Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai wrote an apology letter to the entire company in Mountain View, not so much to apologize for how past sexual harassment cases were handled, but to let everyone know that there will be a "much harder line" going forward. This means that Google is going to be cracking down on those that have sexual harassment and/or assault complaints against them, instead of letting them resign and giving them a hefty exit package – as was the case with Andy Rubin. On top of that, Pichai also said he would support those employees who chose to take part in the "women's walk" that is taking place Thursday.
In the letter, Pichai also expressed that he is deeply "sorry for the past actions and the pain they have caused employees." He also reiterated something that Alphabet's CEO, Larry Page mentioned last week during a company-wide meeting (Google's weekly "TGIF" meeting), that "if even one person experiences Google the way the New York Times described, we are not the company we aspire to be." Google isn't waiting either, Alphabet's subsidiary, X, just lost its director due to some sexual misconduct complaints against him. Alphabet wasted no time in getting rid of Richard DeVaul, and with all of the headlines that Google has been a part of in the past week, it's not a surprise to see Google jumping on this really quick to quiet it down. Pichai also said in his email to employees that the apology given at the TGIF meeting last week was not enough, and many of his subordinates emailed him to let him know. Pichai agreed, and vowed to do better. Of course, the cases that were mentioned by the New York Times took place before Pichai became CEO, and was a product manager of Chrome and then Chrome and Android. So it's not technically on Pichai's watch, but he is taking the blame for it, as a CEO should.
Background: Last week, the New York Times published a pretty damning piece on the atmosphere at Google, particularly revolving around Andy Rubin. As many may know, Rubin created Android, which is how he got a job at Google – the company bought Android and Rubin was part of the deal. Rubin left Google in 2014, in what was a pretty big surprise to a lot of people. But that was four years ago. Since then, we've learned exactly why Rubin left the company. Rubin was the subject of a sexual assault claim from a coworker, who said that he coerced her into having sex. When Google's CEO (at the time, this was before Alphabet was formed), Larry Page found out about this, he asked for his resignation. With Rubin resigning his post at Google, he did also get an exit package. A package that Google was under no obligation to give Rubin. But Google gave him $90 million as a parting gift – which was being paid out over monthly payments of around $2 million per month. That sounds pretty sketchy, right? Sure, Page did the right thing in getting rid of Rubin, but to give him $90 million that he was not entitled to (not part of his contract, if he were to get fired or leave the company).
Rubin wasn't the only one either. According to the report from the New York Times, this happened with at least three other senior executives at the company. And one of them even got to keep their job. The report also mentioned how Google co-founder Sergey Brin had an extramarital affair in the early days of Google, with an employee. Now that was a consensual thing, so it wasn't really a big deal, but it shows that there are plenty of issues over at Google when it comes to this subject.
Impact: After Hollywood has had its #MeToo moment, it looks like Google and other tech companies are about to have their own. This is not surprising in the least, considering that in Silicon Valley, the majority of the high-ranking executives are male, with females working the lower-ranking jobs. Which means you have a similar situation to what's happening in Hollywood. Where the male with all the power is able to leverage that power to get the woman to do what he wants, or he can ruin her career. It's unfortunate, but it is very likely that Google/Alphabet is not alone here. It wouldn't be surprising to see others come out with similar stories. Though these stories didn't come from those that were assaulted, surprisingly. But instead from people inside Google who had knowledge of the cases for Rubin and these other executives who are no longer with the company.
Pichai also mentioned that since he took the role of chief executive over at Google, it has "been personally important to me that we take a much harder line on inappropriate behavior." He mentioned that in the past two years, they have terminated 48 people, including 13 that were senior managers or higher ranked, for sexual harassment. Pichai also mentioned that none of these 48 received an exit package. In fact, Pichai went on to say that none of the executives who left the company voluntarily during a sexual harassment investigation, received an exit package. Which shows that Google is taking the right steps, at least right now. Pichai also stressed that product managers will be briefed on what's happening Thursday, so that those that want to participate in the walkout on Thursday will have the full support that they need. This is a good move for Pichai and senior leadership at Google. Instead of forcing its employees to stay at work or be terminated, they are supporting them. And that is because this walkout is over how sexual assaulters have been treated, and how those that were assaulted were not believed. Basically, Google made it easy for employees to sexually assault a co-worker and then receive a fat check when leaving the company. And obviously, that is not how it is supposed to happen here.