Google Australia workers join global walkout

“Not OK Google” say staff to company’s alleged sexism, racism and executive protection

Credit: Dreamstime

Staff at Google Australia’s headquarters in Pyrmont, Sydney staged a walkout on Friday in protest of the company’s “workplace that doesn’t work for everyone,” in particular women and minority groups.

Around 200 Sydney workers gathered at Metcalfe Park carrying signs reading “Ignorance is not an excuse” and “Not OK Google”.

The action came as part of a global ‘Walkout For Real Change’, with similar walkouts at offices across Asia, Europe and North America.

The walkout comes in the wake of revelations in the New York Times last week that alleges a number of Google’s high-profile executives were protected and awarded huge payouts after they were accused of sexual misconduct.

The company has also struggled to improve the diversity of its workforce: at last count only 30 per cent of staff are female, and (in the US) only 3 per cent identify as black.

Its efforts have also met resistance internally. Last year, Google software engineer James Damore wrote a 10-page memo to colleagues saying the company’s initiatives to improve female representation were “unfair, divisive, and bad for business”.

The walkout’s organisers say while Google has championed diversity publicly, it has not taken enough action within its walls.

The employees participating in the protests are making five demands of the company.

The demands are: an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees; a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity; a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report; a clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously; and the elevation of the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the board of directors with the addition of an employee representative to the board.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said in a statement to Reuters that "employees have raised constructive ideas" and that the company was "taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action".

Paul Cowan, a site reliability manager at Google Australia, tweeted that he and his colleagues were protesting the way Google “have (and continue to) condoned and allowed harrassment and maltreatment of women and other groups”, adding that he was “proud” of the employee action.

Twitter user _nolang, whose biography on the site says they are a security engineer at the firm said she had a “huge amount of appreciation for people who are sharing their experiences and criticisms” of Google, adding that “I want a better path forward for myself and for women who join after me”.

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