Ai-jen Poo & Palak Shah: “Supporting Domestic Workers in the Digital Age” | Talks at Google

Ai-jen Poo & Palak Shah: “Supporting Domestic Workers in the Digital Age” | Talks at Google

we wanted to start with a topic that’s kind of seen
as the hot topic these days. And that is the future of work. How many of you
have heard people talk about the future of work? OK. It’s a hot topic. And a lot is at
stake when we think about how we’re living
under unprecedented levels of inequality and lots
of political volatility. The future quality of jobs
is a really important topic, and we all have a lot at stake. So it’s no wonder that
everyone from candidates to office, to the media, elected
officials, academics, everybody is asking this question. What will the future of work be? And for us, when we think
about how we would approach that question, we might ask not
just what will the future of work be, but where will it be? And the reason why I say
that is because usually when we want answers
to big questions, we go to centers
of power, right? We’re here in
Silicon Valley where a ton of technological
innovation is being driven. If we wanted to go
to look for answers in what the future of
politics would bring, we might go to Washington DC,
or for the future of culture, we might go to Hollywood. What we would say,
from our experience at the National Domestic
Workers Alliance, that rather than go to
the centers of power, that we might actually learn
a lot more about the future in the margins,
if we really look into what is happening
at the margins and in the shadows
of our economy. And the reason
why we say that is because we work in this
workforce that actually works in our homes, the quintessential
nontraditional workforce and one that has really existed
at the margin for a generation. It’s the work that is about
supporting our families, the nannies who take
care of our children, the home care
workers who take care of our parents and
our grandparents, or the personal care aides
who support our loved ones with disabilities,
the house cleaners who maintain order and sanity
in our crazy, chaotic homes. It’s the work that makes
everything else possible, because it allows for all
of us to go out and do what we do at Google or anywhere
else in the economy knowing that some of the most
precious aspects of our lives are in really good hands. And one of the things
that people don’t actually know about this
workforce is, it’s some of the fastest
growing occupations in our entire economy. So right now, our
demographics are changing not just
in terms of race, but in terms of
age and generation with the baby boom
generation aging at a rate of 10,000 people
per day turning 70 in America. Yeah, every eight
seconds someone turns 70. As a result of advances in
health care and technology, people are living longer
than ever before, so much so that we’ve actually
added an entire generation onto our lifespan without
much of a plan for how we’re going to adapt to that. And millennials are
starting to have babies at a rate of 4
million babies born per year. So on both ends of the
generational spectrum, we have a huge increase in the
need for care, a huge increase in the need for care. And this workforce is going to
be a huge part of the solution. And so every year, if you
look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home
care, for example, is among the top two or three
fastest growing occupations in our entire workforce. A lot of economists are
predicting, in fact, that by the year 2030, if you
take childcare jobs and elder care jobs combined,
we’re talking about the largest
single occupation in our entire workforce. And it makes sense because
these jobs are jobs that can’t be outsourced, right? And they’re not going to be
automated, at least anytime soon. Palak, who you’re going
to hear from in a minute, often talks about
how they’ve been trying to build a robot to
fold a towel in a lab in LA for 11 years. And they still haven’t
been successful. So at least for the
foreseeable future, we’re going to need
humans to do this work. But what kind of
jobs are these jobs? These are jobs that aren’t
even really considered in our culture real jobs. We don’t think of the women who
do this work as professionals. It’s often referred to as
help, not even real work. Culturally, it’s associated
with women and, as a profession, associated with women of color. Some of our first
domestic workers work enslaved African women. Lots of immigrant
women do this work. And there’s a long history
of exclusion in our labor law that has really shaped the
conditions of this work. In the 1930s when our core
labor laws were put into place, southern members
of Congress refused to support them if they included
protections for farm workers and domestic workers,
who were largely African American at the time. So those exclusions have shaped
the nature and conditions of this work. And a lot of these
protections that you and I take for granted when
we go to work every day, this workforce has never known. And then you combine
that with the fact that this is a workforce that
is almost completely invisible. You could go into any
neighborhood in Palo Alto or anywhere in any
community and not know which homes
are also workplaces. It’s not like there’s a list, or
a sign, or a registry anywhere. And there is no HR department. There’s definitely
no water cooler. And there’s not even
a co-worker that you could go to for support. So even just the nature of the
work is incredibly isolating. And what that means is
