By Daisuke Wakabayashi and Kate Conger, New York Times SAN FRANCISCO – At Google's weekly staff meeting Thursday, the top…
SAN FRANCISCO – At Google’s weekly staff meeting Thursday, the top question employees voted to ask Larry Page, a co-founder, and Sundar Pichai, the chief executive, was one about sexual harassment.
“Multiple company actions strongly indicate that protection of powerful abusers is literally and figuratively more valuable to the company than the well-being of their victims,” read the question to people who attended. “What concrete and meaningful actions will be taken to turn this around?”
The query was part of an outpouring from Google employees after a New York Times article published Thursday reported how the company had paid millions of dollars in exit packages to male executives accused of misconduct and remained silent about their transgressions. In the case of Andy Rubin, creator of Android mobile software, the company gave him a $ 90 million exit package after Google had concluded that a misconduct claim against him was credible.
While tech workers, executives and others slammed Google for the revelations, nowhere was condemnation of the internet giant’s actions more pointed than among its own employees.
The employee rebuke played out Thursday and Friday in company meetings and on internal message boards and social networks, as well as on Twitter. Jaana Dogan, who works in Google Cloud, the company’s cloud computing business, tweeted, “If you are worth millions of dollars, you should be able to show the authority to authoritarian governments and serial abusers. If not now, then when? “
Another Google employee, Sanette Tanaka Sloan, also posted on Twitter that the way Google had coped with Rubin’s misconduct claim was” crushing. “She added,” We can do so much better. “[1
9659003] On Memegen, an internal Google photo messaging board popular among employees for its humor, one of the top posts Thursday featured a GIF or an overjoyed game show contestant showered with confetti. Beneath the image was the text “got caught sexually harassing employee,” said one employee who saw the post and who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak publicly.
Google’s workforce often takes two internal messaging platforms to protest management decisions. Employees have opposed the company’s decisions to work with the Pentagon on artificial intelligence technology and to create a censored search engine for China. (Google has since dropped its AI effort with the Pentagon and it has not introduced a censored search engine for China.)
On Thursday and Friday, some Google employees said they were dispirited by how some executives were accused of harassment were paid millions of dollars even if the company was fending off lawsuits from former employees and the Labor Department that claimed it underpaid women. Google has said that it had found “no significant difference” in the pay between men and women at the company.
Other employees said they tried to calculate how many hours of their work would have gone towards generating the $ 90 million Rubin obtained in his exit package. Rubin has denied any misconduct and said the report of his compensation was a “wild exaggeration.”
Some Google employees said they had more questions after Pichai and Eileen Naughton, vice president of people operations, wrote in an email Thursday that the company had fired 48 people, including 13 senior executives, for sexual harassment over the last two years and that none of them received an exit package.
Some workers said they wanted more data on how many claims were investigated and how many were found credible Liz Fong-Jones, a Google Engineer for more than a decade and an activist on workplace issues, said in a tweet that judgments about misconduct claims can be clouded by whether a person’s boss feels they can “afford” to lose that person. In the case of Rubin and others, she said, that puts page in the spotlight.
“The decision maker must have been Larry Page,” Fong-Jones wrote. “The buck stops there.”
That Google’s employee meeting Thursday, hours after Alphabet, Google’s parent, reported another quarter of blockbuster earnings, Page spoke to employees along with Pichai and Naughton. It was unclear how they responded to the question from employees, but the executives struck a conciliatory tone, according to comments obtained by The Times.
During the meeting, Page and Pichai did not comment on specific misconduct cases. Pichai noted that Google has made some “important changes” in how it deals with harassment cases, according to the remarks.
“We want to get better, and we want to get to a place where it truly reflects our values of respect, particular respect for each other, “Pichai said.
Page said if employees suffered from harassment while at Google, then the company was not” the company we aspire to be. “
He also offered an apology.
“I’ve had to make a lot of decisions that affect people every day, some of them are not easy. And, you know, I think certainly there are ones with the benefit of hindsight. I would have made differently, “Page said.” I know this is really an exceptionally painful story for some of you, and I’m really sorry for that. “