A week after 20,000 employees protested about accusations of sexual misconduct and inequality on Google, the company said on Thursday it will pledge to build a safer workplace, which includes the end of forced arbitration and its transparency on episodes of sexual misconduct.
In an email to employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said it was clear that the company had to make changes to protect its employees. The email outlines a series of changes, many of which meet the demands of last week's strike organizers.
"In the future, we will provide more transparency on how to raise doubts and how we handle them," Pichai wrote in the e-mail. "We will provide better assistance and support to those who raise doubts, and we will redouble our commitment to be a representative, fair and respectful workplace."
The rendition of the facts of #MeToo has left the Silicon Valley exposed, revealing patterns of abuse and inequality under a patina of progress. Now Google, one of the most powerful and visible companies in the world, could become a model for how to solve what is broken in technological culture, if it keeps its promises.
"We have the eyes of many companies looking at us," said Tanuja Gupta, one of the organizers of the strike in New York last week. "We have always been an avant-garde company, so if we do not drive, nobody else will."
When workers in 50 Google offices around the world dropped out of work last Thursday, they said they were protesting a "culture of complicity, contempt and support for perpetrators." The New York Times reported last month that Google had suppressed sexual misconduct charges against several of its executives, and reported having paid a $ 90 million executive when he left the company after an investigation conducted as a result of an accusation of sexual conduct deemed credible.
"All employees and contract employees throughout the company deserve to be safe," they wrote in an essay published in Cut last week. "Unfortunately, the executive team has demonstrated through the lack of significant actions that our safety is not a priority".
The strikes have had five declared objectives, including the arrest of forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination, fairness in pay and opportunities, a "report of transparency of sexual harassment disclosed publicly" and improved processes to denounce sexual misconduct.
In general, new policies are a direct response to these requests. According to e-mail, the arbitration in harassment or assault claims will now be optional and the company will track and make public information on reported incidents of misconduct and how they are dealt with. The company also promises to renew the reporting process "to ensure that requests are treated with empathy and attention and that concerns are heard".
The e-mail also outlines other changes to improve corporate culture, such as compulsory annual training on sexual harassment (previous such training was once every two years) and the creation of a "special group of consultants" to examine the issues of harassment or discrimination. He also says that Google's leaders will take steps to discourage the excessive use of alcohol in corporate events due to the prevalence of alcohol in the event of sexual misconduct.
"We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for this," wrote Pichai in the e-mail. "This is an area in which we must continually progress and we are committed to doing so".
Pichai met with other company leaders to respond to Monday's requests, according to a version on Medium, and employees were informed about the changes on Thursday afternoon.
Meredith Whittaker, another strike organizer and co-director of the AI Now Institute, applauded her colleagues with a tweet.
"Collective action works", Whittaker tweeted. "It will continue to work."