we’ve got a situation where these jobs are among
the most precarious, most vulnerable, and most undervalued
in our economy today. So these are going
to be a large share of the jobs of the future,
but they’re actually really not good jobs. And what we have is a
situation where workers don’t have clear job descriptions. They have really
unpredictable hours, sometimes having
to piece together work from different employers
just to make ends meet, no job security, no access
to a safety net or benefits whatsoever, no training
or career pathways. And what that ends up meaning
is that these are often poverty wage jobs, where the
workers who we’re counting on to take care of
us and our families can hardly take
care of themselves and their own families doing
this work as a profession. Now the interesting
thing about this is that when I first started
doing this work in 1998– oh my god, 21 years ago. I first started organizing
domestic workers in 1998. And the conditions
facing domestic workers were very much
seen as conditions at the edges of
our economy, really in the margins and the shadows,
almost exotic in a way. And 20 years later,
as I look around and I look at the working
conditions of workers throughout the economy, more
and more of American workers are dealing with some of
these very same conditions, lack of access to a
safety net or benefits, lack of consistency of hours
or predictability of schedule, lack of job security, having
to piece work together. These are conditions
that are becoming more and more familiar
to more and more workers every single day,
which is why we often call domestic workers
the original gig economy workers, which is why we often
talk about this idea of looking to the margins. Because these are conditions
that domestic workers have been facing
forever for generations. And if you had seen
them, you would start to see glimpses of
what is the future of work for more and more workers. Now what’s also
interesting about this is that our entire social
framework and social safety net has really failed
this workforce. Our social policies have
excluded this workforce. And even strategies
to change conditions have really failed
this workforce, like collective bargaining
for example, unionization. How do you collectively
bargain when there’s no collective and
there’s nobody to bargain with? So none of these traditional
mechanisms, systems, or frameworks for social
policy have served this population, our workforce. And so what that
means is that we’ve actually, as an
organization, emerged out of that failure to try to
address these conditions. That we were, in
some ways, born out of a failure that
established frameworks. And we’ve had the
room, therefore, at the margin to
experiment, to innovate. And we’ve been forced
to be creative about how we solve for opportunity,
and dignity, and equity for this workforce. So when we look at
the margins, not only do we see the future in
terms of the threats. This workforce has been at
the forefront of so many of the major changes that are
shaping our future, everything from the aging demographics,
to the deterioration in the quality of work,
to the crisis facing migrant families right now. So many of these trends
that are shaping the future, they’ve been at the forefront. And so we can see the
threat in the future in their experiences. But we can also start to see
the solutions and the innovation that’s possible not
just for this workforce, but for the future
of work as a whole. [APPLAUSE] PALAK SHAH: Hey, everyone. So picking up where
Ai-jen left off, our social movement employs
many different strategies. We’ve got a lot of different
strategies at our fingertips on how we can actually address
the problems that we’re talking about. Some of them involve
changing laws and policies. Ai-jen was at the forefront
of the first domestic worker bill that passed in New York. And it took a 11 years for us
to actually make that happen. Some of it involves changing
culture and partnering with Hollywood, as we
talked about the film Roma and how we kind of campaigned
and rode the waves of that. A lot of our work has to
do with organizing workers and centering them in
a leadership trajectory so that they’re at the
forefront of our movement. But also, we’ve now
ventured into your world, into the world of
technology and innovation. And that’s where I’m going
to focus a lot of my remarks today in sharing with
you, because we’re obviously here at Google and
are Googlers for the day, as Ai-jen said. So five years ago, we
launched NDWA Labs. And the idea was that
we needed a container, a place within our movement,
to house all kinds of ways to throw spaghetti at the wall
and to do the kinds of things that Ai-jen would think, where
traditional frameworks have failed us. What else can we invent? What else can we do? And no limit to the method, but
more around just anything goes. How can we actually get at
the root of this problem and solve it? At the same time, the Labs
was also responding to the way that technology was
disrupting everything that we knew about domestic work. And what do I mean by that? I mean that everything from
the way that work is found, the internet was changing. The way that work is mediated,
the internet was changing. The way that people
got paid was changing. Everything from the expectations
of how people are expected to communicate with their
employers on the job, and get pictures, and
all this kind of stuff was completely
disrupting everything that we knew about the
domestic work markets. And so what we decided
