Who do you think of when you think “tech innovators”? Elon Musk? Bill Gates? Tim Cook? Probably not a female or person of color, huh?
Black and Latin developers are not getting the opportunities or credit they deserve. At a time when women make up 48% of video game players and 73% of Black Americans identify as gamers, we should be seeing games made by and for those perspectives, however, software developer make up in the US is 71.3% male and features only 6.4% Latine and 3.6% Black representation.
Cashmere created Generation Play from the ground-up with the Google Play team, with the goal of engaging and highlighting diverse innovators in tech. The series featured true-to-life, personal stories from underrepresented players in tech who turned their passion for play into careers, opening a whole new world of possibilities for young developers from diverse backgrounds to follow similar paths.
These episodes worked to humanize our products and connect users to apps, resources and programs to support their interests and help them discover their passions. As Naomi Hirabayashi put it in her episode, “Having tools to get your business off the ground that are accessible is fundamental I think in breaking the barriers of access to becoming a startup.”
We set forward with an objective to get people learning about and inspired by developers of color — we needed to grow awareness without spending a dollar on paid media. The storytelling would have to sell itself, and from initial interviews with our talent pool we were sure it would.
Sure, “if you see it you can believe it” — but if you hear the nuanced tips and get personalized resources you can take actual steps to achieve it.
In such a cut-throat, nuanced industry, developers from underrepresented communities aren’t just seeking out representation, they need tangible tools. Casting Black talent for laptop advertisements doesn’t do enough for the advancement of POC in tech when the top of the funnel is still largely white and male. In an effort to assist developers at the beginning of their career journeys, Generation Play set out to provide Google’s resources, tools and apps while our talent provided their learned advice. As Marah Lidey put it in her video, “You deserve to shine.”
This series helped live out Google’s brand mission to be joyful and useful. We carefully selected developer talent for our video series that were a living breathing representation of the brand: people who turned their passion (AKA joy) into a career (AKA something useful). Each episode documented our talent’s career journey, diving into the challenges they had to overcome in the industry and how they finally made their dream into a reality.
We provided entertaining, emotional content (joyful) that provided lived advice and directed viewers to tangible resources to further their careers (useful).
We got over 35,000 people to engage with the stories of Google Play’s underrepresented developers. We delivered on our goal of creating awareness for the bias in tech funding and hiring, while encouraging both empathy and a faster way forward for young developers with Google’s resources. We even created an internal Google playbook alongside this work to inspire and empower Google Play’s marketers to become more inclusive in all of their efforts, specifically to Black developer and Black consumer communities.
These empowering, directive stories held people’s attention for over 370 hours. Nate Washington talked through his personal struggle as a Black man with debt — one that eventually led to him creating his own solution with financial wellness app Qoins. Marah Lidey & Naomi Hirabayashi shared their story as two women of color teaming up to create Shine, the accessible, inclusive approach to mental health that they so needed for themselves and their communities.
Many comments and social responses favorably noted the series’ emphasis on showcasing diverse stories. In a time of internet trolls, these stories cut through to bring joy: “Y'all in the very fortunate way of caring and sharing in hopes y'all can do much of the same and value other's joy more than your own. REMAIN REAL!” Users emphatically expressed their support and appreciation for each talent’s episode, citing their stories as a source of inspiration and hope: “This is a mission I can get behind,” one commenter wrote on Nate Washington’s episode.
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