NEW YORK, NY (Nov 2, 2018) — More than 20,000 Google employees and contractors in Google offices located in 50 cities worldwide walked out for real change at 11:10am local time protesting sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that doesn’t work for everyone. Nine offices have yet to report numbers, and additional offices in Europe have planned walkouts in the coming days.
“We have the eyes of many companies looking at us,” Google employee Tanuja Gupta said in New York. “We’ve always been a vanguard company, so if we don’t lead the way, nobody else will.”
Protest organizers say they were disgusted by the details of the recent article from The New York Times which provided the latest example of a culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators in the face of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse of power. They framed the problem as part of a longstanding pattern in a toxic work culture further amplified by systemic racism.
“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,” said Meredith Whittaker, the founder of Google’s Open Research Group.
During the #GoogleWalkout, a female employee recounted her personal story which happened during her time working at YouTube, a Google company. Surrounded by fellow employees at the company headquarters in Mountain View, California, she recalled a team outing where a male colleague asked to switch drinks. That is her last memory of the night. A team lead later told her that he saw her being led away from the festivities when she was compromised, and he had intervened to take her to a safe place. She escalated to HR, who instructed her to remain on the same team as her harasser.
“The first thing that HR did was silence me. They made it clear that I was the problem,” said the employee. “I lasted on that team for three months. Every day, I went into work. I cried in the car for an hour, and I went into work and faced my harasser until I could not do it anymore, and I left that team.”
She escalated the incident to a number of executives and HR representatives.
“Lot of empathy. Did anything change? No, I continued to be silenced, “ she said. “I was told that Google was keeping silence for me, and thus I had to keep my silence, away from the press, away from my coworkers, I need to be silent. No more.”
This story and many others were shared at walkout rallies on Thursday. At least 20,000 Google employees and contractors have participated in the walkouts across nearly 75% of Google’s global offices. The largest demonstrations occurred at Google’s New York office which drew nearly 3,000 participants at the 14th Street Park, and at the Mountain View headquarters, which drew nearly 4,000.
“Google is famous for its culture, but in reality, we’re not even meeting the basics of respect, justice and fairness for every single person here,” said organizer Claire Stapleton.
On Friday morning, executives notified the organizers that Google CEO Sundar Pichai would be meeting with his leadership team on Monday to review a plan that would address the demands.
Google employees are demanding five real changes rooted in transparency, accountability and structural change:
- An end to Forced Arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.
- 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.
- 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.
Claire Stapleton, Tanuja Gupta, Meredith Whittaker, Celie O’Neil-Hart, Stephanie Parker, Erica Anderson, and Amr Gaber are among the organizers behind the walkout. They published an essay in The Cut elaborating on the demands and the impetus for the protest demonstration, emphasizing that they are a small part of a grassroots movement.
“We are building on the work of others at Google who have been advocating for structural change for years. It’s their legacy and leadership that made this moment possible. We are a small part of a massive movement that has been growing for a long time,” O’Neil-Hart said.
The walkout was organized in less than a week with a handful of core organizers working around the clock, and thousands of Google employees and contractors stepping up to lead and contribute across the globe. The walkout was a true example of grassroots solidarity in action.
Photos are available to use in this album along with original photos published from social media on Twitter (@googlewalkout) and Instagram (googlewalkout). Please attribute photos to “Google Walkout for Change” in broadcast and online use.
For safety and privacy reasons, organizers have limited availability for interviews. Thank you for your understanding and doing your part to help us get this important message out. Please direct any media inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
#GoogleWalkout is a grassroots worker demonstration at Google to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that does not work for everyone. The walkout occurred at 11:10am local time in Google offices spanning 50 cities worldwide on Nov 1, 2018 with at least 20,000 participants and counting.
Brazil: Belo Horizonte, São Paulo
Canada: Montreal, Toronto, Waterloo
United States: Alameda, CA, Ann Arbor, MI, Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, Boulder, CO, Cambridge, MA, Chandler, AZ, Chicago, IL, Council Bluffs, IA, The Dalles, OR, Irvine, CA, Kirkland, WA, Lenoir, NC, Lithia Springs, GA, Los Angeles, CA, Madison, WI, Miami, FL, Moncks Corner, SC, Mountain View, CA, New York, NY, Palo Alto, CA, Pittsburgh, PA, Playa Vista, CA, Portland, Oregon, Pryor, OK, Redwood City, CA, Reston, VA, San Bruno, CA, San Francisco, CA, San Jose, CA, Seattle, WA, South San Francisco, CA, Sunnyvale, CA, and Washington, D.C.
Germany: Berlin, Hamburg
United Kingdom: London
ABOUT THE DEMANDS
- An end to Forced Arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees, along with a right for every Google worker to bring a co-worker, representative, or supporter of their choosing when meeting with HR, especially when filing a harassment claim.
- A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity, for example making sure there are women of color at all levels of the organization, and accountability for not meeting this commitment. This must be accompanied by transparent data on the gender, race and ethnicity compensation gap, across both level and years of industry experience, accessible to all Google and Alphabet employees and contractors. Such data must include, but may not be limited to: information on relative promotion rates, under-leveling at hire, the handling of leaves, and inequity in project and job ladder change opportunities. The methods by which such data was collected and the techniques by which it was analyzed and aggregated must also be transparent.
- A publicly-disclosed sexual harassment transparency report, including: the number of harassment claims at Google over time and by product area, the types of claims submitted, how many victims and accused have left Google, and any exit packages and their worth.
- A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously. The process today is not working in no small part because HR performance is assessed by senior management and directors, forcing them to put management’s interests ahead of employees reporting harassment and discrimination. The improved process should also be accessible to all: full-time employees, temporary employees, vendors, and contractors alike. Accountability, safety and an ability to report unsafe working conditions should not be dictated by employment status.
- A commitment to elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors. In addition, appoint an Employee Representative to the Board. Both the CDO and the Employee Representative should help allocate permanent resources for demands 1–4 and other equity efforts, ensure accountability to these demands, and suggest propose changes when equity goals are not met.
ABOUT GOOGLE EMPLOYEE DIVERSITY
According to Google’s 2018 Diversity Report, representation for women, Black, and Latinx Googlers saw flat growth — increased by only 0.1 percentage point (ppt) year over year — despite repeated commitments for increased investment over the past decade. Women and people of color remain underrepresented in the company, and retention continues to be an issue with Black and Latinx employees having the highest attrition rates at Google.