5 foot 2 Puerto Rican Jew with a lisp, and the career aspirations of Shuri, the female engineer from Black Panther. Like any Marvel hero, I want to change the world, but not by shooting laser beams to defeat the bad guys. I’ve always been fascinated with how technology can be used as a tool to help others, especially how those with cognitive and learning disabilities can maintain focus and relaxation in school and daily life.

What do you hope to accomplish during the CS Research Mentorship Program? 

My latest project is called illuMATE, a bracelet designed for children with autism and other developmental disabilities that monitors heart rate via an Arduino pulse sensor. When it detects a spike in heart rate, it sends a series of customizable vibrations down the child’s wrist to help them relax. Touch-pressure and vibration technology has been clinically proven to help those with autism de-stress. My goal with CSRMP is to work with my mentor Rachel to further develop my project and framework with supporting research, and learn more about how product management works at Google.

We are humbled to support such exceptional students as they pursue CS research careers. Look for these 37 names in future headlines as they confront our greatest challenges (and solve them).

Ladies of Landsat builds inclusivity in the geosciences

Editor’s note:Today’s post is by Morgan Crowley, a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University who studies wildfire progressions. This post is based on her recent appearance on the podcast Scene From Above. Above photo courtesy of McGill University.

Ladies of Landsat stickers

Working and studying in the geosciences can be lonely sometimes. I didn’t realize how lonely I was, and that this loneliness was tied to my identity as a woman, until I spent several days at a conference without seeing anyone else in the ladies’ room. Groups like Ladies of Landsat, which I help coordinate, connect us to fellow scientists who are gender and other minority peers so we can reach out about everything from finding research partners to starting a family.  By building up each other’s confidence and celebrating our wins, we lift, retain and attract women in the field. 

In our case, most connections happen on Twitter, although we do come together at events like the 2018 Google Earth Engine summit in Dublin. Google provided a space for us to connect while also teaching us technical skills in Google Earth and Earth Engine, so we were equipped to answer pressing scientific questions like where and when do wildfires spread in Canada, and how much air pollution does a fire produce in India

At the September 2019 Geo for Good Summit, we teamed up with Women in Geospatial, another online group promoting gender equality in geosciences, to discuss shared interests, challenges and skills. 

In 2018, I went to the ForestSAT conference and heard women like Dr. Jody Vogelerand Dr. Joanne White talk about forestry with an incredible level of depth. I got chills. It was the first time I’d talked to more than one woman at a time about this type of science. Dr. Kate Fickas, a research faculty member at the University of Utah and the brains behind Ladies of Landsat, set up a women’s networking event at a local bar. Dr. Monika Moskal brought her ground-based LiDAR unit, a surveying device, to take a picture of us. So many people came up to us and said, “I’ve never been with this many women in the field. This is incredible.”

A LiDAR selfie of the Ladies of Landsat members

A LiDAR selfie of the Ladies of Landsat members standing in a circle around the laser scanning sensor at our 2018 ForestSAT meet up at the University of Maryland. (Image credit: Dr. Monika Moskal)

It’s encouraging to see that Ladies of Landsat and Women in Geospatial are not the only groups working to make geospatial sciences more inclusive. There are amazing groups all over the world like Women in GIS, Women in GIS - Kenya, WinGRSS and She Maps. There’s also GeoLatinas, Black Girls Mapp, GeoChicas and Indigenous Maps, who support people of color in the field. And in spite of our name, Ladies of Landsat, we’re not just about lifting up women; we’re inclusive to all genders and identities. 

The work of making geosciences more inclusive is just starting—and you can play a role, too. If you read a research paper whose authors are all men, ask why. If you go to a scientific event and every panel member is a white person, speak up. Invite gender and racial minority scientists to share their work and nominate them for grants and speaking slots. The burden to change this status quo rests on people in power.

Finalists from our Design Challenge are Changing the Game

Research shows that while half of all mobile game players are women, only 23 percent of them think there’s equal treatment and opportunity in the industry. In order to promote women as players and creators, Change The Game empowers the next generation of game makers so all players can feel represented and engaged. 

Our annual Design Challenge encouraged teenagers nationwide to design an original game. We received over 1,500 entries and selected five finalists, who worked with Girls Make Games. These winning games are now available for download on Google Play.

