It does not do much to jostle the Google giant on issues of sexism and sexual harassment. Following the demonstrations of November 2018 against the practices of the group in the matter, and in particular the way of covering the stalkers, two employees saw their projects and advancements strangely stopped by Google.
It points to the dubious way Google treats the problems of sexual harassment, and the macho culture that dominates the net giant.
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Google covers executives accused of harassment
A New York Times investigation had revealed that top employees of Google had been covered by the firm following charges of sexual harassment. Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, had left Google with a comfortable bonus, while a colleague had accused him of sexual abuse. Named by the investigation, senior executive Rich DeVaul had also resigned following these revelations.
Sundar Pichai, the Google CEO, then went on the run to try to extinguish the fire. He argued that a program against sexual harassment had been put in place by the company in 2015, and that 48 employees had been dismissed for this reason. These justifications did not really convince the employees of the net giant.
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#GoogleWalkout: employees demonstrate to break the law of silence
Determined to stand up, more than 20,000 Google employees were in front of their offices. A particularly popular sign during these demonstrations indicated anger: “I pointed it out, it was promoted”.
But it seems that Google’s practices in this area are even more retrograde and revolting than the New York Times survey might suggest. Because two of the organizers of these #GoogleWalkout have, it seems, paid enough their militancy. They testified in an internal letter, of which Wired published excerpts on April 23, 2019.
AI researcher demoted after role in #GoogleWalkout
The first, Meredith Wittaker, works in artificial intelligence research at Google. Shortly after the demonstrations, she is informed that her prerogatives will be reduced within her team.
Worse: she is summoned to stop her parallel activity in a research center on ethics of AI – a center she founded and whose research nourished his work within Google! Work that, until now, had welcomed by the management.
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A lawyer forces Google to return his original position to the protester
The second, Claire Stapleton, put her finger in a terrible gear. Used to the marketing department of YouTube, she learns, two months after the demonstrations, that she will be demoted. A project that she conducts, validated internally for months, is canceled without reason. She then consults the HR department and her supervisor for clarification. While she has an iron health, she is advised to take a sick leave.
She brought in a lawyer, who forced Google to give her the job she had, and lost for no good reason. But after 12 years working in the GAFA, she now operates in an environment that she considers so toxic that she plans to resign.
The giants of the net stuck in a past patriarchy
Both employees received a lot of support internally. Amr Gaber, a company engineer, points out that Google has never criticized the capabilities and results of Meredith Wittaker and Claire Stapleton. But that was before: “And then there was the Google Walkouts. Now they are told that their work is not as appreciated as before“.
This case confirms that Google is still practicing a fundamentally patriarchal policy, and more strongly sanctions employees who denounce harassment than those who practice it. This is further proof of the need to change the policies of a majority of companies. And that in this matter, the giants of the net are far, very far, to be the most virtuous.
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