Claire Stapleton ’03
Social Marketing at YouTube

Q: Tell us about the time between graduating College Prep and now.
A: I went to the University of Pennsylvania and majored in English, then I was recruited by Google and came back to the Bay Area. I started in the Communications department where my job was managing the weekly internal meeting called TGIF that was hosted by Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. I wrote the script and briefed them on questions from employees. After five years, I moved to New York and was a copywriter at Google’s in-house creative agency, Google Creative Lab, then two years after that I moved over to YouTube, where I’m currently in marketing. A bit more personally, I got married in 2015 and our son was born in May of 2017. 

Q: Tell us more about your current job at Google. 
A: I work on the YouTube brand marketing team, overseeing a small team of creative people who manage our social media handles and work on our brand voice and various editorial projects.

Q: We’ve been seeing your name in the press. Could you speak a little bit about the Google walkout?
A: On September 25, 2018, The New York Times broke a story about a $90 million payout to a Google executive, Andy Rubin, who was known internally as a harasser. I’m on an anonymous Google group comprised of thousands of moms around the company, and that day, women started sharing stories of harassment, discrimination, and other bad things happening under the cover of darkness at Google. I was really shocked by it and felt called to action. Jumping off from that moms’ group, I created another Google group for people who were interested in organizing a collective action to register our general dissatisfaction with the culture and the way management had handled this. That group conferred over a weekend and  decided that the next Thursday, November 1, we would do a walkout as a unifying moment for women and allies—many men got involved as well.
It was an incredible experience and it was counter intuitively a real tribute to Google’s culture.  We have such a smart and purpose-driven employee base—we all put our minds together to organize, and it came together really quickly. Ultimately, 20,000 people from 40 offices around the world walked out. We laid out demands which were crowd sourced and edited by 1,000 different people at the company. The demands speak to how the outrage that sparked the action crossed every manner of systemic injustice you can think of: how sexual harassment is handled; the temp vendor contractor class (over 50% of Google’s workforce are not full-time employees and thus don’t have health insurance, sick days, etc); commitment to pay equity; and employee representation on the Board. I think it has opened an interesting conversation about where the tech industry stands with issues of gender and racial discrimination.
 
Q: Are employees satisfied with management’s responses and actions?
A: I think that there’s no doubt that management took it seriously. A week after the walkout they held a town hall meeting and stated a bunch of commitments to diversity and equity, but it’s going to be a long process and the issues we’ve raised are huge and complex. Personally, I haven’t been blown away by either their ingenuity or urgency. What I am satisfied with, and very inspired by, is seeing the power of employees coming together and raising our voices. Rome wasn’t built in a day. So, I’m counting on ongoing conversations and actions.

Q: What have you personally learned over these last
few months? 
A: I’ve had, for the most part, a good experience at Google and I would never have said to someone, “This is a sexist, racist workplace.” However, my eyes have been opened to how bias and discrimination work. For instance, black women in the company almost always come in at least a level under their peers with the same amount of experience, and it takes them twice as long to get promoted. I’ve also learned about organizing, how it starts small, usually with people sitting around a lunch table, sharing their stories. At Google, the lunch table is virtual. It’s a global, distributed workforce, but it’s super connected and super chatty. People are always on email threads, in groups, and chats. I certainly think this is a powerful aspect of our culture and part of the identity of being a Google employee.

Q: Was this your first experience organizing an action? 
A: Totally. Fortunately, there were people in the core group who were long-time organizers. For me, working in corporate communications is pretty much as corporate a job as you can have—you’re sort of preaching the gospel of the company, and that was authentic to me. It was helpful in organizing the walkout that I used to send out a weekly company email so I have a general sense of connection to many people at the company. People knew my name from that work, so they were probably more likely to open my email. I want to shout out Liz Fong-Jones ’05, who recently left Google after 11 years. Liz was a patron saint of organizing at Google and was an inspiring, powerful voice holding management accountable and championing marginalized groups. During the week of the walkout, Liz tweeted Mens Conscia Recti at me. I was reminded of what a wonderful credo our school motto is and how fitting “a mind aware of what is right” felt in that moment. After the walkout, I made Mens Conscia Recti my Twitter bio.

Q: That’s an excellent segue to my next question which is: What have you taken from your high school experience that you use and rely on today? 
A: The sense of community at Prep is so strong and it’s made me a big believer in the cultures and communities that can develop, whether inside a school or inside a company. Take Assembly for example, that’s such a symbolic touchstone of Prep’s culture and something that was so formative for me. Even though I’m much more of a listener,  there were a couple times that I went up and said something. I was always a big reader and loved to write. The English department totally shaped my path—Mr. Faggi, Mr. Lefferts, Ms. Steele. There were many teachers that were so amazing in that department; I loved sitting around, debating books. College Prep offers such an exemplary education, but there was also a wonderful whimsy and freedom to thinking and learning. I have such fond memories.

Q: What would your high school self think of your current adult self?
A: It’s a surprising twist to think of myself on any level as an activist now because “questioning authority and systems of power” wasn’t exactly my beat; I was always more of the observer. I think I’d be proud that I was still reading and writing as much, that I’m connecting with people, and am deeply rooted in my community in Brooklyn, the Oakland of the East.
 

mens conscia recti

a mind aware of what is right