Read more about our finalists, their vision, and the inspiration behind their games below:

Grand prize winner: Anna, 18 years old, from New York.

Anna was inspired to create Brightlove when she noticed a lack of active intervention by her peers in situations when someone was being bullied or hurt. Brightlove encourages players to be kind and to take action, rather than being mere bystanders. A refreshing contrast to the violence that often permeates mobile games, Brightlove encourages positive actions and rewards kindness.
Bright Love

Bridgette, 16 years old, from Washington.

Bridgette had been toying with the idea ofLune for quite some time, but Change The Game “gave her the push she needed to bring her thoughts to life.” She wanted to create a game that combined both entertaining mechanics while also telling a powerful narrative. Lune takes place in a distant future where humanity has achieved deep space travel and created sentient AI. The player is prompted to make choices that will dictate her performance, battle options, and ultimately decide her fate.

Lune

Grace, 15 years old, from Texas.

Grace’s interest in game design comes from an unorthodox place. She wasn’t a big gamer growing up. But when she discovered YouTube, she also discovered creators who worked on game development. This inspired her to create games of her own. This particular game idea came to her when she was walking her dog, a miniature poodle named Lucy. Good Dogs Bring Joy flips the virtual pet game idea on its head. The user plays as a dog named Alex who wants to help their owner to collect information about the world. What will they sniff up together?
Good Dogs

Krista, 18 years old, from New Hampshire.

Krista has always been fascinated by games that have a relatable and personable story to follow. With Spectrum, Krista wanted to capture a feeling of love and belonging, as well as the ability to do something about the various situations life throws at you. Fun fact: Spectrum evolved from doodles and sketches, with little notes in the margins. Spectrum is a 2D platformer fantasy game in which “sprites” small pixie-like creatures, are taking over the bodies of other creatures on Earth, controlling their actions and powers.
Spectrum

Neha, 15 years old, from California.

Neha was watching a show about the vastness of the universe at a planetarium when she was struck with the idea of YuMe. Living in a society caught up with differences and judgement, Neha was inspired to focus on similarities and how we can all belong as one. The word “yume” in Japanese means dream, and the game name, YuMe, is a play on the word which combines the English words “You” and “Me.” The title expresses that the character’s dream is for “you and me” to meet.
Yume

Inspired to learn more about game making? Interested in empowering the next generation of game-makers? Learn more about Change The Game today.

Sharing knowledge this Native American Heritage Month

I am a proud tribal member of Doyon, one of the 12 Alaska Native regional corporations. Unlike the “lower 48” states, Alaskan Native tribes are organized as incorporated entities. My family has lived and fished in Alaska for generations; we have a fish camp on the Yukon River where we come together every summer to live off the land, with no running water, no electricity and no access except by boat. Growing up each summer on the Yukon has taught me the importance of knowledge sharing—passing traditions and customs from one generation to the next. 

As a Googler, I’ve never lost sight of this, and continue sharing knowledge with those around me. This October, I partnered with my tribe to create a robotics workshop with the Google American Indian Network, an employee resource group made up of Googlers from across the company who are passionate about making an impact for indigenous communities. Software engineers from Google traveled all the way from California to Fairbanks, Alaska to facilitate robotics lessons for a group of Alaskan Native high school students from villages across the Interior. Using robotics kits, these students coded and competed in four back-to-back competitions over the course of three days.

This is just one of the several ways Google, and the people who work here, are honoring Indigenous communities, especially now during Native American Heritage Month. The Doodle team kicked off the month with a Doodle honoring Will Rogers, a Cherokee Nation member and champion of positive political commentary and aviation. The Google Arts and Culture team shared a story about Rogers’ legacy, and held a special interview with currently elected Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. at Google’s offices in Mountain View. 

Will Rogers Google Doodle

Just last month, we celebrated a partnership between the Google American Indian Network and Celilo Village, a Native American community on the Columbia River, where we were able to bring Wi-Fi to its residents. This project is a positive step forward to improve the digital divide between urban and rural communities, which is especially apparent for Native communities across the country.

Earlier this year, Google Earth launched a project enabling people to meet—and hear—more than 50 Indigenous speakers from around the globe, including a Cherokee speaker from Oklahoma and a Karuk speaker and Central Pomo speaker both from California. Yesterday, the Global Oneness Project and Google Earth released a lesson plan and activities to help teachers explore Indigenous languages vitality with their students. For Indigenous speakers interested in submitting their language to the collection, the Google Earth team is taking submissions through the end of this year.