to do was really focus on two areas and kind of
hone in on where can we really experiment. One was on building
products and tools. And we’re here to talk
to you about Alia, which has been referenced,
which we’re really proud of. And I’ll talk to you
about that in a second. And the other was
to really focus on collaborating with private
sector partners, Google for example, but also Airbnb,
and Thumbtack, and others here in the Valley, on how
we can actually work together to establish fair
market conditions. How can we actually
work together to shape the way that
the market functions and create an equitable
future for everyone? So our core belief in the
Labs is that technology can be a force for good. That’s a core
belief that we hold. And I think what we’ve seen is
that technology has been often used to optimize for convenience
or efficiency, at times profit, obviously. But the question
that we’re chasing is how can we also
use technology to change dignity and equity? How is it that we can build
something that does that? And so I’m really
excited to share with you that we’ve launched
Alia, largely in part with the partnership with, in December. And this has been
our flagship product that has come out of the five
years of tinkering and watching things not work. And I’m sure you all are
familiar with that process here. [LAUGHTER] We had some epic failures. And what Alia is, is the
world’s first portable benefits platform. And it’s a new tech-powered
way to essentially extend the social safety net
to millions of people who’ve never had access to it. That’s, at its core,
what we’re doing. And the key part about it is
that we’ve made it really easy. So if you think about
domestic workers as some of the most difficult
users to solve for, part of what we’re
doing here is making it really simple and
easy for that workforce to get access to things that
we all take for granted, a paid day off,
or life insurance, or accident insurance. So the key problem, and I know
you’re all talking, what’s the problem we’re solving? So the key problem that
we’re looking to solve is what you see on the screen,
that most domestic workers work for multiple people. And they don’t have access
to the formal social safety net for the most part. And because they don’t
work for a single employer, their benefits aren’t
contained in one place. And so to really break
it down, what I mean is, if you think
about it, a house cleaner who works for herself– I mean, she might have 10 or
15 clients that she cleans for. If she doesn’t go to work one
day, she doesn’t get paid. That’s not a problem that
most of us actually really have to grapple with. But what it means for her
is that if she doesn’t get paid, and you’re already living
on the margins of the economy, that means you risk not
being able to pay rent. It might mean that you can’t
take care of a sick child, or it means that you’re
working while your sick. And we all know that can be
quite an awful experience. And so for cleaners
in particular, this problem is really,
really hard to solve for. It’s really hard to solve for,
because, if you think about it, people are working mostly in the
gray economy or off the books. They’re working in
the cash economy. They’ve got multiple employers. Even if those multiple
employers wanted to contribute their
fair share, so to speak, to the
domestic worker, there’s really no easy
mechanism in place to do that. And so that’s actually what we
built. That’s what we built. What we built is a technological
platform that, at its core, allows for each one of
the individual employers to contribute to a
single worker’s account. So now you can think
about the application of this in all kinds of
ways across the economy. But it’s pretty simple. Basically, clients, they
go to the Alia platform if you employ a cleaner. So if any of you do, you
should do this right away. You go to the Alia
platform, you register, you look for your client,
you send an invitation to your cleaner. And you basically
put your credit card, and you set it
and you forget it. And you’re done. And you’re basically paying a
recurring benefit contribution to the domestic worker. On the worker’s side,
basically, the cleaner is– The idea here is that multiple
employers are doing this. She’s aggregating
and accruing all of these small contributions. We’ve set it at
$5 a cleaning job right now, which is a policy
of the platform not a truism forever. But if you think about it, all
those micro $5 contributions are getting aggregated over
the course of the month into the domestic
worker’s account. And she can apply that to
basically an a la carte menu of benefits. And this is a really
important part of our design, which is
to allow for the workers to choose which benefits they
need and want versus saying, there’s a one size
fits all policy here. The other thing about this
is that it’s a platform. And that ability for us to
be able to test and iterate what benefits do workers
really need and want and then slot something out
and put something else in. That’s, I think as you all
know, the beauty of building a platform versus a single
product for example. So at its core,
basically, what we’re doing is allowing–
it’s just really, I think, disrupting the
entire benefit system, because what we’re
saying is, the benefits travel with the worker. They don’t stay with the job. So if a client rolls off or
you stop working for a client because they move to
a different state, your benefits aren’t disrupted. You may need a different
payer to pay in as you work up your black book of customers. But what it means is that the
