Last week Google employees coordinated a mass walkout at some of the company’s offices across the globe, with the poor handling of sexual misconduct within the organisation the motivation behind the action.

The Google Walkout happened on 1st November at 11:00AM in different locations worldwide, with a reported 20 000 employees taking part in over 50 cities. This is by no means a small number, representing a little over one fifth of the 94 372 full-time and contract employees (as of 30th September 2018) that Google has.

Sadly none of those cities were located in Africa, but employees from North America, South America, Europe and Asia took a stand, which is great to see.

As with any action of this nature, it’s true value is whether it can bring about actual change. We’re yet to see if the Google Walkout will have the desired effect, but it has at the very least prompted CEO Sundar Pichai to meet with the Google Walkout for Change organisers.

“We have the eyes of many companies looking at us,” explained Google employee Tanuja Gupta in New York. “We’ve always been a vanguard company, so if we don’t lead the way, nobody else will,” she added.

“We walked out because tech industry business as usual is failing us. Google paying $90M to Andy Rubin is one example among thousands, which speak to a company where abuse of power, systemic racism, and unaccountable decision-making are the norm. From Maven, to Dragonfly, to a $90M sexual harassment bonus, it’s clear that we need real structural change, not adjustments to the status quo,” expressed Meredith Whittaker, the founder of Google’s Open Research Group, in a press statement on Medium.

As for their meeting with Pichai, the focus will be the five changes that the group outlined ahead of last week’s planned action.

The changes are:

  1. An end to Forced Arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.
  2. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.
  3. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.
  4. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.
  5. A commitment to elevate the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors. And, to appoint an Employee Representative to the Board.

It should be interesting to see if all five changes are met, and whether this will bring about the change within Google and the tech industry at large that the group is hoping for.

 

[Image – Medium]