I feel proud to be a part of two corporations: my heritage as a tribal shareholder of Doyon, an Alaska Native regional corporation, and my role as a Googler, where our mission is to make the world’s information accessible to all, extending knowledge beyond regions and customs. I’m excited to be a part of a new generation of knowledge sharing in the interior of Alaska, one that ignites a passion for education and helps build the next great generation of Alaskan Natives who like their ancestors, use the resources available to them to make an impact in their communities.

Ana Baasee’(thank you)!

Investing in affordable and inclusive communities

Editor’s note: This guest post comes from Micaela Connery, Founder and CEO of The Kelsey.

My cousin Kelsey and I were born three months apart, going through every life milestone together. When it came time to live on our own, it took me several months to find housing—but it took Kelsey almost eight years. Her family struggled to find a home that was supportive of her disabilities, while still letting Kelsey be part of the broader community.

Kelsey and Micaela

Kelsey and me

It’s a challenge almost every adult with disabilities faces. Kelsey was one of the lucky ones, with supportive parents and good local resources. The reality is that over 70 percent of people with developmental disabilities never move from their family home. This challenge is particularly acute in lower income communities or communities of color.

Addressing this critical housing need for adults with disabilities can, and must, be done through inclusion in design, funding, policies and culture. The Kelsey creates and advocates for housing where people with and without disabilities live, play, and serve together. With a $5.3 million investment from Google, we're building our first community—The Kelsey Ayer Station—in San Jose, California.

The Kelsey Ayer Station will provide 115 homes to people of all abilities and all incomes. Our rent prices accommodate people with a range of incomes and 25 percent of the community is specifically reserved for people with disabilities. Developed in partnership with Sares Regis Group of Northern California, the entire space (including each unit) is designed to be accessible and inclusive to everyone. The site includes on-site features like a drop-off for accessible transit, sensory garden, and space for support staff. The building will have an Inclusion Concierge™, which means that two staff members will live in the community full time and connect residents to each other, the services and support they need, and the broader city around them. It will be a community where everyone—regardless of background, disability, identity, gender, age and race—can feel at home.

Google’s investment is part of its broader commitment to Bay Area housing. With it, we no longer have to worry about critical pre-development costs like purchasing and entitling our land and completing initial design work. At the same time, Google’s financing will help us focus on securing permanent financing and philanthropic support to complete the project. Google’s investment allows us to stick to our ambitious pace: residents will move into the space in four years, a timeline rarely seen in the housing industry. 

Less than 12 percent of adults with developmental disabilities own or rent their own home. But what people with disabilities want in housing isn’t particularly special or different. People want a place where they have privacy and independence, but also community where they feel safe without being constrained. People want a home they are proud of and can thrive in. Most importantly, housing for people with disabilities isn’t a problem to be solved “for them”—it’s an opportunity to create better designed, higher-quality, more connected communities for everyone.

The Kelsey Ayer Station will demonstrate what’s possible when people, funding, and cities come together with a shared commitment to inclusion. With help from companies like Google and cities like San Jose we’re well on our way and we’re confident that their support will attract others to step up to make inclusive community a reality. 


More from this Collection

Making technology accessible for everyone

To mark National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we’re sharing more about our efforts to make technology, and the world around us, more accessible.

View all 10 articles

Bringing Wi-Fi to the residents of Celilo Village

For the past seven years, I have spent time visiting students in rural communities across Washington State, where I live. I share information about science, engineering, technology and math, and specifically talk about software engineering and the projects Google has launched. It’s a true joy of mine to see students excited about technology, and see their young minds thinking about the possibilities ahead of them. 


When I visit students, I get to combine my experience as an engineer at Google, and as a member of the Google American Indian Network, to bring access to technology to those who may not otherwise have it. As an Elder and an Enrolled Member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Oregon, I was honored to take part in Google’s latest initiative to bring Wi-Fi and Chromebooks to Celilo Village, a Native American community on the Columbia River. This project will give residents and students the ability to access the abundance of information found online, and improve the digital divide between urban and rural communities.


The village has a historical significance to this part of the country, dating back over 11,000 years. Today, it’s home to nearly 100 Native Americans from many tribes, four of whom are the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Confederated Tribes of Yakama, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla and the Nez Perce Tribe. And until now, the 16 homes in the village had sporadic or no access to Wi-Fi.