actual package of benefits does not change, which
is really helpful, is what we’re hearing
from the workers. This is where I want to
share some insight with you about housing the Lab
within the social movement. So the NDWA Lab, I’m a leader
in the actual social movement, the National Domestic
Workers Alliance. And we now have this innovation
arm that’s called NDWA Lab. And there’s a real important
theory and practical reason for doing it in this way. So the first is that a lab
within the social movement has real advantage. And that’s because no one knows
the problem better than us. I can guarantee you that. Nobody knows the problem. We’ve been organizing
workers for decades. The combined wisdom on
our staff is incredible, because people have been
working at all parts of this invisible
part of the economy. And what that meant
is we were kind of starting from a much
more advanced understanding of the problem, which
then means our first MVP or our prototype, which Alia
really is at this point, we believe, and what
we’re learning is true, is starting from a
much more precise place in terms of addressing the
issues that people are facing. The challenge for
us, and this is kind of partly why we’re
here with all of you, is that we’re really stretching. We are stretching into the
world of building products and technology. And we’re a social movement. And part of that, as
I think all of you probably experienced
in your roles here, is that translating all of
that data, and that wisdom, and all of that
activity into something that is a tactical, concrete
product that creates value is not easy. And we’ve always worked
on changing laws. And we’re really good
at changing a laws. We know how to change laws. [LAUGHTER] And
we’re working really hard on changing culture. And that seems to be somehow a
little bit easier than figuring out how to build a real product
that can scale efficiently, which is why we’re excited
for this partnership and all of the work that we’re doing
with Chelsea and to have Googlers come in
and co-create with us. The thing that we
are laser focused on, super laser focused
on, is creating real value and real impact
for domestic workers. We’re not falsely
chasing growth just yet. You know what I mean? Where we’re really
focused on, how do we create the maximum
amount of good and impact for this workforce
that has often been left behind from our laws,
from the market, from culture? And so how is it that we
can come in with the thing that we’re building and
stay really focused on that? What we’re really proud of is
that the impact is really real. Alia is live. There are people, who for the
first time in 10 years, 10 years, have never taken
a paid sick day are being able to request a day off and
not worry about losing there. income. It’s a really, really
powerful thing. The thing we hear
from our workers– I did a demo with Alia at
our national convention with all the domestic workers. And one of the
workers very timidly asked whether all domestic
workers across the country could use it. And when I was like,
unequivocally yes. It doesn’t matter
where you live. It doesn’t matter
where you work. It doesn’t matter how you work. It doesn’t matter
where you’re from. You can benefit
from this system. And we basically got
a standing ovation. And then at the closing part of
some of the listening sessions, what we were
hearing from workers is, this is a dream come true. We’ve never, ever
thought that we’d be able to get access
to the same things that other people
have in the economy. And we’re so grateful for this. So we’re really proud of the
impact that we’re making, I think. But we’re obviously here
because we want to do more. And we want to borrow
from product design. And we want to borrow
from marketing. And we want to borrow from UX. And we need people who want
to get on this journey with us and totally create something
disruptive and new. So in many ways,
in closing, I think we see ourselves and kind of
the work that we’re doing as, in a way, like an advanced
team for all of us. We’re kind of out on the
edges of the economy. We’re out on the
edges of things that are unknown and unchartered. And we have this
belief, which is almost like the opposite of
conventional wisdom, that if we solve for the
hardest problem first, if we actually ignore
low-hanging fruit but actually go for the
hardest thing to solve for, we can have a trickle up effect. That we can actually
break open progress for lots of different
workers and lots of people who are vulnerable
in the economy if we solve for the
hardest use case first. So it’s hard. Don’t get me wrong. It’s definitely hard. But I think we’ve made a
tremendous amount of progress in terms of where we are. And I think our hope and
belief is not to say narrow on domestic workers. Of course, they’re an
important population that deserves the talent
that you all bring and the effort that
we’re putting into this. But I think the
promise of this is that we can actually create
a much more equitable economy for everybody. [APPLAUSE] JACQUELLINE FULLER: I just
want to start actually from the personal and then
build out to the structural. But I mean, starting
with the two of you. You could do a lot of
different things in life. You could be working a
lot of different places. I was just talking to
Palak before this about, she’s hopping on
a red-eye tonight after doing a full day today. You have such passion. Why did you choose this life? And why did you
choose this topic? AI-JEN POO: I go first? PALAK SHAH: You go. AI-JEN POO: OK. Well, I think that
