So it turns out that Google is no different to other large companies where mainly privileged men hold the majority of senior posts – and look out and look after each other.
The revelations seeping out of Google are a major embarrassment for the tech giant – all the corporate fluffiness can’t rid Google of this problem. This is more than an image problem – when your own employees walk-out in collective mass protest – you have a problem. The desks and conferences rooms are empty, but the streets outside are full.
The New York Times broke the story, which centred around Andy Rubin who was effectively rewarded for sexual abuse with $90m in a payoff on top of the millions already earned and granted. Google also went on to invest in his next commercial venture.
The New York Times also highlighted other cases of senior male employees abusing their positions of power. In all of these cases, the women were believed, but they were also prevented from going public, were sidelined and in some cases left Google.
Google used “arbitration” clauses in employment contracts to prevent employees from suing or going public. These were in effect legal gagging orders that served to protect the abuser and Google.
The mass-protest – Walk Out For Real Change lists five key goals:
1. 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. Elevate the Cheif 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.
None of these five points is difficult to achieve and are certainly not doing anything more than following EU employment law and best-practice in the workplace.
So, we would like to add our own little list:
1. Revised and simplified pay, bonus and stock structure with employees paid on the basis of their seniority of role. So, a senior manager in engineering will be paid the same as a senior manager in the accounts department – including bonuses and stock – this is important. This should apply right the way down the flattened structure, so newcomers get paid the same, and this remains so through their Google careers.
2. A more open, inclusive and diverse recruitment process, and internally the same for promotion, training and other opportunities.
3. A man and a woman doing broadly the same job or at broadly the same level within the company should be paid the same and have the same conditions of work. The women should be brought up to that level, not the men levelled-down – as happened at the BBC.
4. Equal pay, bonuses and stock back-dated for a minimum of five years. Any inequality in bonuses and stock magnifies and entrenches the overall pay differential – all the way through to possible severance pay and pensions. This means a Google woman could work in the same role as a Google man for the same number of years and still leave substantially poorer than the man.
Google simply cannot fudge this – it is the perfect opportunity to show leadership. It also sends a powerful message to current and future employees that Google can be a positive force for change. It also helps in recruitment and retention, which in turn gives Google a powerful and persistent commercial advantage over rivals.
If Google does not change it consigns itself to being just another tarnished tech company. After all do the founders want to wake up one day and find they have become just like Facebook?