On 1 November 2018 Google staff from offices around the world staged walkouts to protest the company’s alleged poor treatment of women.
Staff across all departments, in several cities globally, have left their office buildings to stand outside in protest, including the internet giant’s offices in Dublin, London and Zurich.
Alongside hashtags supporting women’s rights, such as #TimesUp and #MeToo, the walkout has been largely documented through a Twitter account called @GoogleWalkout which also has information about what staff hope the walkouts will achieve.
The account states it does not represent the views of Google, whilst posting a list of five “demands” employees would like to see the company address.
These demands are ending forced arbitration in harassment and discrimination cases, end pay and opportunity inequality, publically disclosing a sexual harassment transparency report, introducing a clear and transparent global process for reporting sexual misconduct and ensuring the firm’s chief diversity officer reports directly to the CEO.
To me, these seem like reasonable demands, and you may be wondering what has led Google employees to such a drastic display of dissatisfaction?
It has been reported, and suggested on the @GoogleWalkout Twitter account, that there have been several instances in which sexual harassers have been protected over victims in the firm, including the firm paying off an executive after he was accused of sexual misconduct by a female employee.
Last year a Google employee was dismissed after publishing a “manifesto” which suggested women were biologically incompatible for a career in technology, but as put by Computer Weekly’s Editor in Chief at the time: why do tech companies in the modern world continue to employ men who have a problem with women?
Why are technology companies letting men get away with sexual abuse and harassment at the cost of women’s safety in the industry and workplace?
And yes, I’m saying technology companies because Google is not the only example of behaviour that favours men and their out-dated “boys will be boys” attitude.
Many engineers working for Uber claim to have been harassed and discriminated against, and the CEO has openly made sexist comments.
A slew of women from Silicon Valley have also admitted to experiencing sexual harassment, discrimination and misconduct after one woman spoke out about her experiences.
Diversity has been proven to improve business outcomes, but the technology still remains a boy’s club.
The rest of 2018 is still the Year of the Woman and while those taking part in the Google walkout are doing an admirable thing to try and promote change, women shouldn’t have to go to this extent to be treated as equals.
The publicity the event has generated has shone a light on how much needs to change, both in Google and in the industry as a whole.
This takes a number of different initiatives including diverse hiring, mandating an inclusive culture, closing the gender pay gap, among a myriad of other things, and of course men in the industry need to be on board with these changes to push them forward.
As ridiculous as it sounds, thousands and thousands of people walking out of their jobs for a day is only the start.