a lot of it has to do with the influence
of being raised by my mom and my grandmother
and just really growing up believing that women walk on
water and can do anything. And I saw them doing everything
in the household, working, in the community, everything. And so of course I
expected that they would be in charge of everything. And growing up, what
I’ve learned very quickly was that actually women
were not in charge and quite the opposite. And I think the
disconnect between women powering everything but
actually being overrepresented in positions of
vulnerability and abuse and underrepresented
in positions of power and decision-making,
it just really bothered me in some profound way. And so I was always drawn
to women’s organizations. And in college, I volunteered
at a domestic violence shelter for Asian immigrant women. And I worked the hotline. Because my grandparents
raised me, I speak Mandarin. And I was able to work
a bilingual hotline. And the women who
called the hotline, yes, they were calling
in moments of crisis, because of the abuse
that they were enduring. But they were also calling
about the everyday crisis of working incredibly
hard, but still not being able to make
a living and still not knowing how you’re going
to provide for your family. And the idea that we would
have so many women working incredibly hard and still
not able to make ends meet was something that just I
couldn’t get out of my system. And it was always
the domestic workers as we would talk to
women in the community. Maybe because
they’re so isolated and really get
immediately the power of working together, and
coming together, and building community that they
always wanted to organize. And so I sort of followed
their lead for 21 years. PALAK SHAH: I kind of come at
it a little bit differently. So my parents were
Indian immigrants. I was born into a
minority religion. It’s called Jainism. And the whole religion is
premised on non-violence. And it’s a philosophical
concept called ahimsa. And when my parents emigrated
to the United States, it’s such a minority
religion in India, they could not find any
other Jain communities. So we became more attracted
to the Hindu community and that part of the
Indian community. And in that, all of
a sudden, my mom– my mom is very much
an intellectual. And I very much look
up to my mom as well. She really began dabbling in
Hindu spiritual philosophy. Basically, I can
save you the time of reading volumes of scripture. [LAUGHTER] There’s basically
one main concept and that is we’re all one. It’s Sanatana Dharma. And so I was very influenced
by that ideology, not only the ideology, but the
idea that we are all one. And then I think
what happened to me, I just got really
bothered every single time I saw contradiction to that. And I just couldn’t accept it. And some of it was reason, some
of it was observed, some of it was felt. But I just
couldn’t let go of it. I’ve kind of meandered in
a lot of different spaces. Ai-jen and I always joke about
how I’ve been in government, and I worked for
management consulting, and I was trained
as an organizer. I’ve kind of been in a
lot of different worlds. But I think that a common theme
has been not really feeling settled with that contradiction
that I’m seeing around me, which obviously has really
accelerated in the last 10 years or so. JACQUELLINE FULLER: As we think
about ourselves as Googlers and the community
of Googlers, there’s ways that we can help
at various levels. But I want to keep it
personal for just a minute and say, what is
your advice for those of us who may employ people
as caregivers or in our homes? what are the kinds
of principles that we should be applying
to make sure we’re being ethical and supportive? AI-JEN POO: Well I think
that we have some values that are pretty straightforward
and obvious in that it is about treating others
the way that you would want to be treated at work. And for us, we have
pages and pages of exactly what that looks
like that lots of workers have consulted on and
kind of put in place as our set of standards. But it boils down
to three things. One is a living wage,
paying a living wage. The second is having a
clear work agreement, so having a really explicit
conversation about, what are the expectations? And then the third is
about paid time off. And that really is
about a recognition that this is a
profession for people, and they have families
and hobbies even. And just those
three simple things, those kind of
guideposts, can really help set the foundation for
a really healthy relationship I think. JACQUELLINE FULLER:
So switching over to technical work,
product world, which is going to be where a lot
of folks in this room live, a lot of folks on
the live stream. We have a launch and
iterate culture at Google. So when you’re sharing
about failures, we’re very familiar with that. And failure leads to learning
and insights and improvement. PALAK SHAH: It’s
not the goal though. JACQUELLINE FULLER:
It’s not the goal. But oftentimes,
it’s a zigzag path. It’s usually not a
straightforward path. I’m just curious if
you have insights that you gleaned along the way
from some of your false starts or aha moments as you have
tried to develop technology and product to
serve this sector. PALAK SHAH: Yeah, I
mean, so we are very much influenced by that
launch and iterate model and doing the kind of
lean and agile approach. I mean, there’s no more of an
under-resourced environment than the one that we’re in. So we have to be really,
