Accused of covering sexual abuse cases, Google has pledged transparency and support for victims on Thursday 8 November, responding to the anger of thousands of workers who demonstrated last week, inspired by the #MeToo movement.
"We must admit that we have not always done the right thing in the past and we sincerely regret it," technology giant boss Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to employees sent to AFP. "Obviously, we have to make changes," he said, accompanying his message with a series of "more transparent" and "supportive" actions.
Google promises to regularly communicate the number of sexual harassment cases found in the company and disciplinary actions taken. As for employees who report these actions, they will be better supported and accompanied, convincing groups, who have just celebrated their twentieth birthday.
End of "arbitration clause"
As requested by its employees, Google will also terminate the mandatory "arbitration clause", which requires employees to use some form of mediation outside the court rather than sexual harassment or attempted assault. Now it will be "optional". This clause is common in American companies. Uber's car-driver booking group ended under pressure last May after a series of scandals. Google is also committed to strengthening mandatory training of employees on this topic or, more proseist, to "reduce" "excessive" alcohol consumption.
Google, which does not yet have a modern and "cool" image, is in turn trapped by the #MeToo anti-harassment movement, born after the first indictment against film producer Harvey Weinstein last year.
In dozens of cities and at Mountain View headquarters in California, thousands of Google employees around the world last week reported stopping work to criticize Omerta and demand change. Called to gather in front of their place, some have signs that say "Time is Up Tech", a reference to the movement "Time & Up" to defend victims of sexual abuse, born behind #MeToo.
Also read: In Zurich and elsewhere, Google employees are "surprised, sad, and angry"
While "greeting" this announcement, the protest organizers last Thursday ("Google Walkout for a Real Change") regretted in a statement that some demands for equality in broad terms were ignored, such as increasing representation of diversity on the board of directors. "Companies need to overcome racism and systemic discrimination, including wage inequality and the level of promotion, not just sexual harassment," they added, calling for a "truly fair culture" that also promotes ethnic minorities.
The NGO "Included Project", which promotes diversity in "technology" and is very active on issues of harassment and equality, also called on Google to expand its actions beyond this topic. "When will you attack Google culture?", The organization noted on Twitter.
Without the commitment of executives to eliminate the wage gap and Google's focus only on harassment and assault, this (important) change seems to only focus on policies / procedures. What about dealing with Google culture? https://t.co/GlpR4rAA9r
– Included Projects (@projectinclude) November 8, 2018
The move last Thursday was based on an article from New York TimesThe newspaper said the company had covered cases of sexual abuse involving senior officials in recent years, including Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile operating system, who left the group in 2014 with compensation of $ 90 million. Mr Rubin denied this accusation.
After this article, Sundar Pichai sent an email to employees stating that 48 employees, including 13 senior officials, had been fired for sexual harassment for the past two years, without compensation. But a few days later, the group announced the departure of a new senior official, Rich DeVaul. He was among senior executives who were "protected" by Google while the group knew they were accused of harassment, according to the New York newspaper.
Also read:Another senior executive, accused of sexual harassment, left Google
Even before the #MeToo global movement, women – such as Ellen Pao, the founder of "Inclusive Projects" or Susan Fowler, engineers at Uber – had criticized sexism and a culture of abuse, which seemed to be widespread in "technology" dominated by men and white.