03 Nov 2018
#MeToo fallout: Thousands of Google employees walked out on Thursday
The global walk out marked the largest-ever collective demonstration by workers in the technology sector, and possibly marks the first concerted effort to address rampant sexism in the industry.
Employees walked out of 60% of Google's global offices
The global walk out started with Tokyo, and soon spread to Google offices in several cities, including Singapore, Berlin, Zurich, Dublin, London, and several other cities in the US and Canada.
Earlier, on Wednesday, organizers of the walk out had told Gizmodo that employees from 60% of Google's 70 global offices would be participating in the walk out.
The main reason behind the agitation
The core issue of the agitation is the sexual harassment allegations against former Google employee and Android creator Andy Rubin.
In 2014, Rubin exited Google, but recently, an NYT report revealed that his exit had been precipitated by sexual harassment allegations.
Although Google asked Rubin to resign in light of the allegations, the 'Father of Android' was paid a whopping $90mn severance package.
In 2013, Rubin had coerced a co-worker into oral sex
Around 2012, Rubin, with his godlike stature at Google, started dating a woman he knew from work.
However, in 2013, the woman wanted to sever ties with Rubin, but was afraid that it would affect her career.
Rubin allegedly used this power disparity to coerce the woman into oral sex at a hotel room.
The relationship ended soon afterwards, and the woman filed a complaint in 2014.
Two other senior employees had also been shielded by Google
The report further highlighted that Rubin wasn't the only one accused of sexual harassment.
Google, in the last decade, had shielded two other employees who had been accused of sexual harassment.
In both cases, the employees were asked to resign, but, like Rubin, were paid millions as severance packages.
Doing so ensured that Google could avoid messy legal fights, and maintain its pristine image.
Over the last two years, Google fired 48 accused employees
In response to the report, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to all Google employees, informing them that Google takes such allegations seriously.
He added that inclusivity was of prime importance for the tech giant, and highlighted that over the last two years, 48 employees, including 13 senior employees, had been laid off owing to sexual harassment allegations against them.
Google asks employees to report sexual misconduct without fear
In the email, Pichai urged employees to use available tools for reporting sexual harassment.
"In 2015, we launched Respect@ and our annual Internal Investigations Report to provide transparency about these types of investigations at Google," the email said.
Pichai also said since reporting such crimes is traumatic, confidential channels have been provided.
"Share any inappropriate behavior you experience or see," the email urged.
Thursday's demonstration highlighted the ire of Google employees
Despite Pichai's assurances, it seems that Google employees are not convinced about the company's purported commitment towards ensuring a safe workspace for women.
Thursday's agitation demonstrated the same, with protesters holding signs that read "TIME'S UP TECH", "WORKER'S RIGHTS ARE WOMEN'S RIGHTS", and "END FORCED ARBITRATION".
Forced arbitration, particularly, is contentious as it waives employees' rights to a public trial, and settles issues behind closed doors.
Agitating employees issue a set of demands to Google
Thursday also saw the agitating Google employees issue a set of demands to the company.
Apart from calls to end the practice of forced arbitration, employees demanded a focused and concerted push to narrow the wage gap between men and women, a public transparency report on sexual harassment, a clear and improved process of reporting sexual misconduct, and an employee representative on Google's board.
Employees are the one's keeping Google morally and ethically upright
Although Google likes to portray itself as a morally and ethically upright company, Thursday's agitation demonstrated yet again that it is not Google, but its employees who time and again come forward to fix the company's moral compass.
Earlier, agitation on part of employees saw Google exit the controversial Project Maven that sought to employ AI in warfare.
Employees had also voiced their objections to Google creating a censored search engine for China.
Sustained pressure might effect changes in biased organizational structures
That said, the agitation by the Google employees is reflective of a larger trend taking hold in the US tech industry, and in corporate America in general.
Last month, McDonald's employees staged a similar walk out to protest against instances of sexual misconduct in the company.
If anything, upright employees need to build momentum and keep it going, if they are to effect any lasting change in otherwise biased organizational structures in the industry.