Google staffers deserve round of applause

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

Google staffers showed amazing international support for women all over the world Thursday as they participated in a walkout to voice their anger about the company’s arbitration policy.

The company’s policy demands that any harassment disputes are dealt with internally rather than through other methods, such as the courts.

Critics of forced arbitration say it is used to not only protect the reputations of both the company and the accused, but to also silence sexual harassment victims who are unable to appeal against decisions or take further action. The arbitration policy actively silences women by not giving them a chance to fight back against whatever internal decision might be made.

Anger has boiled over in the past week since the New York Times alleged that one high-profile executive received a $90 million payout after he left the firm, despite what Google considered a “credible” allegation of sexual misconduct.

The arbitration policy is a slap in the face to any woman who has been harmed in the workplace. The policy quite literally pays the accused thousands to millions of dollars, even if the allegation is found credible. This does not create a safe and trusting workplace environment for women, and it’s a huge deal that employees all over the world banded together to stand up for women’s rights. It’s an excellent example of women — and men — supporting women across borders. This goes to show that the #MeToo movement isn’t just rocking America, but it is making a difference internationally. Google staff in Singapore, Zurich, London, Tokyo, Berlin and New York were among those to take part.

Staff involved in Thursday’s walkout left notes on their desks telling colleagues: “I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone.”

The fact that people across borders were able to come together and agree on the exact same message they wanted to get across shows the impact women are making on society by speaking out. The walkout is a great use of activism, and people everywhere took notice.

Formal demands staffers have made to Google’s management include:

  1. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality
  2. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report
  3. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously
  4. The elevation of the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the board of directors
  5. The appointment of an employee representative to the board
  6. An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees

With the current push for more women in the STEM field, companies need to be welcoming them in to a safe and trusting work environment with consideration for their needs. Google is such a huge company that this is an opportunity for them to set the stage and lead the way to a future with a safer work environment for all.

Google needs to commit to making these changes in order to ensure women feel safe in the workplace and every staffer is held accountable for their actions. Employees took a huge step for their voices to be heard, and management needs to listen.