Google’s CEO has been in the spotlight quite a bit in the past couple of weeks, and that is due to a number of protests going on over at Google. The most recent one, was over how the company handled sexual assault cases in the past. With the New York Times having a very detailed expose about what has happened at Google, particularly with Andy Rubin. Rubin resigned from Google back in 2014, but it was actually a forced resignation after a sexual assault case against him was brought up. That wasn’t the damning part of the whole thing though. Google decided to give him an exit package of $90 million that was paid out over four years. Which made women at Google upset, and stage a walkout yesterday. Now, there is another major protest going on at Google, revolving their intent on creating a search engine for China. While Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai has been siding with the employees and allowing them to have their voices heard, Pichai did reaffirm that he was the boss and that Google would not be swayed by staff uprisings within the company.
Pichai noted at a conference in New York on Thursday that “we don’t run the company by referendum. There are many good things about giving employees a voice, out of that we have done well.” Pichai also noted that internal dynamics are not as chaotic as might appear to those outside of the company. Pichai is looking to strike a happy medium between giving his more than 50,000 full-time employees a voice, but also not letting the inmates run the asylum, so to speak. Pichai is still going to take staff’s points under advisement before he makes any decisions, like a CEO should, but that doesn’t mean that his staff is always going to get their way.
Background: With that expose from the New York Times last week, Pichai was forced to apologize, alongside Google co-founder, Larry Page at the company’s weekly TGIF meeting in Mountain View. Pichai also noted to his employees that the company was going to support the walkout that happened yesterday around the world. He felt that employees had the right to protest how Google had handled those sexual assault cases, and needed to do better. Since Pichai took over at Google, they have done better, though. Pichai noted that about 48 people were let go due to sexual assault complaints and not a single one (which included a handful of senior executives at the company) received an exit package. So Pichai is making changes at Google, even before this information was made public. Which is a good thing for Google, but there’s still change to be made. Google wants a few other things to change at Google, like pay transparency. Now that is likely going to take a while to actually change at Google, and in Silicon Valley as a whole. But it is because women are paid much less than men, for doing the same job, having the same responsibilities and having the same education. This isn’t just an issue at Google, but at many companies in the US and around the world.
The other big issue for Google recently has been around the search engine that it is reportedly building for China. In that country, there are some pretty heavy censorship laws – which is what forced Google to leave the country back in 2010. So the search engine that it is building for China is heavily censored, and a lot of the search results are being copied from other search engines in the country. That’s not a huge surprise, but a number of employees at Google feel that it is unethical to build that type of a search engine for China. Pichai hasn’t said that they are going to ditch the idea, but is taking the feedback from his employees under advisement. China is very important to Google. After all, it is the largest country in the world (by population), so it desperately wants to be in that country. Especially since there isn’t much room left to grow in the rest of the world now.
Impact: Pichai is still the CEO at Google, and it doesn’t look like he is going anywhere, anytime soon. Pichai has made a lot of changes at Google since taking on the roll back in 2015. He has changed the atmosphere at Google, and focused more on revenue streams outside of just search and ads, which is important for Google, as that industry does start to plateau for the company. Google does, of course, still make the majority of its money from search and ads. That includes around 90-percent of its revenue from ads alone. That makes it a really big part of the company. Pichai is also changing things behind the scenes, like how it handles sexual assault and harassment. It’ll be interesting to see what changes following the walkout yesterday at Google. There were some demands that employees wanted and so far, it doesn’t look like Pichai and the upper-management at Google has adhered to them just yet.
There’s a lot of turmoil over at Google, and it’s something we really don’t see too much. So it’s good to see that Pichai is reaffirming that he is the one running the show there in Mountain View, though that wasn’t really up for discussion anyways. As a good leader should, Pichai has taken responsibility for what happened in the past at Google, in regards to Rubin and a few other upper-management employees. He has also pledged to do the right thing and make sure that they are let go, without getting an exit package – which was likely the biggest issue for everyone, that read that New York Times piece. On top of the sexual assault and Chinese search engine, Google has also been taking some heat from the government for killing one of its military contracts with its AI division. But Google reaffirms that it is still working with the government, in other areas. The AI contract with the military was killed because Google felt it was unethical.