Behind the scenes of our first Women of Color Summit

Over the past year, Google has continued to search for new ways to build a culture of belonging virtually. To continue this important work, last week, we hosted our first-ever Women of Color virtual summit. The event brought together thousands of Googlers, representing women of color from every corner of the world and across every part of the company. 

I sat down over Google Meet with April Alvarez, Google’s Head of Women, Latinx and Indigenous Communities and Programs, to learn more about the event, her work and how Google is making space to uplift women of color around the world.

First, can you tell us about what you do at Google?

I’m the Global Head of Women, Latinx and Indigenous Communities on our employee engagement team. My team is dedicated to building a better workplace for all of us. This means listening to our employees and ensuring that they have a voice, as well as providing support to our internal communities by making sure they have access to the resources they need. It also means helping to provide a space for these groups to connect via company-wide events like this one.

So why did you host a global summit?

In the past, we have hosted summits for distinct communities across the organization, such as the State of Black Women and Latinas at Google Summit. This year, after hearing feedback from our employees, we widened our lens to include all women of color across the company in a single gathering to share their experiences, address the unique opportunities and challenges they face and support their personal and professional enrichment. 

Around the world, we continue to reckon with structural and systemic racism. As long-term solutions are developed, we wanted to give light to and honor all of the amazing and talented women of color across the company. Our theme was Transcend, and the day centered around transcending global boundaries, celebrating each other, empathizing with shared challenges we face and giving space to our own stories of triumph and perseverance.

Tell us about the highlights.

The event included a powerful fireside chat with former first lady Michelle Obama and our Chief Diversity Officer, Melonie Parker. In the hour-long session, the two women covered a host of topics, including mentorship, vulnerability and how their childhood experiences shaped them. 

Reflecting on the stories and experiences women of color carry, Mrs. Obama said, "The only way people will know us, and our complexities, is if we share our stories.” In addition to the fireside chat, the virtual gathering featured 25 speakers from inside and outside Google who talked about their own experiences transcending boundaries. Another highlight for me was seeing the incredible feedback we’ve received from the attendees. One attendee said that it was the most inspiring and connection-driven program she ever experienced at Google.

What does this event mean to you?

For me personally, as someone who identifies as a Latina, a Chicana, Latinx, Mexican-American and as a woman of color, I know that when we come together like this, our voices become louder, and together we go further. After this past year, I’ve personally been craving connection with my fellow colleagues, and so for me personally, I was extremely thankful to have the space to be together in sisterhood.

What advice do you have for women of color?

Prioritize community and connection. Right now, so many of us are isolated, going through our work days alone and working from home and others are being pulled in multiple directions, trying to juggle work and family. Take the time to get to know others and create space to really listen and share experiences.