TRANS­PARENCY AT GOOGLE

The Sun Herald - - Front Page - BY TAY­LOR TELFORD

Google ex­ec­u­tives re­spond to protests by the thou­sands of em­ploy­ees who walked off their jobs last week.

A week after 20,000 em­ploy­ees walked out in protest over sex­ual mis­con­duct and in­equal­ity at Google, the com­pany said Thurs­day that it will com­mit to build­ing a safer work­place, which in­cludes end­ing forced ar­bi­tra­tion and in­creas­ing its trans­parency on re­ported in­ci­dents of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

In an email to em­ploy­ees, Google chief ex­ec­u­tive Sun­dar Pichai said it was clear that the com­pany needed to make changes to pro­tect its work­ers. The email out­lines a swath of changes, many of which meet the de­mands from or­ga­niz­ers of last week’s walk­outs.

“Go­ing for­ward, we will pro­vide more trans­parency into how you raise con­cerns and how we han­dle them,” Pichai wrote in the email. “We will pro­vide bet­ter care and sup­port to peo­ple who raise con­cerns. And we will dou­ble down on our com­mit­ment to be a rep­re­sen­ta­tive, eq­ui­table and re­spect­ful work­place.

The reck­on­ing wrought by #MeToo has left Sil­i­con Val­ley ex­posed, re­veal­ing pat­terns of abuse and in­equal­ity be­neath a ve­neer of progress. Now, Google, one of the world’s most pow­er­ful and vis­i­ble com­pa­nies, could be­come a model for how to fix what’s bro­ken in tech cul­ture – if it de­liv­ers on its prom­ises.

“We have the eyes of many com­pa­nies look­ing at us,” said Tanuja Gupta, one of the walk­out’s or­ga­niz­ers in New York last week. “We’ve al­ways been a van­guard com­pany, so if we don’t lead the way, no­body else will.”

When work­ers at 50 Google of­fices world­wide walked off the job last Thurs­day, they said they were protest­ing a “cul­ture of com­plic­ity, dis­mis­sive­ness, and sup­port for per­pe­tra­tors.” The New York Times re­ported last month that Google had sup­pressed al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct against sev­eral of its ex­ec­u­tives and had re­port­edly paid one ex­ec­u­tive $90 mil­lion when he left the com­pany after a sex­ual mis­con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tion deemed al­le­ga­tions against him were cred­i­ble.

“All em­ploy­ees and con­tract work­ers across the com­pany de­serve to be safe,” they wrote in an es­say pub­lished on the Cut last week. “Sadly, the ex­ec­u­tive team has demon­strated through their lack of mean­ing­ful ac­tion that our safety is not a pri­or­ity.”

The walk­outs had five stated goals, in­clud­ing stop­ping forced ar­bi­tra­tion in cases of ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion, eq­uity in pay and op­por­tu­ni­ties, a “pub­licly dis­closed sex­ual ha­rass­ment trans­parency re­port,” and im­proved pro­cesses for re­port­ing sex­ual mis­con­duct.

By and large, the new poli­cies are a di­rect re­sponse to these de­mands. Ac­cord­ing to the email, ar­bi­tra­tion in ha­rass­ment or as­sault claims will be op­tional, and the com­pany will track and make pub­lic in­for­ma­tion about re­ported in­ci­dents of mis­con­duct and how they are dealt with. The com­pany also prom­ises to re­vamp its re­port­ing process “to en­sure claims are han­dled with em­pa­thy and care, and that in­di­vid­u­als bring­ing for­ward con­cerns are heard.”

The email also out­lines other changes to im­prove com­pany cul­ture, like manda­tory an­nual train­ing about sex­ual ha­rass­ment (pre­vi­ous train­ing was once every two years) and cre­at­ing a “spe­cialty team of ad­vis­ers” to look into is­sues of ha­rass­ment or dis­crim­i­na­tion. It also says Google lead­ers will take steps to dis­cour­age ex­ces­sive al­co­hol use at com­pany events be­cause of the preva­lence of al­co­hol in in­ci­dents of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

“We rec­og­nize that we have not al­ways got­ten ev­ery­thing right in the past and we are sin­cerely sorry for that,” Pichai wrote in the email. “This is an area where we need to con­tin­u­ally make progress and are com­mit­ted to do­ing so.”

Pichai met with other com­pany lead­ers to ad­dress the de­mands on Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease on Medium, and em­ploy­ees were briefed on the changes Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

Mered­ith Whi­taker, an­other or­ga­nizer of the walk­outs and co-di­rec­tor of the AI Now In­sti­tute, ap­plauded her col­leagues with a tweet.

“Col­lec­tive ac­tion works,” Whit­taker tweeted. “It will con­tinue work­ing.”

ERIC RISBERG AP file

Google em­ploy­ees fill Harry Bridges Plaza in front of the Ferry Build­ing dur­ing a walk­out in San Francisco last week. Google is promis­ing to be more force­ful and open about its han­dling of sex­ual mis­con­duct cases.

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