Google walkouts occur worldwide

Employees demand transparency in handling of sexual harassment claims

Photo courtesy of BBC | More than 20,000 Google employees worldwide walked out last Thursday to protest the company’s reported mishandling of sexual harassment claims. An Instagram post outlined five policy changes they hope to see.

More than 20,000 Google employees around the world walked out last Thursday to protest the company’s mishandling of sexual harassment claims, as reported by the New York Times on Oct. 25.

The Times article revealed that Google paid millions of dollars in exit packages to high-ranking, male executives accused of sexual misconduct and then silenced the allegations. Although several Google managers are named in the report, the story focused largely around Android co-founder Andy Rubin who was let go with a $90 million payout following credible sexual misconduct violations. Rubin has since denied these accusations.

Men and women participated in the protest in approximately 50 major cities, including Chicago, New York, Seattle, and Silicon Valley, California where Google’s headquarters are located, as well as Dublin, Singapore, Berlin, Zurich and London. Signs that read “OK Google, really?” “Times Up” and “Not OK Google” were seen while protestors chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, tech harassment has got to go.”

The event was organized and led by female employees of Google on social media who are fed-up with Google’s treatment of their gender in the workplace.

In an Instagram post, five changes were identified that employees had hoped to see Google make: First bring an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination. Second, make a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality. 3. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report. 4. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously. 5. Elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and appointing an employee representative to the Board.

Following the publishing of the Times article, Google responded to the termination of employment of 48 people throughout the past two years due to sexual harassment, saying that none had received an exit package. Both Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and co-founder Larry Page apologized for the unfolding events.

Pichai also voiced support for the walkouts saying “We let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for Thursday and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate.” Pichai proclaimed that this walkout legitimately demonstrates a need for change as “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward.”

According to junior computer science major Yasmin Alvarado-Rayo, “the participants of the Google walkout are 100% justified. As a woman in the computer science field, I am so proud of the many women and men who are striving for change so that we can continue to grow and progress as an industry.”

“Demanding for change isn’t just something big companies like Google need to show, but it starts locally,” Alvarado-Rayo stated. As the vice president of the Computer Science Club and Liaison of the Women in Computing Club, she asserts that “leaders of both clubs strive to have equal opportunity and respect to all.”

A wider approach was taken by CJ Buckles, a first-year music education major who claims that “the walkouts are a much-needed step in the right direction for equality and justice for all genders, which is why the support has been so wide spread.”

Pichai met with the organizers of the protest on Nov. 6, to discuss the demands, but no conclusive agreement has been announced, releasing a statement saying that he is “fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society and, yes, here at Google, too.”

By: Alex Budzynski | Staff Writer