Difest Speaker Series

Headshot of Sydney Coleman

Making workplaces more Inclusive…Setting an Example – Sydney Coleman

Product Inclusion, Google (USA)

What is the biggest barrier in making workplaces inclusive?

The biggest barrier to making workplaces inclusive is the lack of accountability measures, particularly for senior leadership. Oftentimes leadership voices support for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, yet their actions tell a different story. As a society, we need to move from performative allyship to equitable actions that disrupt the status quo. 

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Before joining the tech industry, I was passionate about social justice activism and dissecting power, privilege, and oppression. When I started my career in Silicon Valley, I expected that as a progressive, innovative industry, it would be different, more equitable, but it was immediately clear to me that was not the case. There were next to no white women in leadership roles and even fewer people of color with voices in key business decisions. It was like a big elephant in the room that no-one seemed to address head on, so I knew I needed to work on this.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Google is doing a lot. From sponsorship programs to advance underrepresented people’s careers, to partnering with the United Nations on women’s empowerment, to hosting an annual summit on the state of Black+ women with our CEO, to partnering with organizations to hire veterans, and empower LTBTQ+ business owners. I’m particularly excited about how we’re working to make our products more inclusive, accessible, and useful for users globally

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Don’t wait for opportunities, create them for yourself. Jobs are not posted online and by the time they are, it is often too late. Get out there and build a network.
  2. Fake it until you make it. If you want to be an expert at something, start talking with experts, reading books on the subject, listening to podcasts, absorb it until it is second nature to you and then people will start to value your perspective. Do the work.
  3. Nobody is going to tell you to ask for more money. Advocate for yourself and know your worth. Ask straight, able-bodied, white men in your same position what range they’re making and don’t settle for anything less.
  4. Never stop learning. Whether it is a new skill or an entirely new field, keep it moving and stay learning. Objects in motion stay in motion.
  5. Don’t ask anyone to be your mentor. Provide value, ask smart questions, learn your stuff, and share ideas. People will want to mentor and lift you up. It makes them feel good.