really smart about our cycles and where we’re actually
putting very valuable dollars, and resources, and time. So what’s really
interesting about the Alia launch and the product
that we built is, there’s a few things that
have been kind of consistent across it, like some
insight that we’ve learned. One is that people
actually generally do want to do the right thing. They do. They just don’t know
how, or it’s not easy, or it’s a pain to figure it out. And so I think that’s
been consistent even as we’ve kind of zig,
zig, zagged all along the way. The second, and this is really
apparent in the Alia product where I do think we could
use some really smart product designers and UX
folks to help us, is the power differential
between the domestic worker and their employer, no matter
how kind that relationship might even be, is real. There’s a real gap in power. And when you’re essentially
asking your client to contribute to Alia, you’re
asking for a bit of a raise. And all of us who’ve
asked for raises before at work, it’s a little
intimidating to do that, right? And so I think we have this
hypothesis that there’s something about a third party
intermediary, the platform, the Alia platform
or the product, that can play a role in helping
to ease the awkwardness. You can’t eliminate
that power differential. It is what it is,
but really figure out how the product can be in
service of closing that gap. So that’s been something
that’s really consistent. We’ve heard that
time and time again from feedback sessions, and
user reviews, and all that. And then the last thing
that’s been constant, and which I’ve
talked about already, is that the impact is very real. People have said to us,
what can my $5 actually do? Well actually, it’s like your
$5, and your $5, and your $5 actually does quite a bit. And $100 might not
seem like a lot to you, but it can make or break
a person’s weekly budget. I think that those things
have been consistent. The thing that’s been
actually really– I mean, it’s surprising,
and it’s not surprising. But it’s actually
really hard for us to figure out what to do with
this now, which is actually– the red-eye that I’m taking
is to go to a Google Sprint in New York with
Googlers to help us think through this challenge. JACQUELLINE FULLER:
Yay, Googlers. Go Google New York. PALAK SHAH: The thing
that’s been really hard and like a nut to crack
is the workers who are invited to Alia
through their clients tend to be way more successful
in getting other customers and clients on board
than ones where a worker initiates the process. This is a very difficult
learning for us, because our
competitive advantage is in our relationship
to the workers. And so it’s not to say
it’s a total failure. It’s just harder. And so there’s two
strings of work. One is the kind that actually
figures out the client marketing side, which is
actually what the sprint is about tomorrow, like thinking
about the client user journeys and their personas. But then on the worker
side, our movement is really digging deep now
into what are the supports and scaffolding that
we provide in person, or through organizing,
or through the known traditional structures of our
movement to support workers in the process. JACQUELLINE FULLER: Apart from
the topic, one of the things that I’ve been most struck
by you in working with you and your team is that
you’re led by women. You’re led by workers. You’re a movement. And movements, by
their very nature, are organic and a
little bit messy. Even just listening to your
own personal backgrounds, and motivations, and
sort of thought process, there’s such a range
there and diversity. And so my question is about
that intersectionality when you’re bringing together
a whole diverse, vibrant, changing, moving
group of people, both from a membership level
and a leadership level, maybe just speaking to some
of your insights and thoughts. AI-JEN POO: Well, I would say
that early on just embracing with everything you
have that unruliness. The hardest and best part
of organizing is the humans. And that is where the power is. That’s where the dynamism is. And the diversity of the humans
is actually a huge source of power and strength if you
really design your culture to embrace it. And so that requires a lot
of attention and thought. I mean, half the
job of an organizer is to really think
about the context that you’re creating for people. What are the experiences
you’re creating? What are the moments
of transformation that you’re catalyzing? And the beautiful
thing about it is that even though people come
from a million different places and experiences,
when you’re moving in the same direction around
common values and common goals, it creates such an incredible
container for transformation, and relationship building,
and understanding, and a sense of common purpose,
and purpose in general. It is really a beautiful thing. I don’t mean to romanticize
it at all, because it is very hard to organize. Organizing is hard. It’s really hard. But it is about when
you are able to harness the collective energy and
voice of a group of people who are really about asserting
the dignity and the beauty of humanity. There’s nothing like it. And so just embracing
the unruliness and thinking with
a lot of intention about how you’re creating
the context for people to show up as their best selves
and bring that to the table. And then just being
open to things being a little bit out of control. [LAUGHTER] JACQUELLINE FULLER:
We sort of have that mantra at Google as well. So I’m going to ask
