Being Black at Google

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Woman of color sitting in a windowed corner office working on a laptop
Woman of color sitting in a windowed corner office working on a laptop
Photo courtesy of WOCinTechChat.com

1. If you check badges at work, check ’em all

Leslie Miley, an engineering director at Google, shared a recent experience that is almost unbelievable to many of us who are white.

“It is not easy being black at #google. Today another googler (not a security person) physically tried to stop me from coming into the office. And it’s not the first time someone asked for my badge when it’s visible and make [sic] physical contact with me.”

As Leslie shared on stage at the recent Tech Inclusion conference, he’s regularly targeted for looking like a threat. He frequently witnesses white Googlers asking black Googlers for their badges. He attributes some of this to Google’s signage, which indicates that if you look different, you should be considered a threat.

If your company expects you to check badges for people entering the building with you, be an equal-opportunity badge-checker. Check everyone’s badges, not just those for black people.

2. Quote more women

Let’s face it. When giving presentations or writing blog posts, it’s easy to think of white male leaders to quote. (Think Bezos or Jobs or Zuckerberg.) But, representation matters. And now there’s a resource to make it easier to quote women leaders. Check out this collection. Use their free slides for your next presentation or social media campaign. And consider submitting additional quotes from women leaders to enhance the collection.

3. Don’t keep harassers on the payroll

Columnist Jessica Valenti wrote an opinion piece titled, #MeToo Killed the Myth of Male Genius. As she wrote,

“We don’t need to keep harassers on the payroll in order to give the world great art, music, writing, or comedy. Maybe their absence will even allow for new voices — ones that have traditionally been drowned or forced out.”

Ditto for every other industry and the products they offer.

4. Push back on the bias technical women encounter

In this eye-opening interview with a transgender woman, we were reminded of the bias facing women working in tech:

“Before my transition, people assumed I knew what I was talking about. They didn’t talk over me in meetings. They trusted me when I spoke, and they didn’t look to others for confirmation of my ideas. There was a baseline assumption that I was competent and capable. Since my transition, it’s distressingly common for people to talk over me, to look to men for validation of the things I say, to assume that I couldn’t possibly know anything about [technical topic] because I’m a girl. I’ve actually had people tell me, ‘what could you possibly know about that? You’re a girl!’ ”

Look out for this bias in your workplace interactions, and push back on it. Here are some simple phrases to consider using: “I’d like to hear her finish that thought” and “Looks like you don’t believe what she said; what makes you think that?”

5. Don’t shame and blame those with privilege

At its core, privilege is a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group. What they do with that privilege is what matters, and shaming or blaming anyone for being privileged can make them understandably defensive. Doing so can drive them away from being better allies.

Instead, encourage anyone with privilege to listen to the experiences of others, to learn, and to take action. Just one action every day can make a difference and help create a more inclusive workplace culture.

Being an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

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✉️ This content originally appeared in our newsletter, 5 Ally Actions. Subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox every Friday.

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Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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