It was a protest that went around the globe.
From Singapore to Dublin, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Pryor, Oklahoma, Google employees walked out of their offices to protest the internet search giant’s handling of sexual discrimination cases, and express their frustration with its workplace culture.
In San Francisco, where Google has several offices, hundreds of workers congregated at a plaza where they gave speeches and held signs. One read: “I reported and he got promoted.”
The unusual protest — tech companies are not unionized and typically keep strife about personnel matters behind closed doors — riveted Silicon Valley, which has struggled in recent years over the treatment of women in the industry.
The Google protest was spurred by a New York Times story that outlined allegations against high-profile leaders at the firm, including Andy Rubin, known as “the father of Android,” who was reportedly paid $90 million in severance. Rubin has denied the allegations in the article, as well as reports of his severance amount.
Richard DeVaul, a director at X, a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, resigned from the company on Tuesday. He was accused of making unwanted advances to a woman who was a job applicant at the firm.
List of demands
“We are a small part of a massive movement that has been growing for a long time,” protest organizers said in an article published in the online magazine The Cut. “We are inspired by everyone — from the women in fast food who led an action against sexual harassment to the thousands of women in the #metoo movement who have been the beginning of the end for this type of abuse.”
Leaders of the protest issued a list of demands, including that Alphabet add a worker-representative to its board of directors and that the firm internally disclose pay equity information.
They also asked the company to revise its human resources practices to make the harassment claims filing process more equitable, and to create a “publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an email to employees that “as CEO, it’s been personally important to me that we take a much harder line on inappropriate behavior. … We have taken many steps to do so, and know our work is still not done.”
Social media protest
The global protest unfolded on Twitter and Facebook as employees from offices around the world posted photos of themselves walking out at the appointed time of 11:10 a.m.
The greatest concentration of Google workers is in the San Francisco area. In San Bruno, 12 miles south of San Francisco, employees at YouTube, which is part of Google, walked out, as did those in Mountain View, company headquarters.
“As a woman, I feel personally unsafe, because if something were to happen, what accountability measures will be in place to make sure that justice is sought?” said Google employee Rana Abdelhamid at the San Francisco protest.
Christian Boyd, another Google employee, was angry about what she said was protecting the powerful, even in the face of credible allegations.
“It’s sad to see that what we consider the best companies are not immune to this, as well,” Boyd said.
After 30 minutes of speeches, the workers went back to their offices but vowed to continue pressuring Google to change.