one more quick question and then open it to questions. So get ready with
your questions, and Anthony will bring the mic. So we have a lot
of Googlers who I think love your mission, and
your ethos, and your work, and are interested in how they
can get involved and help. So we have fellowship
to learn specifically about some of the existing
scoped work, fellowship. But anything you want to say to
Googlers about specific skills or even maybe locations or
things that you could use help with. PALAK SHAH: Yeah, I
mean, I think I’ve mentioned some of the areas. But I think a lot of it
is around thinking about, how can products interact
with offline interactions and the online interaction? How do we create the conditions? Because I don’t
think it would be possible for us, with
Alia for example, to only have just the
straight online experience, because the employer
and the cleaner end up talking to each
other about it. And so figuring out
how to accommodate all those different
parts of the user journey and have the product
not get in the way of it but actually support it I
think is, in general, something I think we’re struggling
with at this moment and just in our early stage. And then I think
this realization about clients and customers,
and talking to them, finding them, persuading them,
inspiring them, figuring out how to tell the story of Alia
and what it means I think is going to be
another area where we’re going to need some help. And I think that encompasses
product design folks, and UX folks, and marketing
folks, and creative folks. JACQUELLINE FULLER: You even
have a behavioral sciences team led, by the way, as women. PALAK SHAH: That would
be really great too. AI-JEN POO: We need that. PALAK SHAH: That
would be helpful. [LAUGHTER] JACQUELLINE FULLER: Maybe
they’re in the room. AI-JEN POO: If you’re
out there, we need you. JACQUELLINE FULLER: We
will track you down. PALAK SHAH: The other thing
I would say is, in some ways, I mean, Alia itself
is an MVP, right? Well not really, we’ve
launched now, but it’s early. I think, in some ways, you can
think about the Alia platform as an MVP for a new way
for social movements to build their digital
membership and to really turn, kind of modernize I
think, what membership in a social movement and an
organization can look like. And so I think we’re toggling
between the very specific concrete tactical problem that
we’re solving but imagining, OK, what could this actually
break open in the way that social movements adapt
to the technological age? JACQUELLINE FULLER: OK. Do we have any questions
in the room from Googlers? OK. AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you so much for
coming and speaking. I was wondering if you
could talk a little bit more about care in our society. For instance, what would it
mean for us to value care as the labor equal
to any other labor? And what are steps we can
take to get to a point where we value care as a labor? AI-JEN POO: Awesome. I love this question. So let’s take Gloria
Steinem, I think, 30 years ago wrote an article
called “Revaluing Economics.” And in that article,
she basically says that there are
these two resources that have been completely made
invisible and undervalued in our culture but that
actually power everything else, that makes everything else
possible in our economy. And those are the
planet’s natural resources and care, the work,
the energy that goes into raising a family. And that we are now at a point
in the evolution of humanity where if we don’t revalue
those two fundamental resources and put them at the center
of how we think about design of our economies in a
way that is intentionally valuing those forces
or those resources, that we won’t actually be able
to sustain a healthy economy and growth in the future. And so the way I think about
it is, what if we thought about care like infrastructure? If the definition
of infrastructure is that which enables
commerce or everything else in our economy to
happen, care is that, the ability to make
sure that we can reproduce and that across the lifespan
we can live with dignity, and health, and well-being, and
independence, autonomy, agency, all those words that
are so valuable. If we invested in
that as infrastructure and as fundamental to
everything else being possible, then we’d be getting somewhere
closer to Gloria’s vision. And part of that
infrastructure is different from
bridges and tunnels, because a big part of that
infrastructure is human beings. And so we have to really
also rethink infrastructure to really think about
human infrastructure. And how does infrastructure
allow or enhance our human capacity to
care for each other? So I know all of that
is super conceptual, but in a very concrete way. Yesterday, in Washington, we
just launched this report. It was an academic study
panel that we commissioned to study the viability
of a policy idea we call universal family care,
the idea that in the future, we should have one social
insurance fund that we all contribute to that
we can all benefit from that helps us pay
for childcare, elder care, and paid family leave,
basically everything we need to take care of our
families while we’re working. And it would basically resource
our care infrastructure enough that we could ensure
that every single care job is a good job
that’s sustainable, and people could take care
of their families too. So that’s the
concrete policy idea that we’re trying to get
policymakers to think about. But the conceptual idea is,
what if we really did reimagine what it takes for our economy
