business

Google's Equality Initiatives Are Key to Success, Says Head of Product Inclusion

As a leader in tech, Google is working to be more inclusive and socially sensitive not only in its workspaces but also in the services and products the company provides.
Google's head of product inclusion, Annie Jean-Baptiste, said the company's initiatives toward racial and social equality are integral keys to its success.
"We've recently released some racial justice priorities that came from Sundar [Pichai], who's our CEO, and it's really exciting to see that we're focusing on things like culture, representation, and really trying to show up for our Black community," Baptiste told Cheddar.
When it comes to consumer products, Baptiste said Google is committed to weeding out and correcting features that are "unintentionally biased or alienating," particularly when it comes to devices like the Google Assistant.
"And so, we worked with what we call our inclusion champions — who are 2,000 Googlers from all different backgrounds and walks of life — who helped us stress test or adversarially test, which essentially means breaking the product before it launches," she continued.
Bias in technology is not limited to the Google Assistant, though; in fact, products like facial recognition technology have potentially much more dire consequences in real-life scenarios. To affect change, Baptiste said working with those that are often unintentionally targeted in order to improve software functions is essential.
"It's really, really important that from the onset, you're building and co-collaborating with groups that could disproportionately be affected or underrepresented," she noted.
Co-creating with disenfranchised groups, while essential to a company's growth and success, cannot be limited to just improving products, according to Baptiste. Including those groups as part of the company's workforce is also pivotal in closing the social and racial inequality gap, she said.
"I think it's really important to be intentional about who you're trying to serve and who has, historically, been at the margins," she said. "Whether that be products or policies, it's really important that you bring people from the backgrounds that you're trying to serve and backgrounds that have historically been at the margins, right to the center throughout the process."
For Baptiste, instilling a culture of inclusion can't just be items detailed on a piece of paper change-makers must be intentional about truly leveling the playing field.
"Inclusion can't be an afterthought and so it has to be something that lives within a company. It can't be within one team. It has to be something that people are held accountable [for] and excited about moving forward together," she said.
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