According to a report out of BuzzFeed on Monday, a group of over 200 Google employees are organizing a walk out on Thursday, and it is being called a “women’s walk”. This is a companywide group of employees that are walking out to protest Google’s protection of sexual assaulters like Andy Rubin, who was named in a New York Times piece last week. A couple of employees that are planning to take part in the walkout this Thursday, spoke with Buzz Feed but asked to remain anonymous, stating that they are furious and they “feel like there’s a pattern of powerful men getting away with awful behavior towards women at Google, or if they don’t get away with it, they get a slap on the wrist, or they get sent away with a golden parachute, like Andy Rubin.” They also stated that the leadership at Google and Alphabet are mostly men (who have also reportedly been accused of sexual assault, according to the New York Times).
This is just the latest protest by Google employees towards the company. Recently, the company has had a number of protests internally, over the company working on a search engine that could be used in China. The protesting there was over the fact that the search engine would be a very limited search engine. And it’s not what Google once stood for. Earlier this year, there was a letter that circled around Google talking about how women are not treated nor paid the same as men in the company. That led to an all-hands on deck meeting with Google CEO, Sundar Pichai at its headquarters in Mountain View. Last week, there was another all-hands on deck meeting, just a few hours before the piece from the New York Times was published, regarding Rubin. To try and explain why Rubin was given a $90 million exit package, even though Google didn’t owe him anything, for firing him. Needless to say, there is a lot of issues going on internally at Google right now.
Background: This circles all around one major news story from last week, which involves the godfather of Android, Andy Rubin. He left Google in 2014, and last year it came out that he left the company after his “inappropriate conduct” was made known to the higher-ups. However, last week, it turned out that it was sexual assault towards a couple of his subordinates at Google. When Google’s CEO (at the time), Larry Page, found out about this, he asked for Rubin’s resignation. When Rubin left, Google decided to still give him a $90 million exit package, which is being paid out at about $2 million per month (the last payment is set for next month). The reason why that exit package has a lot of people scratching their heads is because Google was not obligated to give him anything when cutting Rubin from the company. Rubin was not the first executive at Google to sexually assault coworkers and then resign from the company, and get a pretty generous exit package. The New York Times found around four others that also got the same treatment, but none of those got the same level of exit package that Rubin did.
The saying “the fish stinks from the head” fits in here at Google. This is because the New York Times also found that Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin had an extramarital affair with a coworker at Google – though that relationship was reportedly consensual – Google’s former chairman, Eric Schmidt also kept a consultant on that was his mistress. While these were not sexual assault cases here, it’s still clear that it’s a big issue at Google – and likely other Silicon Valley companies as well.
Impact: Sexual assault is a topic that has been in the spotlight for over a year now. Largely in the world of Hollywood with a number of people getting caught sexually assaulting women. Now it looks like it is starting to take on Silicon Valley, which could take down a number of high-profile executives. It’s something that definitely needs to change, and part of what needs to change is the consequences for these powerful men. The majority of those running tech companies, are men, with a few exceptions like Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook. Which means that these men are able to exploit women and they can also force them to keep their mouth shut by threatening to fire them. Which is unfortunate, but that is how things are working right now in Silicon Valley. Some of these stories are pretty surprising, but on the other hand, after all of the stories we’ve heard in the past year, as part of the #metoo movement, it’s not that surprising.
According to the employees that spoke with Buzz Feed, anonymously, they have submitted petitions and even had internal discussions among these employees about removing the senior executives that were also mentioned in the New York Times piece last week. That would include both of Google’s co-founders and Google’s former chairman. Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt are integral parts of Google, but it does make sense that employees would want them removed from their post. This would also include David Drummond who is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, and Google X director, Richard DeVaul. The walkout that is scheduled for Thursday currently has around 200 employees taking part in it, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see that number grow exponentially between now and when the actual walkout happens on Thursday. And while it is being called a “women’s walk”, there are also expected to be plenty of men included in this walkout, that are supporting their fellow female coworkers. As expected, a Google spokesperson did not provide comment on the matter. And this is also likely why the employees that Buzz Feed spoke with wanted to remain anonymous, so that no repercussions could be taken against them, before Thursday when the walk out actually happens. It’ll be interesting to see how this walkout changes things at Google.