According to its organizers, a protest put together over the last week pulled together 20,000 workers in 50 Google offices around the world who walked out at 11:10 AM local time yesterday. While the response came to a boil after the New York Times wrote about misconduct and payouts among high-ranking execs, as several participants outlined in an essay published by The Cut, the issues run far deeper than that.
Open Research Group founder Meredith Whittaker said “Google paying $90M to Andy Rubin is one example among thousands, which speak to a company where abuse of power, systemic racism, and unaccountable decision-making are the norm.” According to another organizer, Celie O’Neil-Hart, “We are building on the work of others at Google who have been advocating for structural change for years.” While many others who have raised alerts about the company’s culture are no longer with Google, now we’ll all see how executives respond to the listed demands:
- An end to Forced Arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees, along with a right for every Google worker to bring a co-worker, representative, or supporter of their choosing when meeting with HR, especially when filing a harassment claim.
- A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity, for example making sure there are women of color at all levels of the organization, and accountability for not meeting this commitment. This must be accompanied by transparent data on the gender, race and ethnicity compensation gap, across both level and years of industry experience, accessible to all Google and Alphabet employees and contractors. Such data must include, but may not be limited to: information on relative promotion rates, under-leveling at hire, the handling of leaves, and inequity in project and job ladder change opportunities. The methods by which such data was collected and the techniques by which it was analyzed and aggregated must also be transparent.
- A publicly-disclosed sexual harassment transparency report, including: the number of harassment claims at Google over time and by product area, the types of claims submitted, how many victims and accused have left Google, and any exit packages and their worth.
- A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously. The process today is not working in no small part because HR performance is assessed by senior management and directors, forcing them to put management’s interests ahead of employees reporting harassment and discrimination. The improved process should also be accessible to all: full-time employees, temporary employees, vendors, and contractors alike. Accountability, safety and an ability to report unsafe working conditions should not be dictated by employment status.
- A commitment to elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors. In addition, appoint an Employee Representative to the Board. Both the CDO and the Employee Representative should help allocate permanent resources for demands 1–4 and other equity efforts, ensure accountability to these demands, and suggest propose changes when equity goals are not met.
In their blog post about the event, Walkout for Real Change organizers said that on Friday morning, they were told that Google CEO Sundar Pichai will meet with his leadership team Monday “to review a plan that would address the demands.”