Around the world, Google employees protested inequality and sexual harassment by walking off their jobs at 11:10 A.M. on Nov. 1.
The protest was widely viewed as a response to reports of Google executives engaging in sexual misconduct. A recent article in the New York Times named Andy Rubin, who ran Google’s Android division before leaving in 2014, and Google X head Richard DeVaul as executives who behaved inappropriately with employees and job candidates. (In a Tweet, Rubin denied the Times report, saying it was riddled with “numerous inaccuracies”; DeVaul resigned.)
As listed in an essay in The Cut, the organizers of the Google walkout itemized their demands to Google’s leadership:
- An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.
- A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality.
- The issuing of a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.
- A clear, uniform process for reporting sexual misconduct.
- A restructuring to make the Chief Diversity Officer report to the CEO.
- The appointment of an Employee Representative to Google’s Board.
“A company is nothing without its workers. From the moment we start at Google we’re told that we aren’t just employees; we’re owners,” the essay concluded. “Every person who walked out today is an owner, and the owners say: Time’s up.”
Were Google to agree to these demands, the presence of a powerful Chief Diversity Officer and Employee Representative would (theoretically) make high-level management more aware of ongoing cultural issues. If Google issued a “sexual harassment transparency report,” it would likely resemble the annual report that the company already issues for employee diversity.
Google has pledged to listen, and its executives have reportedly apologized to employees during internal meetings. “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a statement emailed to the media. “We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”
The big question is whether Google will translate those walkout-related assurances into real, lasting policy—and if other companies will follow its lead. If they do, it could radically change the culture within the tech industry.