How Google's Communities Advance Equity in Tech

By Chris Genteel, Director of Community & Business Inclusion, Google

Chris leads Google's work to empower Googlers and their communities to create a more inclusive culture, a more diverse Google, and equitable outcomes for everyone through our products and business.

Google's long-term commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) rests on our ability to make progress on 1. diversity, as measured by the representation of women, minorities, and other under-represented employee groups in our workforce; 2. equity, as measured by outcomes for our people and users that aren't distinguishable by race, gender, and other factors; and 3. inclusion, as measured by Googlers' feeling that our culture enables everyone to contribute to the best of their ability.

While many of the efforts that lead to positive change in DEI start from Google's senior leadership and management team, my experience as an on-the-ground Googler for a decade is that the real secret sauce behind these efforts start from Google's affinity groups, innovation teams, and volunteers who comprise a formidable workforce focused on advancing Google's impact. Here, in the “Googley” spirit of open-sourcing our tools and knowledge for everyone, I share some of our best practices.


Our workforce is focused on DEI

Google's culture enables innovation from each person who joins the company. This has proven true in the DEI space, where Google's employees are mobilized globally to help create a more inclusive Google. I've experienced this firsthand in my own Google journey. When I first joined Google 10 years ago as a Sales Manager in a then-small startup office (Ann Arbor, MI), I was pointed to our MOSAIC employee resource group (ERG), a cross-cultural group championing inclusion and allyship for Googlers, to help me find my cultural bearings in a new company and industry. I also helped start the Black Googlers Network, which helped me find a company-wide network of Black Googlers to help me navigate the same. When our local team grew, we stood up even more ERGs, including VetNet for Veterans, Gayglers, Women@Google, and more over time, all open to those who identify with various groups or join as allies. ERGs continue to support Googlers bringing various identities to work, and help them thrive at Google across differences. As a manager, these groups helped me support my own team.

Today, my team supports Google's 14 global ERGs and more than 350 local chapters which engage some 20,000+ Googlers every year, serving as community gathering points, avenues for mentorship and collaboration, and as a resource for our business' efforts to bring more diversity into our people ranks. ERGs drive our innovation in DEI through local experimentation, driving outcomes that aggregate for our DEI work globally, as well as new approaches that my team is able to harness and scale across the company. Through this process we harness the breadth of perspectives needed to create products that better reflect and serve Google's diverse users, and to create a more inclusive culture.


Googlers advance equitable outcomes for our people and products

Another way Google fosters innovation amongst our people is through “20%-time,” or the idea that about 20% of an employee's focus can be on pursuing projects or initiatives that will benefit Google, even if not directly tied to their core job. Products as significant as Gmail started as 20% projects. And a few years back this policy enabled a number of us in Google's ad sales team to start a small, local effort we called the Black Business Outreach Project (“Project BBOP”), aimed at bridging the digital divide and driving economic equity in Black communities. This work inspired groups of other Googlers to do the same for various communities, and the formalization of a global network of Googlers advancing equity across various products and geographies.

Today, through our internal Diversity Core platform we enable some 1,200+ Googlers globally to drive progress on Google's diverse representation and culture goals, leading efforts such as our professional immersion days for African/Caribbean college students at our campus in Dublin, Ireland, which yield Black talent for Google; and culture projects such as a theater-based examination of sexism and misogyny.

The most emergent set of Googler-led projects speaks to Google's core: our culture won't be inclusive until our core products are. Googlers like Randy Reyes help enable the inclusive design of our products, linking product leadership, ERGs and Diversity Core members to the product design process. Googlers like Lucy Pinto, who brings Google's digital marketing expertise to minority entrepreneurs from San Jose to Johannesburg, were responsible for bringing hundreds of these digital skills workshops to over 100,000 external community members. And Googlers across the company have contributed to our efforts to work with more minority-, women-, LGBTQ- and disabled- and veteran-owned suppliers, helping us drive billions of dollars of direct impact to these diverse suppliers. Through Googlers' efforts, we scale our approach to driving economic impact to marginalized communities and prove that tech is open to everyone. When my team created these programs along with others supporting Google's business and product inclusion efforts, we did so knowing that Diversity Core Googlers across the company would join to help achieve the scale and impact needed to make them effective.


We cultivate allyship across Google's communities

Tying together efforts of the affinity-based ERGs and the broad-based Diversity Core are our efforts to face common challenges through coalition-building across our communities. Googlers and their communities affected by complex societal issues, such as immigration, hate crimes, economic disparity, police brutality, and student loan debt to name a few, find common allyship working across communities to find ways that Google's products, programs, and volunteerism can elevate, help Googlers cope with, and even help solve these issues.

Coming together to lift up diversity and grow inclusive culture is the mission of the MOSAIC ERG, which has led Googlers through both cross-community dialogues and through engagement around allyship for members of historically advantaged groups to support those from historically disadvantaged groups. Initiatives like Join The Conversation, a discussion group which provides a platform for our affinity communities and their allies to discuss tough issues that personally impact Googlers, help forge understanding, empathy, and partnership on solutions.

The growth of informal and formal allyship groups stems from the realization that too often too much of the onus of culture work in organizations is left to those communities most in the margins. Another group of allies we empower at Google are the members of our executive team who serve as sponsors to the various community groups. These champions elevate the perspectives of our ERGs and support the groups' various goals in career development, pipeline growth, and community celebration goals.

Across these employee engagement efforts, and throughout my own time at Google, I have witnessed Googlers doing incredible things to grow Google's business through inclusion, to build diversity across teams, and to extend the opportunities available through Google's products to communities with varying degrees of privilege and marginalization. Many of those Googlers received the applause and thanks of Googlers and Google's leaders, many went on to create opportunities to drive this work through their core roles in our business, and many more simply did so as part of their citizenship to Google and to their communities. All of them have inspired me to imagine how Google's footprint as a citizen of a more fair, respectful and just world can continue to grow when Googlers from the empowered margins come together to amplify their voices, actions, and impact. All of them inform my sense of what it means to be a Googler.

You can find Chris (@chrisgenteel), on Twitter, LinkedIn or at chrisgenteelmusic.com

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