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Thousands of Google employees at offices in Asia, Europe and North America have staged a brief walkout on Thursday US time, to protest against sexism, racism and the lack of checks on executive power in the company.

The protest followed a report of a handsome payout to Android chief Andy Rubin, who was said to have been paid US$90 million when he left the company in 2014 4 over a sexual misconduct allegation, with a woman at the company having accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex.

Reuters  reported that employees at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, held up placards reading "Not OK Google" – a reference to the phrase used to activate the company's voice-operated Assistant.

In New York, employees filed out and walked silently around the block for about 10 minutes, with some holding up a message that read "Respect for women".

The demands made by the protesting employees are:

  • An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees.
  • A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.
  • A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.
  • A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.
  • Elevate the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the chief executive and make recommendations directly to the board of directors. Appoint an employee representative to the board.

Reuters quoted Thomas Kneeland, a software engineer at Google, as saying: "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.”

In Dublin, the biggest Google office outside the US, employees left notes on their desks, saying, "I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone."

The article about the payout to Rubin also cited several other sex-related happenings the company: co-founder Larry Page dated Marissa Mayer, one of the first engineers at Google, and later Yahoo! chief. Sergey Brin, the other co-founder, had a consensual extra-marital fling with an employee in 2014.

Eric Schmidt, the current chairman of Google's parent Alphabet, retained a mistress of his to work as a company consultant.

And the company's general counsel from 2002, David Drummond, had an affair with senior contract manager Jennifer Blakely. They had a child too, after which Google made Blakely leave the legal department. Drummond is now the chief legal officer of Alphabet and has made about US$190 million from stock options and awards.

None of these details were denied by Google; Google chief Sundar Pichai did not contest anything in a note that he issued jointly with People Operations vice-president Ellen Naughton.

Pichai mentioned that over the last two years, Google had sacked 48 people for sexual harassment.

The organisers of the protest said, “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."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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