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How to put diversity and inclusion at the heart of your strategy: Lessons from Google AUNZ's Senior Director of Marketing

Companies that promote diversity and inclusion are attractive places to work, with a 2021 Indeed survey finding 80 per cent of respondents want to be part of workplaces with these values. It’s good for business, boosting creativity, and improving team culture as Google Australia and New Zealand’s Senior Director of Marketing, Aisling Finch, knows first-hand. Her early formative experiences, arriving in Australia as an eight-year-old from Ireland with a different accent and later attending high school in France without being fully fluent in the language, showed her the importance of having and creating a sense of belonging. 

Now leading Google AUNZ's marketing team, Finch is committed to building an inclusive workplace culture that extends from her team right through to the marketing work. Google's mission is to 'organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful'. Finch emphasises the word 'universally' in the statement; "if we're not building products for everyone, we'javascript:void(null);re not living up to our mission.” She adds, “that purpose is also really important as an organisation because teams and employees can rally behind it.”

Watch the exclusive interview between Aisling Finch and CMO Australia below, and read on for highlights.

Building inclusive workplaces that prioritise belonging

As part of its commitment to diversity and inclusion, Finch begins by commenting on how Google prioritises diversity and inclusion in its internal practices.To ensure the team has a diverse make-up, they have examined their hiring processes to make sure they are open to the broadest possible audience of talent “We think about how we're crafting job descriptions, how we're advertising them and how long we leave roles open, and really try to be best practice,” Aisling noted.

The role of education in fostering a sense of belonging is critical in co-creating and supporting diverse teams. “[Creating a culture of diversity and inclusion] starts with providing safe spaces to learn and discuss as a team and making sure we understand the rich diversity that is here in Australia,” Finch said. Aisling herself has embraced learning about diverse communities and is working to broaden this to the team. In Australia, one of the important elements is understanding First Nations communities. Finch attended this year’s Garma Festival, a celebration of the cultural, artistic and ceremonial traditions of the Yolngu people. The team has also deepened their understanding of Indigenous Australians by undertaking cultural competence trainings by institutions like Arilla and BlackCard.

Finch and the team have also set clear DEI expectations of their creative and media agency partners. This includes bringing them on the education journey, and leveraging experts to drive an education agenda right through the creative process. “It’s not tacked on at the end of the process where you're looking at production sign off or thinking about talent. It starts in the stories you choose to tell, the insights and research you're undertaking and making sure that DEI is part of every step of the creative process,” she said.

Applying technology to create inclusive products and services

Finch reflects on the important role technology plays in strengthening diversity and inclusion. There are some incredible accessibility examples where Google has built inclusive products which serve diverse users, Aisling explained. “Think about how voice to text technology has helped users… Live transcription is helping those who are hearing impaired have live communication. And the same live transcription has translation tools which enable people who speak different languages to tune into speech live,” she said.

Connecting with diverse communities also makes good business sense and fosters creativity. This is not only essential in developing authentic marketing, but also builds genuine connections across communities. As the Senior Director of Marketing and consumer custodian, Finch understands the power of shining a light on diverse stories. YouTube, in line with its mission to give everyone a voice, has helped democratise content creation and showcase many individual stories and communities. One such example is Chloé Hayden, Australian creator with Autism and ADHD. Hayden is using her channel to share her stories, build a community, and raise awareness of Autism and ADHD.

Demonstrating authentic DEI in the community

As a global organisation, there can be a misconception Google simply adapts marketing work from other markets, but Finch knows it’s vital to be authentic and express DEI values in a truly local way. It's deeply important that the local leadership team understands what DEI means in an Australian context, what the community needs are, and are responsive to that, Aisling explained. “Diversity looks different in different places, and it's really important to recognise that,” she said.

Understanding the love Aussies have for sport, Google worked closely with the AFL to develop a product called Footy Skills Lab. The interactive experience helped Australians practise their skills and learn from the best with just a ball and a smartphone – no matter their age, ability, gender, location, culture or socio-economic status. “You don't have to have access to the best coaches or the fancy stadiums, you can be anywhere in the country,” Finch said. Since launching in lockdown, they’ve taken feedback and iterated the product to make it even more accessible for people who have low vision or are hard of hearing. “And we’ve worked with the wheelchair league to make sure the drills are more accessible to everyone,” she said.

Finch also discusses how despite global product innovations, Google prioritises finding opportunities to make DEI impact locally. One example is the Pixel smartphone's inclusive camera which uses Real Tone technology to more accurately highlight diverse skin tones. Aisling explained how the team took this beyond informing consumers about the phone’s feature. Google worked with local publishers, like Pedestrian and Nine, to update image libraries to make sure they reflect the diverse, modern Australia. “It was great to do a campaign driving education about Real Tone, but also to fundamentally address representation in those publisher image libraries,” she said. 

Whether it’s partnerships with local organisations, telling diverse stories, or helping educate the team members, DEI is a shared, integrated initiative in Google Australia and New Zealand’s marketing. It’s an important journey, which is both challenging and rewarding. “The best acknowledgement of the work is [when I get to see] people who are deep experts in the products or in different parts of the business being uplifted themselves by seeing you taking a leadership position externally in expressing diversity and inclusion values,” said Finch.                    

Follow Aisling Finch, Google Australia and New Zealand’s Senior Director of Marketing, on LinkedIn and subscribe to Think with Google for more marketing insights.

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