Thousands of Google employees walked out of their offices on Thursday as part of protests against the company’s treatment of women. The demonstrations began at 11.10 am, and the first people to walk out were employees of Google’s Tokyo office. The protests, staged for 11.10 am local time at each location, were organised under the #GoogleWalkout.
The employees have sought several key changes. These include: “An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees; a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity; a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report; and a clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.”
They also wanted Google to elevate the chief diversity officer so they answer directly to the chief executive officer and can make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors. An employee representative must be appointed to the Board, they said.
Employees walked out of their offices in several places including London, Dublin, Singapore, Berlin, Haifa in Israel, and Zurich.
The protests come days after a report published in The New York Times claimed that Android creator Andy Rubin received a $90 million (Rs 660.19 crore at current exchange rate) exit package in 2014 despite facing sexual misconduct allegations. The report was based on unidentified people and court documents, including some filed in an ongoing divorce between Rubin and his wife. It also alleged that Google protected two other unnamed executives accused of sexual misconduct, removing one with a severance package while retaining another.
Soon after, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai put out a statement that the company was taking a “hard line” on inappropriate conduct. Though Pichai did not address the allegations against Rubin, he said it was “difficult to read”. Google fired 48 employees for sexual harassment during the past two years and has not provided the employees severance packages, the company added.
The employees were told to leave a flyer on their desks, which said: “Hi, I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone.”
Pichai has supported these demonstrations, according to BBC. “I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” he reportedly said in an all-staff email. “I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society…and, yes, here at Google, too.”