[WSMDiscuss] #Googlewalkout

Örsan Şenalp orsan1234 at gmail.com
Sat Nov 3 00:12:03 CET 2018

#Googlewalkout employee interviews | Vox


Nearly 17,000 Google employees walked off the job yesterday.

The Google walkout was about sexual harassment as well as a lack of
transparency and accountability at the company, employees said.

Google employees in Cambridge, Massachusetts, join a worldwide walkout
in protest of company policies on sexual harassment.
Nearly 17,000 Google employees walked off the job yesterday as part of
a massive, worldwide protest against the company’s mishandling of
sexual harassment cases.

The walkout, which was organized by seven Google employees, was a
response to a New York Times report on the multimillion-dollar payouts
offered to high-level employees who had been accused of sexual
misconduct. Some protesters carried signs that read, “Happy to quit
for $90m,” a reference to the exit package Google gave Andy Rubin, the
creator of Android, who was forced to leave the company in 2014 after
an employee accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex on him.
“What do I do at Google? I work hard every day so the company can
afford $90,000,000 payouts to execs who sexually harass my coworkers,”
read another.

It was also an opportunity for Google employees — who have repeatedly
clashed with senior management on a number of topics, from censorship
in China to the company’s role in government projects — to put forth a
vision for a better, more equitable company.

“A company is nothing without its workers,” the organizers wrote in a
piece for the Cut. “From the moment we start at Google, we’re told
that we aren’t just employees; we’re owners. Every person who walked
out today is an owner, and the owners say: Time’s up.”

Some of the employees who chose to speak with me about why they
protested asked to be referred to by a pseudonym and to not specify
which campus they work at, but felt that it was important to come
forward. Two of the three people who agreed to speak with me are men,
as are nearly 70 percent of all Google employees, according to the
company’s annual diversity report.

All of them emphasized that despite enjoying their jobs, they felt
responsible for creating an environment where anyone could thrive,
regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity, and where no one was afraid
to report harassment or assault. They also referred to past Google
controversies, like the sexual harassment reported by former Google
software engineer Kelly Ellis, who quit the company in 2014 because of
its “sexist culture”; and the fact that internal company
communications, including a video from an all-hands meeting, were
leaked to the right-wing website Breitbart.

Despite the massive size of the protests and the fact that Google
sanctioned the walkout, support for it wasn’t universal. One employee
told me that there were “people in the company who are against the
walkout” and disagree with the organizers’ demands. (It’s worth noting
that James Damore, the author of an “anti-diversity” manifesto who was
fired in 2017, had plenty of ideological allies at the company.) Those
who did participate in the walkout, though, view it as a necessary
step in the ongoing fight toward equity and transparency at one of the
world’s biggest companies.

Their responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Ashley*, a major US campus that isn’t Mountain View

I’ve worked here for 11 years. I’m now a manager with around two
people in my group. I have never experienced direct gender-based
discrimination at Google, which I count myself lucky for. I have heard
many other people’s stories, however — enough to make me sure that
there’s an overall problem.

I decided to participate because I wanted the execs to get the message
that this is something a lot of people care about. Whether I
participated was going to be visible to the people in my office,
because there are literally five women at my site at this level.

“I’ve been seeing more and more of a rift between the top-level execs
and the rest of the company”

We need to end forced arbitration in case of harassment and
discrimination. I would also like a real commitment to end pay and
opportunity inequity. I would be okay with starting with pay, which is
easier. Transparent data on gender, race, and ethnicity compensation
across all levels — accessible to all Google employees — would be
really nice. This is something the US Department of Labor asked Google
for, and [Google claims] it’s too expensive to provide while also
claiming there is no gap. That doesn’t make sense to me or a lot of
other people.

I’ve been seeing more and more of a rift between the top-level execs
and the rest of the company, and I’ve seen it growing slowly over
time. It seems like some people are actively trying to make it worse.
We have a real problem with [people] leaking internal communications,
especially to right-wing sites, in a way that’s extremely divisive
[and] corrosive to the idea of trust and open communication within the
company, which is something that we really used to rely on. Google
used to have this weekly meeting where the execs would take all kinds
of hard questions from the employees, and they would field them pretty
honestly and transparently. That was great. Without that kind of
channel, it’s been pretty tough.

I’ve been working in the tech industry for about 20 years, and this is
the most concerted effort I’ve seen by engineers in the tech sector
[to address these issues]. Today was really astonishing. Frankly,
there were more men than women walking out — that’s the demographics
[at Google]. But it’s great to have allies.

I didn’t say anything either way to my team, because I didn’t want
there to be social pressure to do it or not do it. But at 11:08, my
entire team stood up simultaneously around me and I got shivers. I got
up too, and we all walked out together.

Jacob*, a West Coast campus

I participated to show solidarity and support for my co-workers.

I’m a guy; it’s so much easier to shoot the shit with other guys, and
stuff like that helps [professionally]. But I don’t think that’s what
this walkout is about. This walkout dealt with things that are a lot
more severe. I had heard stories regarding Kelly Ellis. That was the
first Google [sexual harassment] story that broke out a few years ago.

What’s most important is getting rid of [forced] arbitration. Uber got
rid of it after their big scandal, and I think Google needs to follow

We need accountability, transparency, and making sure it’s easier for
people to report harassment. I’ve never reported harassment, but from
what I’ve heard from my friends, it is not fun. It’s scary as hell.
[The person you’re reporting] might not be your boss but your boss’s
boss. They have all the power over your career. If they do a shitty
thing, we should be empowering employees to say, “Hey, stop that.”
That’s what I think the demands are trying to cover.

Alex, Mountain View campus

I’ve heard too many stories from friends, some co-workers, about being
sexually harassed or assaulted at Google, but also in other parts of
the tech industry or more generally. I work with several women
engineers, and I really think it’s important for them to feel safe and
to actually be safe at work and in general. I don’t want these people
to be in a position where they have to be constantly worrying about
that sort of thing.

“I have worked with an overwhelming majority of men. That, in and of
itself, leads me to think that the fact that I am male-identified and
male-presenting makes things easier for me.”

I have worked with an overwhelming majority of men. That, in and of
itself, leads me to think that the fact that I am male-identified and
male-presenting makes things easier for me. It’s been mostly subtle
things, like [women] being interrupted more often [or] ending up in
all note-taking responsibilities for meetings. Sometimes managers and
team members are good at trying to fix [that], but those more subtle
things are not always very obvious. It’s the nature of privilege that
as a man, some of these things I just don’t see and I’m just used to,

We need more employee representation and more ability for employees to
[raise concerns with] people who are actually on their side. I think
there’s not much trust in human resources to do the right thing for
employees. There’s a lot of trust that they’re going to do the right
thing for the company, which is sometimes the same thing, but
sometimes it’s not.

I also think there’s a dearth of transparency about compensation.
Several of us have asked, in the past, for the company to release
salary data, so we could look at it ourselves and say, “Well, it looks
like this is biased toward a particular demographic.” Management has
been reluctant to do that, claiming it would put them at a competitive
disadvantage, which I frankly don’t buy.

Transparency and letting employees have a seat at the table are two
things that would be most impactful in letting us address these
issues, not just in terms of gender but also race. I like my job, but
everybody has concerns.

If you participated in the Google walkout and want to talk about your
experience at the company, you can contact me by email here.

*Names have been changed.

original post: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/11/2/18056390/google-walkout-employee-interviews

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