Action #5 — Belonging & Innovation

We took concrete steps to foster a culture of belonging—which helps us better design and build products with everyone in mind.

Google – Building belonging to expand what's possible


Hear from john a. powell, University of California at Berkeley’s Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute, on how organizations can take concrete steps to help create a world in which everyone feels like they belong.

Our approach

Belonging is a universal human need—and it’s our responsibility to help foster it.

According to the work of john a. powell, an internationally recognized expert in civil rights, “belonging” is the common thread that bonds nations, neighborhoods, families, communities, and workplaces. At Google, our goal is to build a culture in which everyone feels that they belong— and that they can meaningfully contribute to building helpful, universally accessible products and services.

In the workplace

We grew our global internal support for people with disabilities at Google.

We’ve increased representation of people with disabilities at Google and we’re making sure that they can engage, imagine and build—belonging in all the ways that matter at Google. For example, in Brazil, we’ve tripled the representation of Googlers with disabilities, and we launched real-time, live captioning (generated by real people), live audio-descriptors, and sign language interpreters for all office-wide meetings.

A Google office building at night. It's lit up purple to mark a special event.

Our offices in Zurich, London, Wroclaw, Munich (pictured), and the Hyperlink Bridge in Dublin turned purple for International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

We’re also helping foster new connections with disability communities around the globe. Last year, our London, Dublin, Munich, Zurich, Wroclaw, and Nairobi offices celebrated #PurpleLightUp, a global campaign that celebrates every employee with a disability around the world. Leaders from each office also held conversations with our employee resource group (ERG) for Googlers with disabilities.

In the workplace

We’re weaving belonging into the fabric of our company practices.

A portrait of two women.

Marian Croak and Jen Gennai are two Googlers who are helping define responsible AI.

In 2021, we partnered closely with the Othering & Belonging Institute to create targeted strategies for incorporating belonging into everything Google does. For example, we continue to host quarterly roundtable discussions on making AI research more equitable. As a result of our roundtables, we co-created a set of internal exercises to ensure teams prioritize equity and inclusiveness as they design and build new products and services.

To support the development of ethical and fair AI technology, we brought together 70 of Google’s expert advisors from 40 offices around the world to act as the “Principles Pioneers.” Each advisor received dedicated training on tech ethics and algorithmic fairness, consistent with our AI Principles, before engaging on far-reaching projects that extend across all Google products. Recently, the team identified—and helped fix—fairness concerns in an image dataset used in a new product built for internet users in developing nations.

In the workplace

Globally, we’ve created more space for open conversations on tough topics.

Members of the Asian Googler Network gather.

Members of our Asian Google Network employee resource group gather together.

In Asia Pacific, we started “You Can’t Ask That” in 2020. This program creates a brave and respectful place for any Googler to share stories and experiences that reflect experiences faced by themselves or their community. We continued to see strong participation in this program in 2021—for example, over 3,400 Googlers attended sessions. And from hosting community talks in the U.S., to providing additional global mental health services, we listened and took action to help Asian Googlers around the world feel supported. And in our India offices, we received a gold rating in the India Workplace Equality Index 2021, India’s first comprehensive benchmarking tool to measure LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace—thanks to internal initiatives, like “Chai Chats,” that foster open discussions between employees.

In the world

We responded to hate with support and compassion.

Google committed over $10 million in funds to help #StopAsianHate, a global campaign focused on condemning anti-Asian violence, including cash grants, Google Ad Grants, and YouTube Ad Credits. Ads created free marketing resources to raise awareness about the increase in hate towards Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

We also launched new internal initiatives. From community talks in the U.S., to additional mental health services available globally, we listened and took action to help Asian Googlers around the world feel supported during a particularly painful time.

Google and YouTube made a company-wide pledge to continue to combat hate speech online with our policies, tools, and programs to an audience of world leaders at the Malmö International Forum, an annual event focused on combating anti-Semitism globally. We also announced $5.4 million in monetary grants and in-kind ad donations to support governments and nonprofits as they promote Holocaust awareness and fight anti-Semitism.

In the world

We provided opportunities for people with disabilities to grow their careers in the tech industry.

To increase representation of people with disabilities, we launched gReach in Asia. gReach is a paid upskilling program for students and industry professionals with disabilities. The program gives participants on-the-job training and the chance to work on a range of projects in various Google teams.

In the world

We supported spaces that create a sense of belonging for LGBTQ+ communities.

A group of younger queer people sit on a couch inside.

We’re proud to support spaces like the Magic City Acceptance Center, a radically inclusive, affirming space for LGBTQ+ communities in Alabama.

To aid small business recovery during the pandemic, we launched a global campaign to help support and celebrate LGBTQ+ friendly spaces—from queer and trans-owned auto shops to historic gay bars and community arts centers. We also made a $4 million commitment of funding and Ad Grants—plus tools, training, and volunteer opportunities—to LGBTQ+ businesses and organizations recovering from COVID-19.

In the world

And we worked to create health equity using data and technology.

Our new Health Equity Tracker visualizes health data, making it more actionable and accessible.

We launched The Health Equity Tracker (HET), a publicly available data platform that visually displays and contextualizes the health disparities facing communities of color throughout the U.S. This tool analyzes national public health data to record COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations across race and ethnicity, sex, and age, tracking case rates by state and county. The tool also measures social and systemic factors—like poverty and lack of health insurance—that exacerbate these inequities and result in higher COVID-19 death rates for people of color, especially in Black and Latinx communities.

Spotlight work

Equity & product innovation: Building with, not just for.

As part of Google's commitment to product inclusion, our teams are working to ensure that all of Google’s camera and imagery products work for everyone, of every skin tone.

When it comes to product innovation, we believe in reaching out to build with communities, not just build for them. And in 2021, we saw a few of these exciting, collaborative initiatives come to life.

Really listening to feedback.

Take Real Tone. Historically, bias in camera technology has resulted in people of color being excluded from moments that matter. Earlier cameras were not built to capture darker skin tones—creating photos only showing lighter skin tones with clarity and balance. We partnered with well-known image makers in communities of color, like cinematographer Kira Kelly and multidisciplinary artist Deun Ivory, to improve our understanding and our datasets that train our camera models.

Their feedback helped provide improvements across our face detection, camera and editing products. How so? For one, we improved the auto-white balance models that determine color in pictures to show more nuanced skin color. We also developed an algorithm to reduce stray light, which tends to disproportionately wash out darker skin tones.

Similarly, we worked with transgender communities to improve Google Photos.

By partnering with GLAAD, we got feedback from transgender, nonbinary, and gender expansive communities that features like Memories don’t work equally well for everyone.

For those communities, an old photo can be painful. So we made it possible to hide photos of certain people or time periods from our Memories feature. And we’re working on adding even more control features in the future.

Woolaroo is a new digital tool for exploring indigenous languages.

Building inclusively, to preserve what matters most.

Outside of our core products, we also build products that can help communities preserve their culture. For example, in 2021, we launched Woolaroo, an open source tool for exploring the indigenous languages of the world, in partnership with experts at the Yugambeh Museum in Australia. The tool allows communities to preserve and expand word lists for 10 global languages, like Māori, Nawat, Tamazight, Sicilian, Yang Zhuang, Rapa Nui, and more.

A portrait of a woman facing the camera. She has dark curly hair and is wearing a yellow blouse.

“When I came to Google, it was a tremendous opportunity to be at the forefront of thinking about how tech and innovation could help to solve some of the challenges we face in society. After all, we were thinking about tools, who uses them, and how.”

Chanelle Hardy, who co-leads Google’s civil and human rights program, helps ensure that Google's products and services reflect the input of diverse communities.