It was only last week when a report by The New York Times brought to light the shocking allegations against Andy Rubin’s (creator of Android) sexual misconduct at Google. Now, more than 200 engineers at Google are organizing a “women’s walk” walkout this week to protest against the company’s response to the reports of sexual misconduct, as per Buzzfeed news.
According to the report by the New York Times, after Rubin was accused of misbehavior in 2014 and the allegations were confirmed by Google, he was asked to leave by former Google CEO, Mr.Page, but received $90 million as an exit package. He also received a high profile well-respected farewell by Google in October 2014.
But Rubin isn’t the only one, at least four senior executives have been protected by Google in the past, despite them being accused of sexual misconduct, as per the NY Times report.
Andy Rubin spoke out about the allegation on Twitter where he denied the NY Times report:
1/2 The New York Times story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation. Specifically, I never coerced a woman to have sex in a hotel room. These false allegations are part of a smear campaign
— Andy Rubin (@Arubin) October 26, 2018
2/2 to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle. Also, I am deeply troubled that anonymous Google executives are commenting about my personnel file and misrepresenting the facts.
— Andy Rubin (@Arubin) October 26, 2018
As per the Buzzfeed reports, Google executives had hosted an all-hands meeting last Thursday, during which they tried explaining their behavior towards Rubin and apologized to employees. Google CEO Sundar Pichai also sent an email to all Google employees on Thursday clarifying how the company has fired 48 people over the last two years for sexual harassment where 13 of them were “senior managers and above”. He also mentioned how none of the accused employees received any exit packages.
“We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace. We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action”, read the email.
The protest is a response to Google’s handling of sexual misconduct within the workplace in the recent past, that employees found as inadequate.
Moreover, Google employees participating in the planned protest are dissatisfied that senior executives such as Drummond, Chief Legal Officer, Alphabet, and Chairman, CapitalG, mentioned in the NY times report for indulging in “inappropriate relationships” within the organization continue to work in highly placed positions at Google and have not faced any real punitive action by Google for their action.
In April this year, Google employees protested against Project Maven, with petitions, and better demands for more transparency within the organization. The demands of the upcoming protest haven’t been made specified yet, but, shares similar sentiments.
The planning for the walkout was done on an internal online forum by the Google employees to map out the details regarding the protest. By yesterday, that post had upvotes, as per a current Google employee who wishes to remain anonymous. The day and timing of the walkout haven’t been fixed yet but is likely to take place this Thursday, as reported by BuzzFeed.
One of the Google employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, told BuzzFeed, ‘Personally, I’m furious. I feel like there’s a pattern of powerful men getting away with awful behavior towards women at Google‚ or if they don’t get away with it, they get a slap on the wrist, or they get sent away with a golden parachute, like Andy Rubin.
Public reaction towards the protest is largely positive:
I'm disgusted. Where's Google's vaunted "Do no evil" moral high ground? https://t.co/haBOpi1CvU I stand in support of those women who choose to stand up at Google this week.
— Jono (@iamjono) October 30, 2018
— Women's March (@womensmarch) October 30, 2018
Wow!! Good for them! So glad to see awareness raised and people rising up to hopefully bring about some justice and change. It's a start.
— Ryan Carson (@ryancarson) October 29, 2018
Our take on this development
If this protest manages to get a response from Google on the veracity of the claims made by the NYT article, it would be a good place to start healing. Openly acknowledging issues is the first step towards working on them. The protest could be more effective had the organizers has a clear set of goals to achieve from the walkout. Currently, it appears more like an emotional response to the revelation than as a way to move the company in the right direction on the topic of making the workplace safe and treating everyone fairly.
Of late Google, employees seem to increasingly place the role of the companies moral compass on contentious and sensitives topics. Holding Google accountable for its role in enabling workplace misconduct is a worthy cause to stand up for. However, doing this via continuous protests or through media leaks does not seem to be an effective long-term approach to dealing with organizational issues – for both employees and for Google. There is the risk of employees becoming jaded and distrusting or management simply taking the easy way out by choosing to leave behind those that don’t align with its new vision only to become a monolithic thinking machine.
Frequent employee protests is a symptom of a deeper value-misalignment problem that Google must reflect on.