Google CEO outlines steps to tackle workplace harassment

9 Nov 2018160 Views

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someone

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Image: Nguyen Hung Vu/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someone

Google staff staged a global walkout recently over sexual harassment and ‘golden parachutes’ for executives accused of misconduct.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has outlined changes the company is making in terms of how it handles sexual misconduct complaints.

Tensions came to a head recently with the allegations around Android creator Andy Rubin’s behaviour highlighted in the media. He is reported to have received a $90m severance package when he left the company, despite there being knowledge of the accusation made against him.

‘Even in difficult times, we are encouraged by the commitment of our colleagues to create a better workplace. That’s come through very strongly over the past few weeks’
– SUNDAR PICHAI

Around 20,000 enraged workers staged a walkout across the global network of Google offices last week, including staff in Dublin, where Google now employs 8,000 people.

This episode, along with staff pushing back against a potential AI contract with the US military, shows that when it comes to workplace culture, Google’s workers have a voice and they are not afraid to use it.

A serious responsibility

In a blogpost last night (8 November), Pichai said that Google will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment claims. “We recognise that choice should be up to you,” Pichai said.

“At Google, we try hard to build a workplace that supports our employees and empowers them to do their best work. As CEO, I take this responsibility very seriously and I’m committed to making the changes we need to improve. Over the past few weeks, Google’s leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you’ve shared.”

Pichai apologised for the mistakes of the recent past and promised to make changes. “Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns. We’ll give better support and care to the people who raise them. And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable and respectful workplace.”

Pichai outlined a number of key changes that form part of an action plan to ensure a healthier, safer workplace. The internet giant said it will provide more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and is overhauling reporting channels by bringing them together on one dedicated site, including live support. Google will also update and expand its mandatory sexual harassment training. Failure to complete training will see points docked in Google’s performance review system.

Pichai said that the company will also recommit to its objectives and key results around diversity, equity and inclusion in 2019, particularly focusing on representation, hiring and retention. The company’s chief diversity officer will provide monthly progress updates to the leadership team.

“This is an area where we need to continually make progress and are committed to doing so. We often hear from Googlers that the best part of working here is other Googlers. Even in difficult times, we are encouraged by the commitment of our colleagues to create a better workplace. That’s come through very strongly over the past few weeks,” Pichai concluded.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Image: Nguyen Hung Vu/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com