Celilo Village schoolhouse

Distributing Chromebooks to village residents in their renovated schoolhouse.

Thanks to a grant from Google, participation from the Google American Indian Network and collaboration with Dufur School, village residents and The Dalles Data Center, all homes now have access to Wi-Fi, and so do their schoolhouse and longhouse. Residents will have access to Chromebooks, and I put together a booklet with instructions on getting online and accessing Google apps.

Daydream VR in Celilo Village

Karen Whitford, a resident and Elder of Celilo Village, tries out the Google Daydream View VR headset.

The idea for the partnership came from Celilo Village resident Bobby Begay, who talked to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center about funding connectivity for the village. The Discovery Center then worked with Googlers across the company to get the project started, including the Google American Indian Network. We celebrated this special gift with a community event in Celilo Village over the weekend, where we were joined by tribal leaders, policymakers and community members.

My fellow Googlers and I worked directly with the community to get this done, and we plan to keep our partnership going. “I’m excited to see the project come to fruition, but I think even more I’m excited at the opportunity to foster a longer-term relationship with residents of Celilo,” says my colleague Tria Bullard, one of the first Googlers to get involved with the project. We plan to provide more trainings and other computer science-related activities in the future. 

My hope is that with this new window into technology, Celilo Village will continue to grow and thrive for years to come. And who knows: Maybe kids growing up there will become part of the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Bringing Wi-Fi to the residents of Celilo Village

For the past seven years, I have spent time visiting students in rural communities across Washington State, where I live. I share information about science, engineering, technology and math, and specifically talk about software engineering and the projects Google has launched. It’s a true joy of mine to see students excited about technology, and see their young minds thinking about the possibilities ahead of them. 


When I visit students, I get to combine my experience as an engineer at Google, and as a member of the Google American Indian Network, to bring access to technology to those who may not otherwise have it. As an Elder and an Enrolled Member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Oregon, I was honored to take part in Google’s latest initiative to bring Wi-Fi and Chromebooks to Celilo Village, a Native American community on the Columbia River. This project will give residents and students the ability to access the abundance of information found online, and improve the digital divide between urban and rural communities.


The village has a historical significance to this part of the country, dating back over 11,000 years. Today, it’s home to nearly 100 Native Americans from many tribes, four of whom are the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Confederated Tribes of Yakama, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla and the Nez Perce Tribe. And until now, the 16 homes in the village had sporadic or no access to Wi-Fi.

Celilo Village schoolhouse

Distributing Chromebooks to village residents in their renovated schoolhouse.

Thanks to a grant from Google, participation from the Google American Indian Network and collaboration with Dufur School, village residents and The Dalles Data Center, all homes now have access to Wi-Fi, and so do their schoolhouse and longhouse. Residents will have access to Chromebooks, and I put together a booklet with instructions on getting online and accessing Google apps.

Daydream VR in Celilo Village

Karen Whitford, a resident and Elder of Celilo Village, tries out the Google Daydream View VR headset.

The idea for the partnership came from Celilo Village resident Bobby Begay, who talked to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center about funding connectivity for the village. The Discovery Center then worked with Googlers across the company to get the project started, including the Google American Indian Network. We celebrated this special gift with a community event in Celilo Village over the weekend, where we were joined by tribal leaders, policymakers and community members.

My fellow Googlers and I worked directly with the community to get this done, and we plan to keep our partnership going. “I’m excited to see the project come to fruition, but I think even more I’m excited at the opportunity to foster a longer-term relationship with residents of Celilo,” says my colleague Tria Bullard, one of the first Googlers to get involved with the project. We plan to provide more trainings and other computer science-related activities in the future. 

My hope is that with this new window into technology, Celilo Village will continue to grow and thrive for years to come. And who knows: Maybe kids growing up there will become part of the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Making support accessible: why Google joined Be My Eyes

Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from Will Butler of Be My Eyes, whose recent partnership with Google makes support more accessible for people who are blind or have low vision.

As a blind person, accessibility is everything. If the products or services that I use aren’t accessible, I can’t communicate with friends and family, hold down a job, buy things, or invest my money. This experience is a reality for the over 253 million people who are blind or have low vision, and the millions more who face daily accessibility barriers with the products, services, and websites they use.  

