Last week, almost lost in the now-normal insanity of the news cycle, the New York Times ran a damning story about sexual misconduct by senior executives at Google. While the headline focused on Andy Rubin, father of Android, the rest of the story lays out a pattern of high-ranking male executives having ‘consensual’ relationships with subordinates, often as extramarital affairs.
Along with Andy Rubin, the NYT story names Sergey Brin (Google’s co-founder), Eric Schmidt (former CEO and later Chairman of Google), David Drummond (now Chief Legal Officer at Alphabet, Google’s parent company), Richard DeVaul (director at Google X), and Amit Singhal (former SVP of search at Google). Their misdemeanours are varied and extensive, and you should read the detailed and well-reported article for the full, depressing stories.
The theme that comes out of all of the stories in the article is the minimal negative consequences for the men involved.
Andy Rubin received a huge payoff and a glowing reference from Larry Page (who is also named in the story as having had a ‘consensual’ relationship with Marissa Meyer, one of Google’s early employees). According to the New York Times, Rubin was asked to resign due to his sexual misconduct, as was Amit Singhal (who received a generous payoff too). David Drummond remains at Alphabet, while his former lover and mother of his child Jennifer Blakely was moved out of the legal department and left Google altogether a year after their relationship came to light. Richard DeVaul remains at Google X despite inviting a job candidate - not even a Google employee! - to Burning Man in 2013 and pressuring her into inappropriate physical contact.
All this is pretty shocking, especially given Google’s outward appearance of being a ‘great place to work’. The company regularly tops polls as such. If this kind of activity is part of normal operations at a company that is so well regarded, we can only imagine how bad things are at other employers.
This is why Google (and the world) needs Workio.
Hearing the voices of employees is difficult at the best of times. In scenarios such as those described above, where junior employees are routinely targeted for inappropriate sexual relationships by senior executives, we cannot expect those junior employees to raise issues within the corporate confines of a people operations team that is clearly unwilling or incapable of protecting them from abuses of power within their company.
Workio’s model anonymously gathers data about the experience of workers compared to their preferences, and factors in relative importance of different factors for employees. We provide breakdowns of our company culture data by gender, age, ethnic background, seniority, tenure, team or department, and physical location while always maintaining the anonymity of individual employees.
For example, our data would uncover areas of a company where women in junior positions feel that relationships with the people they work with are overly friendly, or not as formal as they would prefer, which could be warning signs of inappropriate behaviour to be addressed.
Our approach also provides insight into general culture experience of these different groups, which can be used as a diagnostic to understand why women might be self-selecting out of a company culture, which appears to be a significant driver of the gender pay gap in the UK and the US.
If a culture is antagonistic to particular groups then it is bound to push them out, which means those groups will be less well represented in more senior ranks as they do not stick around to gain promotions into senior positions over time.
Google need better information about what is happening in their own company, although the tenor of the approach at the top of the company regarding senior-junior workplace relationships means it is tough to believe they are willing to take a clear view of their culture and to make a fundamental change.
However, if they really do want to change, Workio could help. We hope they’ll give us a call.