Google has spent the last three years building a 2,000-strong team of Inclusion Champions to test its new services and devices. The aim is to ensure that everything Google releases, from its newest Assistant feature to the latest Pixel phone, is designed to meet the needs of people of all colors, shapes, and sizes.
As Google’s Head of Product Inclusion explained at CES, Google builds for everyone, no matter what they look like or where they come from. In this article, we look at Google’s diversity policies and why companies need to become more inclusive to succeed in the marketplace today.
Diversity in product development
From the ground up, Google is aiming to build products with equality in mind.
Annie Jean-Baptiste, Google’s Head of Product Inclusion, is a first-generation Haitian American woman. She has firsthand experience of how gender and race can affect an individual’s experience of the world. When people who build everyday products do not share your background, it can cause frustration and hurt in a number of ways, both big and small: for example, social media image filters that automatically lighten skin tone. Similarly, the Inclusion Champions team came about when an image quality engineer noted that the Pixel phone’s camera wasn’t rendering non-white people’s skin tones accurately. This problem wasn’t a flaw in the product; the issue simply wasn’t considered in the design.
Part of Jean-Baptiste’s job is to help create products that reflect all users, no matter where they live or who they are. The company is making a more serious effort to ensure that its products work for everyone.
As part of this, Google has pledged to make sure underrepresented voices are heard throughout the product development process. Input in the early stages of development is particularly important. Google states that it is committed to ensuring that all stages are inclusive: from prototyping and user research all the way through to launch. In this way, the organization can increase its global reach even further, by creating products that appeal to a wider demographic.
Developing Google Assistant
In building Google Assistant, the company took steps to ensure the product did not use insensitive language. Developers collaborated closely with Googlers, stress-testing the product and configuring lists of words to actively exclude. As a result of these efforts, today less than 0.0002% of Google Assistant queries are reported for being offensive.
Google’s diversity policy
Google states that its mission is to organize the world’s information, making it universally accessible and useful to all. The company also says that it builds for everyone, employing a workforce that is representative of the users they serve.
This effort includes working to create an inclusive, diverse workforce, where employees can thrive. The goal is to celebrate the diversity of employees, users, and customers, and to create products that add value to everyone’s lives, no matter their gender, ethnicity, race, social background, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, or national origin.
Understanding bias and its impact on the workplace and communities is vital in creating meaningful change in any organization. Google shares insights on diversity and inclusion on the company website, outlining the research, conversations, and programs that informed and inspired its diversity efforts. These insights include how-to information on evaluating subtle messaging, raising awareness of unconscious bias, gathering data, and eliminating bias when reviewing resumes. Censia‘s AI-based talent intelligence platform can assist with exactly this goal.
Diversity in marketing
In 2018, Google’s Chief Marketer, Lorraine Twohill, overhauled the company’s marketing strategies with the aim of making them more inclusive. She outlines 4 key lessons the company has learned, sometimes the hard way, to make creative work more inclusive:
1. Team diversity matters
In the advertising industry today, less than 6% of workers are black. Organizations need to ensure they see a wide variety of candidates from different backgrounds. Here, it is not just the organization’s diversity policy that matters, but equally that of agency partners.
2. Diversity is more than a tick box
Diversity has many layers. It is much more than skin color or gender. It is also about age, geography, socioeconomic class, ability, sexuality, and more. For example, Twohill explains that a review of Google’s marketing revealed that the company was using images with lots of racial diversity, but these individuals all looked like they came from hip urban neighborhoods and worked in tech.
3. Stereotyping alienates users
Using stereotypes, such as women in the kitchen, is a tried and true method of showing potential customers how little you relate to them.
To connect with your customer base, you need to understand and empathize with the people you want to reach. Across the advertising industry today, just 37% of people depicted in advertisements are women. Of those, a high proportion are depicted in stereotypical roles. A recent poll revealed that 85% of women in the United States said that these advertisements were not representative of their real-world selves.
4. Accountability is key
To create truly multicultural, inclusive marketing, Twohill’s team had to adopt tools and processes so that it could measure its progress toward goals. The team decided to partner with the University of Southern California and the Geena Davis Institute to use machine learning to analyze its video marketing and create benchmarks to track progress.
Google’s Inclusion Champions
Google’s announcement of its Inclusion Champions is calling more public attention to diversity within the tech industry, which has long been recognized as a major issue. In addition, the company reports that it has trained 12,000 engineers to recognize the importance of inclusivity in design, to ensure Google’s products work for all the communities it serves. Google’s pledge is that inclusion will not be an afterthought, but at the very heart of their products.