reimagined and revalue the fundamentals in our economy? JACQUELLINE FULLER: We
have a question up front. AUDIENCE: Well, first of all,
thank you for being here. And thank you for
the work that you do. My mom has actually been in this
line of work since I was born. So it’s amazing to see
the usability of this. AI-JEN POO: You’re
in the family. AUDIENCE: Exactly. So my mind gravitates
towards the questions that I would ask for someone
like my mom, who might be using it, like language barriers. And then for people that,
like my mom, who maybe– so it’s no longer
her status now. But at one point in time,
she was undocumented. So I’m thinking about what
are some of the barriers? What are some of the
limitations that you are thinking about in the
next iteration of the product? PALAK SHAH: That’s a
really great question. And remember when I
was talking about how we start from a
more precise place, because we know the workforce. So one, we’ve built the
platform entirely already in English and Spanish. The worker can access
their accounts, claim their benefits in Spanish. We have our outreach,
our customer service is in Spanish to start. If you get a chance to come
to one of our assemblies– that’s actually how
Ai-jen recruited me. I was working on my own startup. And then she was
like, oh, [INAUDIBLE].. You should come
and check us out. And I was like, OK. And then I went. And it was this amazing display
of domestic workers leading for four days. But anyways, at our
events, we often have things in simultaneous
interpretation in seven or eight different languages. And so our vision would be
to expand beyond English and Spanish as soon as we can. On the question of
can anybody use it? Yeah. Anybody can use it, because our
system does not need or require any information about your
immigration status or anything like that. It’s like going to Amazon. Amazon doesn’t ask you
for stuff like that. Our platform doesn’t either,
because we spent a lot of time on the legal nuts and
bolts of how we built this and how we could actually
make this whole thing work beyond that
issue, just in general. And really what’s
happening on our site is your purchasing credit
in someone’s account. And those credits
are accumulating in the worker’s account. So the product is
available to anybody who works in the industry. AUDIENCE: NDWA has
surveyed domestic workers. What are the two to
three biggest needs of the community that you
guys found during the survey? PALAK SHAH: The two biggest? What we built for is what
actually the workers need. So the first benefit that
is the core to the product is paid time off, just kind of
replacement pay, so to speak. If you don’t go to
work, how can you use that aggregated
contribution and draw it down? A worker, if she’s been accruing
dollars for several months and wants to take a day off,
she goes into her Alia account, requests the day
off, and can get that amount of what we’ve set. Right now it’s
$120 for a day off. So she can get those
funds disbursed to her. And then surprisingly, this
was actually a surprise to me and I think some of us that
were building the product, folks really want
life insurance. When you kind of think
about it, you’re like, OK. Well, people are really
worried about their children. What would happen
to their children if something happened to them? And so that’s another
benefit that’s already available on the platform. Other concerns that are
harder to solve for, which we would like to
in the next year or so, is health care and retirement. So how do we address much, much
larger, more thorny question, especially as it intersects
with federal policy, and state exchanges, and the
ACA, and all of that, so really kind of
navigating through that and hopefully getting to
the other side of being able to offer products
in those two areas. AUDIENCE: Thank you. PALAK SHAH: You’re welcome. JACQUELLINE FULLER: Well, I
want to thank Susanna and Kim for organizing our
conversation today. [APPLAUSE] Chelsea, who’s been helping
to organize Googlers. And you think you’re
organizing is hard? No. [LAUGHTER] And Andrew, who’s not here,
and others from the team, who have been liaising and
helping this great partnership to flourish. And of course, thank you, both,
so much for taking time out of your busy, busy schedules
to spend time with Googlers, help to inform us, I think
inspire us, and galvanize us to come around you and
the movement even more. So thank you so much. AI-JEN POO: Thank you. PALAK SHAH: Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

5 thoughts on “Ai-jen Poo & Palak Shah: “Supporting Domestic Workers in the Digital Age” | Talks at Google

  1. First we need to clear up which is who is "we" and "us"?
    We women?

    @3:22 look how giddy she is reporting all the boomers are dying!!! Make room for the Chinese, f the mexicans!!! I'm afraid to watch anymore.

    "It is about, when you are able to harness (steal through the political system) the collective energy and the voice of a group of people (probably men) who are really about (tricked into) asserting the(ir) dignity and beauty of humanity. (Worshipping women?) There is nothing like it."

    You are correct sir! – Ed McMahon

  2. Some seek answers in socialism and benefits from governments that does not have enough money. Instead rely in better education, career development, and hard work in the free market.

  3. New technology is usually blamed for job losses and a poor economy for some, but people buy it in the free market place.

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