Be My Eyes enables people who are blind or have low vision to live more independently with the support of nearly 3 million sighted volunteers. These volunteers are a lifeline for many people around the world, providing a pair of eyes over a quick video call to help with everyday tasks—like helping someone figure out when their chicken is finished cooking, play video games and learn how to use a new washer for the first time.

Be My Eyes App

Left phone: Shows the Google profile on the Be My Eyes Specialized Help platform. Right phone: Shows a Be My Eyes call with a Google support agent helping with a Pixelbook

Often Be My Eyes users need help with a task—like setting up a new phone—that requires an expert pair of eyes. Over the last year, Be My Eyes has partnered with companies and organizations, like Google and Microsoft, who use the app to provide specialized support for their products. 

Using the Be My Eyes app, someone can get help directly from Google’s Disability Support team. This means that if someone with low vision wants help turning on screen reader support for their Pixel phone, they can talk to a Google support agent directly to get help with their question. The Google Assistant can help with this, too. By saying "Hey Google, open Be My Eyes for Google" you’ll be immediately connected to the Disability Support team.

One of the coolest parts about the accessibility community is the spirit of collaboration that exists. Today, together with Google and Microsoft, we're calling for more technology companies to join the Be My Eyes platform, make your support center accessible with video, and help this community of people be more independent. Become part of this mission by joining us today—email partner@bemyeyes.com.

How Google made me proud to be out at work

Until I started working at Google in 2014, I had never been out at work.  

Now, less than five years later, everything is different: I’m an active volunteer leader in Google’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group—a Googler-run, company-supported organization that works to provide an inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees, and partners closely with our Trans Employee Resource Group, which represents our transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary colleagues. As part of my role, I’ve had the chance to engage LGBTQ+ Googlers across our global offices, speak publicly about being LGBTQ+ in the workplace and have even been able to share my perspectives and experiences directly with Google leadership. 

At this point, I can barely remember what it felt like to not be a visible, openly LGBTQ+ person at work. So it’s hard to imagine that before joining Google, I felt I couldn’t come out at the office at all. 

As we celebrate National Coming Out Day and reflect on all of the progress we’ve made as a community, I am determined to remember this simple but crucial reality: Openness matters. Community matters. Being able to be out at work matters. 

LGBTQ+ Pride sign at Google

Googlers create signs supporting the LGBTQ+ community for the 2017 New York City Pride March.

Prior to joining Google, I’d spent time in a variety of industries, always under the careful, polite policy of evasion when it came to questions about my personal life. Perhaps I didn’t need to be so secretive. I worked with wonderful, kind people, and though there were no explicit shows of support for LGBTQ+ issues from my workplace, I’m sure most of my colleagues and managers wouldn’t have taken issue with my identity. 

Still, for many LGBTQ+ folks, the fear of prejudice can nag at you, and cause you to hesitate even around the most well-meaning of coworkers. Some assume that with the ushering in of marriage equality here in the U.S., other kinds of inequality have disappeared and the movement is complete. But as many LGBTQ+-identifying people will tell you, critical challenges still remain, and it takes a conscious and dedicated effort to counteract their effects. 

Growing up in New Mexico, I got an early introduction to some of the challenges that LGBTQ+ people still so often face: harassment, discrimination, violence. The understanding that being LGBTQ+ was unsafe was imprinted on me almost immediately, and that fear left a lasting mark.  

In each new city, from college to a job to graduate school to another job, I was reminded (often in not-so-subtle ways) that no matter what might change in the law or in popular culture, I should always be wary, always be careful.  

So I never took the chance.  

In so many important ways, restraining from bringing my full self to work hurt my ability to be a good employee. Constantly worrying about slipping up and revealing that I had a girlfriend rather than a boyfriend prevented me from feeling fully integrated. It became an obstacle to forming the kinds of professional relationships that help company culture feel cohesive and supportive.  

Now, I realize how much I was missing.  Today, I’m part of a workplace with visible LGBTQ+ leaders, explicit shows of support for LGBTQ+ cultural moments and celebrations and broad encouragement to use what makes me different to create an environment of inclusion for my fellow Googlers. This journey has made me realize how much all workplaces can benefit from supporting their employees’ differences, just as much as they celebrate their collective unity.  

I’m proud. I hope you are, too.