Google staff in global protest against sexism, racism
Over 1,000 Google employees and contractors in Asia, Europe and the US staged brief midday walkouts on Thursday, with more expected to follow at California headquarters, amid complaints of sexism, racism and unchecked executive power in their workplace.
Hundreds of women and men filed out of Google’s office in New York City and silently walked around the block for about 10 minutes around 11:00am (local time). A few held sheets of paper with messages including “Respect for women”.
Two blocks away, a larger crowd of people that appeared to number a thousand or more, including Google employees and New Yorkers not working for the company, filled a small park. Some held larger signs than those at the Google office, with more confrontational messages including “Time’s up Tech”.
“This is Google. We solve the toughest problems here. We all know that the status quo is unacceptable and if there is any company who can solve this, I think it is Google,” said Thomas Kneeland, a software engineer who said he has been at Google for three years.
Google employees have been getting a lot of emails from managers and colleagues to participate in the walkout recently, he said. Just around 11am, people started forming groups to leave the building. “We had engineers on our team bring their pagers since they were on-call, but that’s how we thought of the walkout. It’s important.”
The demonstrations follow a New York Times report last week that said Google in 2014 gave a $90 million exit package to Andy Rubin after the then-senior vice-president was accused of sexual harassment.
Rubin denied the allegation in the story, which he also said contained “wild exaggerations” about his compensation. Google did not dispute the report.
The report energised a months-long movement inside Google to increase diversity, and improve treatment of women and minorities.
In a statement late on Wednesday, the organisers called on Google parent Alphabet Inc to add an employee representative to its board of directors and internally share pay-equity data. They also asked for changes to Google’s human resources practices intended to make bringing harassment claims a fairer process.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in a statement that “employees have raised constructive ideas” and that the company was “taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action”.
Hundreds more filed out of its European headquarters in Dublin shortly after 1100 local time, while organisers shared photographs on social media of hundreds more leaving Google offices in London, Zurich, Berlin, Tokyo and Singapore.