Googling how best to celebrate queer joy 

By Stephen A Russell


Authenticity is so important, particularly amongst the LGBTIQA+ community, many of whom had to hide part of their true selves when younger. It’s why Dan Lavis, partner lead for several of Google Cloud’s strategic partnerships in Australia and New Zealand, loves working at the world’s number-one search engine company. “The way Google’s taking part in Sydney WorldPride isn’t a branding exercise,” he says. “We’re showing up in a googly way, thinking about how that has a genuinely authentic impact for the queer community working here.”

Lavis loves heading into work daily, but that wasn’t always the case. “I didn’t always have great experiences as a gay man at work,” he says, recalling previous roles in organisations where respect was not front and centre in the company culture. “I remember feeling very uncomfortable in meetings surrounded by senior male professionals talking inappropriately about women. I felt uncomfortable that they assumed it was ok.”

Inclusion is essential, Lavis says. But it’s not something he experienced attending a private boys’ college in Melbourne, where he grew up. “Bullying was a daily occurrence for me,” he says. “I wasn’t a natural sportsperson. I didn’t play footy with the lads.”

A photograph of a man smiling on a motorcycle wearing sunglasses and a feathered head piece

Learning to hide aspects of his identity, Lavis longed for belonging. “I remember feeling that I was different, but I didn’t have the vocabulary. In hindsight, I had feelings for guys, but I didn’t connect them with a part of my sexuality. I just didn’t have the words for it.”

That belonging came when he went to university, first studying behavioural science and then shifting into a marketing degree at RMIT. “I met a guy who was openly gay which I didn’t even know was a thing,” Lavis says. “It was an awakening, if you like, and he took me to the nightclub Three Faces. I remember walking through the doors and being terrified. But then I remember having this instant sense of belonging that this was my tribe. I’m ok here.”

Flourishing, Lavis worked in a queer cafe at the weekends, but he still had to wrangle with some internal conflict because of his conservative family upbringing. “I couldn’t quite reconcile being known as a gay person and didn’t want to be defined by my sexuality,” he says. “I was still afraid of it, after years of not belonging.”

Moving to London, where he worked for global accounting firms like PwC and Baker McKenzie, Lavis realised that his queer identity was a superpower, and that he was a part of a tribe. “In London, I was surrounded by such a broad spectrum of diversity, whether that’s ethnicity, gender or sexuality. Just that melting pot where it’s a lot easier to feel like you belong.”

Photograph of a man smiling with his arms crossed wearing a black tshirt with the gogle logo

The corporate cultures at PwC and Baker McKenzie placed emphasis on diversity as strength, exemplified at Google when he moved back to Australia and eventually wound up at their Sydney headquarters. It was a great fit. “My friends call me Danny Buttons, because I’m a total computer geek,” Lavis says. “I’m the guy they call when they can’t get something IT-related to work. So I’ve transitioned away from the very conservative world of law firms and accounting and into cloud-based tech.”

Witnessing the incredible community support for LGBTIQA+ employees at Google, Lavis wanted to step up and play an active role in ensuring everyone could thrive. So he popped his hand up to become co-lead of [email protected] Google Australia and New Zealand’s Employee Resource Group alongside his sidekick Shauna Frey. “I wanted to give back,” Lavis says.

Unlike those boardrooms packed with boorish men, Google’s fun and inclusive work environments are incredibly thoughtful. So much so that they even strip back many of the company’s famously fun spaces with low-key rooms available to welcome neurodivergent employees and visitors. “Google genuinely believes that everybody has the right to be included, and the right to belong, no matter who you are, what your ability and no matter where you are on any spectrum,” Lavis says.

Google stopped fielding a float at recent Sydney Mardi Gras marches several years ago, instead investing in their long-standing Mardi Gras Parade Grants program, but after sounding out for LGBTQIA+ employees and applicants, they’ll be stepping out again in style for the 45th anniversary of the Parade this year.

In the past twelve months Google has doubled the number of employees active in the [email protected] Google ERG, and many of those employees are also part of other Google Employee Resource Groups so there is great interconnectedness between colleagues of all walks of life. Mardi Gras itself has proved a great way to bring people together across the company. “It’s a really easy way for people outside of our community to get engaged, to lean in and have a conversation, to ask questions and to shine as allies,” Lavis says. “Mardi Gras is a fantastic time of the year to come together and celebrate, but also an opportunity for all to reflect, learn and lean into the community, history, issues and culture.”    

Check out the 2023 recipients of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade Grants, supported by Google Australia here.

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Acknowledgement of country

Sydney WorldPride will take place on the lands of the Gadigal, Cammeraygal, Bidjigal, Darug, Dharawal people who are the Traditional Custodians of the Sydney Basin.

We pay our Respects to their Elders past and present. Always was Always will be Aboriginal Land.

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people come from many different clans and communities across Australia & in 2023 will come together as one, to celebrate with our global LGBTQIA+ community.