Aussie Google Staff Revolt Over Sexual Misconduct Claims

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Google employees from around the world walked out of their offices on Thursday in protest over the mishandling of sexual assault and harassment cases by the company. Today, Australian Google employees followed suit in solidarity and to demand change.

In an earlier report by Gizmodo, it was stated that employees from 60 per cent of Google's global offices were expected to participate in the walkout.

This mass protest is occurring a week after the publication of a New York Times article which detailed sexual misconduct allegations against Android creator Andy Rubin.

Rubin allegedly received a $US90 million payout in 2014, despite Google reportedly concluding that the allegations were credible. Rubin has taken to Twitter to deny the misconduct, as well as the severance package price tag.

Other accused Google executives have also allegedly received large payouts once they left the company, and some reportedly still remain.

But despite this being the catalyst for the walkout, the demonstration in Sydney made it obvious that this is just one highly publicised example of a culture problem that runs deep within the company.

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Several Googlers spoke at the Sydney demonstration to detail just some of the stories of abuse, harassment and bullying that have been experienced by themselves and others.

One Googler said, "As much as we would like to believe otherwise, it's a terrible part of our culture... a part of our culture that we need to change. There are too many stories being told behind closed doors. We don't have the time or safety to share all of those stories."

But the few that were publicly shared were harrowing, and yet familiar. One manager tried to kiss a young employee who didn't report it because they didn't want to rock the boat or ruin their career prospects.

Another employee did report an incident, but asked for it not to be escalated to the alleged perpetrator out of fear of being identified. But it was and they confronted the victim for making them look bad. That person is now in charge of their career trajectory.

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Google management has supported the walkouts across the globe - in Sydney they provided water on the scorching 31 degree day, as well as their blessings. Google CEO Sundar Pichai had this to say about the walkout.

“Earlier this week, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for today and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate. Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by some of the management team at the Sydney walkout. "As a company we must do better. As an industry, as a society we must do better.," said the Vice President of Google Australia, Anil Sabharwal

"I think if any one person in the world feels any form of harassment ever in their entire lifetime, that is too much and that is absolutely one hundred per cent unacceptable. We want to be here today to let you know that this is just the first step. The three of us here stand here in solidarity with all of you and support the changes we are pushing for."

Image: Signs being handed out at the demonstration. Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Jacquelline Fuller, Vice President of Google and President of Google.org also spoke to the crowd.

"Google from the beginning had a very strong commitment to social justice and that's why we created Google.org. We've done some good things - we've given over a million dollars just in the last year to support the Me Too movement... but a commitment to justice starts with family, it starts at home, it starts in our team, it starts in our workplace. It's the most important thing to get right. So the work that you all are leading on justice is the real work of the company.

So I just want to commit to stand beside everyone and if you have ideas about how we can work together or things that we should be considering doing but aren't doing at google.org, please come forward, please come talk to us - we would love to hear your ideas."

Fuller also thanked active allies who speak up for women who can't, as well as the leadership within the trans community at Google.

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Googlers were instructed not to speak to media, but circulating through the crowd gave you a keen sense of the mood. Solidarity and hope was in the air - but so was skepticism. I heard several employees wondering what the next steps were going to be and whether Google was actually going to implement changes.

One common thread from the management speeches was the call for ideas from Googlers to improve things. And they already publicly have some. Beyond the protests, employees are demanding five changes to be implemented by Google:

  • 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.
  • A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.
  • Elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors. Appoint an Employee Rep to the Board.

These demands were echoed at the Australian walkout, but weren't acknowledged by the managerial representatives. Whether these demands are in the process of being actioned remains unclear. But what was clear is that declarations of solidarity aren't going to be enough for the staff. One Googler even called out management directly by saying, "We will judge you by your actions, not your words."

In the meantime, Googlers are encouraging each other to be the change they wanted to see - to collectively commit to making a difference and not being complicit. To not only protest, but to fight for progress.

Let's hope that management truly commit to doing the same.

Massive Google Walkout Over Sexual Misconduct Marks Tech's 'Time's Up' Moment

Today, an estimated thousands of Google employees around the world walked out of their offices to protest the company’s mishandling of sexual harassment and assault cases, in what is likely the largest collective demonstration among technology workers.

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