Google staff worldwide walk out over sexual harassment

1 Nov 2018

Google office in Mountain View, California. Image: Google

Google employees are stepping away from their desks and walking out around the world to protest handling of sexual harassment cases at the company.

The controversy over internet giant Google’s handling of sexual harassment cases is gathering pace, with more than 1,500 employees set to walk out from more than 60pc of Google offices at 11.10am today (1 November) as timezones change across the globe.

Meeting standards of respect

YouTube product marketing manager Claire Stapleton told The New York Times that women in particular “don’t want to feel like we’re unequal or we’re not respected any more”.

The Google Walkout for Real Change organisers say that the company is not meeting the basics of “respect, justice and fairness for every single person here”.

Google executives dismissed

Tensions have come to a head recently, with the allegations around Android creator Andy Rubin’s behaviour highlighted in the media. Google found that an accusation of sexual misconduct against Rubin was credible. He is said to have received a $90m severance package when he left the company, despite there being knowledge of the accusation made against him.

On Tuesday (30 October), Google executive Richard DeVaul also left the company. One of the main leads at Google X’s Project Loon initiative, DeVaul was accused of making unwanted advances towards a woman who was interviewed for a job in which she would have reported to him directly.

Organisers have shared images of walkouts already taking place in company offices in Asia, from Tokyo to Singapore.

The organisers are also making formal demands to Google’s management. These include a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality; an end to forced arbitration in discrimination and harassment cases; a public sexual harassment transparency report; and a globally inclusive process for the reporting of sexual misconduct in a safe and anonymous way.

CEO Sundar Pichai said of the protest: “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”

In October, Pichai issued a statement in the wake of the Andy Rubin story, saying the company would be taking a much tougher stance when it comes to sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. He said that the company was committed to providing a “safe and inclusive workplace”.

Tense times for tech

The Google protests are emblematic of the atmosphere in many tech companies of late. From Google to Amazon, employees are raising issues about diversity problems, company ethics and culture changes, to name a few.

A spokesperson for the Tech Workers Coalition in San Francisco said: “It’s clear the executives won’t do this for us so we’re taking matters into our own hands.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects