Leading Women and Black Community Engagement at Google: Meet Valeisha Butterfield Jones
Valeisha Butterfield Jones is the Global Head of Women and Black Community Engagement for Google and the Co-founder and CEO of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN).
An award-winning activist, author, and executive, Valeisha formerly served in the Obama Administration as the Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the International Trade Administration, as the Executive Director of Rush Communications and as the National Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Alzheimer’s Association. Valeisha’s career started at HBO Sports and has spanned two decades with proven community impact at the intersection of technology, politics, and entertainment.
Valeisha has been recognized by Forbes, Elle’s Top 10 Women to Watch, Essence’s Top 40 under 40, Harper's Bazaar, Ebony’s Power 100 (2x), TheRoot100 (2x), Glamour, and others. She hosts the podcast Off the Record with Valeisha and wrote the highly-acclaimed book The Girlprint, a career mentorship guide for young women. A graduate of Clark Atlanta University, a North Carolina native and a loving wife and mom, Valeisha now calls California home.
How and why did you begin working with Google?
After spending 18 years focused on community engagement, diversity, and inclusion, I took a moment to do a landscape analysis of my career. The theme that emerged was technology. When I looked at the work I did in the Obama administration, and my work in the entertainment industry, I realized that technology was the thread that ran through it all.
I wanted to tackle an industry that was successful, yet challenged around gender, race and inclusion. Technology was the place where I saw the greatest opportunity to drive measurable impact.
Also, I wanted to work for a company that is committed to inclusion, equity, and accelerating growth for minority- and women-owned businesses.
What is your role and mission at Google?
I am the Global Head of Women and Black Community Engagement at Google. We combined those categories intentionally, because we see the intersection of race and gender as a core part of our mission.
I view this as an opportunity to drive transformational change in hiring, retention, and culture across the tech industry. I want to change the face and culture of tech. That means hiring more qualified and talented technologists of color and women. How I plan to drive transformational change includes looking at where we are hiring, how we are hiring, and bridging opportunity gaps around where we can find top talent.
Can you share what engagement and inclusion mean to you?
To me, engagement means that you have to meet the community where they are. It means engaging people in a way that is authentic, culturally relevant, and unique to the communities that we want to serve, hire and retain.
Inclusion means deeply embedding communities into our culture. As a company, we take inclusion very seriously. At Google, we want everyone to feel a true sense of belonging. In order for that to happen, we have to have an inclusive culture and that means looking at our work with a race, culture, and gender lens.
Engagement, inclusion, and leader accountability are critical to our success.
What inspires you most about this work?
I am inspired by people – both the people we want to hire, and the people here at Google who drive this important work.
We have dedicated, passionate, and talented people on our diversity and inclusion team. We are enthusiastic. We care, and we believe that we can drive this change, so optimism is high. My team inspires me every day.
I speak to Googlers across the company, at all levels, all backgrounds, all races, and I am just so inspired by our company's commitment to inclusion. That keeps me going when we have those difficult times, those hard moments when these problems feel too big or insurmountable. Definitely, the Googlers here inspire me to keep going.
What advice can you give to people who want to get involved in inclusion and community engagement?
It is okay to start small. When we tackle big challenges, we have a tendency to want to grow and scale quickly. I would encourage anyone interested in doing this work to start small. Test your ideas to make sure they are viable before scaling.
It is important to keep the people that you partner with at the center of the work. It can be tempting, especially if you work in the tech industry, to focus heavily, and sometimes over index, on data. While data is important, it should never replace human contact, human interaction and one-to-one conversations. Understanding how to humanize data will help inform your strategy.
Keep people at the center of your work, and be okay starting small as you plan for scale.
Inspired by Valeisha? Apply for a job at Google to create, code, design and build for everyone.
Photo credit: Erik Umphery