Google protest in London

Google staff protest sexist workplace culture

Image credit: Google staff protest against sexist workplace culture

Google employees based in offices around the world have been taking part today in a mass walkout in protest at the company’s mishandling of sexual misconduct claims against staff, including executives.

Hundreds of employees have already supported the ‘Walkout for Real Change’, beginning at Google’s Tokyo and Singapore offices. Employees based in London, Dublin, Zurich, Haifa and Berlin joined the walkout as working hours arrived in their time zones. Google employees based in the Americas are expected to join the walkout later.

Employees were encouraged to leave a flyer at their desks stating: “I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out in solidarity with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone.”

The protesters called for commitment to pay and opportunity equality; a transparent sexual harassment report; a process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously; an elevation of the Chief Diversity Officer, and an end to Forced Arbitration in the cases of harassment and discrimination (a common contract clause which forces employees to waive their right to sue, preventing these incidents being handled externally).

The walkout follows an expose by the New York Times, which revealed allegations that Andy Rubin – the central figure in the creation of Google’s Android operating system – had received a $90m (£70m) severance package and public praise when he departed the company in 2014, despite his departure being linked to allegations of sexual misconduct (coercing a fellow Google employee into performing oral sex on him in a hotel room) which Google had concluded were credible. Rubin has denied the allegations.

The same report also made public allegations of sexual misconduct against three other executives at Google. In each case, the claims had been kept secret. Two of these executives were asked to resign and then were paid millions of dollars in severance, while Richard DeVaul – a director at Alphabet’s experimental projects lab, X – remained in his position until the revelation of the years-old claims last week.

Following the publication of the Times report, Google CEO Sundar Pichai disclosed that Google had fired 48 people (including 13 senior managers) over the past two years following allegations of sexual harassment, none of which had received a severance package. Pichai told employees that the company had cracked down firmly on sexual misconduct since Rubin’s departure from the company.

In response to the Google walkout, Pichai addressed employees in an email, commenting: “I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel. I feel it as well and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society, and yes, here at Google, too.”

The walkout follows a series of controversies relating to the pervasive misogynistic environment present at Google and other major technology companies. Last year, it was reported that more than 60 current and former Google employees were considering bringing a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging unequal pay despite equal qualifications and positions.

The company had previously suffered public humiliation with the leak of an employee’s “manifesto” arguing that men occupy more senior positions in the tech sector than women due to their “biological” superiority in this field.

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