At Google offices around the world Thursday, employees will walk off the job and take to the streets to protest what organizers are calling “a culture of complicity, dismissiveness and support for perpetrators” tied to sexual harassment and abuse.
The walkout comes a week after the New York Times revealed that Google had suppressed allegations of sexual misconduct against several of its executives, including Andy Rubin, the creator of the company’s Android software. Rubin was reportedly paid $90 million when he left the company in 2014 after a sexual misconduct investigation deemed allegations against him were credible. Rubin denied the Times story in a tweet, saying it was “part of a smear campaign” to disparage him during a divorce and custody battle.
The Times story also exposed allegations of sexual harassment against Richard DeVaul, a director at Google’s parent company, Alphabet. DeVaul resigned Tuesday, the Times reported.
As the waves of #MeToo have broken over pockets of American industry, the movement’s presence in Silicon Valley has unveiled patterns of abuse, gender inequality and a hush-hush culture in a landscape known for its progressiveness.
Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, responded to the Times reporting in an email to employees last week, CNBC reported, in which he said Google had fired 48 employees, including “13 senior managers and above” for sexual misconduct in the past two years. These people had not been given payouts, Pichai said in the email.
Outrage at how the company handles these situations rippled as employees demanded change, both internally and on social media, culminating in worldwide walkouts.
Sanette Tanaka Sloan tweeted “News like the @nytimes report on @google’s handling of Andy Rubin and other top execs is crushing. As much as I believe in supporting the company you work for, it’s equally important to voice what you vehemently disagree with. We can do so much better”
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“As the recent article and the executive response make clear, these problems go all the way to the top,” the organizers wrote in a news release. “While Google has championed the language of diversity and inclusion, substantive actions to address systemic racism, increase equity, and stop sexual harassment have been few and far between.”
Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
News of the walkout spread earlier this week, when BuzzFeed reported that a group of “200 engineers” were organizing a “women’s walk” to protest the revelations in the Times’ reporting. Since then, the movement has metastasized. Early Thursday, the walkout’s Twitter account, @GoogleWalkout, shared photos of employees protesting at Google offices at 11:10 a.m. around the world — in Tokyo, London, Dublin, Singapore, Berlin and Zurich.
The protest, called “Walkout for Real Change,” has five stated goals, including bringing an end to forced arbitration, improved processes for reporting sexual misconduct and a publicly disclosed report on sexual harassment within the company.
“For every story in the New York Times, there are thousands more, at every level of the company,” the organizers wrote in a press release. “We are not going to stand for this anymore.”