This Week’s Google Walkout Holds Expensive Lessons About Brands Taking Stands
Parallel tracking hits today and a Google walkout of at least 200 employees hits the streets this week. The former will immediately affect site load times for marketers and the latter, engineers protesting the tech giant’s alleged mishandling of sexual misconduct among Alphabet leadership, provides a lesson in how brands taking stands publicly need to uphold those principles privately.
As often as many marketers say brands don’t need to take stands, they just need to provide products and services, many others — like P&G discussing brand stands on societal issues — are saying marketers need to do both well in order to meet current consumer demands.
So marketers and consumers probably won’t notice a service change in the top search engine, if they didn’t back in January 2017 — when thousands of Googlers walked out in protest of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. That protest, however, had the support of senior leadership and even included speeches from Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Google cofounder Sergey Brin, Forbes reported.
The protest slated for this week, though, is a companywide “women’s walk” that is protesting what Google leaders did about sexual misconduct claims — especially that of the “Father of Android,” who received $90 million and praise when he left the company, reports The New York Times.
And it’s a public blow for Google, a company with an outward face of a commitment to diversity that, as its page on the subject shows, includes more than 2,000 Googlers actively working on more than 220 projects as part of Diversity Core.
This is the same company that fired an employee for circulating a “sexist memo” last year. That ex-Googler then sued, saying the company discriminated against conservatives.
While the Washington Post reports on Oct. 26 that internal change takes at least two years — according to Justin Wasserman, a managing director with Kotter International, a consultancy that focuses on change management — it’s doubtful that this week’s protesters will want to hear that in light of the Times article.
The Times reported on Oct. 25 that Google gave Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software, $90 million and a thank you when he left the company in 2014 following an investigation into his alleged coercion of an employee into performing oral sex on him in 2013. The article continues:
“Mr. Rubin was one of three executives that Google protected over the past decade after they were accused of sexual misconduct. In two instances, it ousted senior executives, but softened the blow by paying them millions of dollars as they departed, even though it had no legal obligation to do so. In a third, the executive remained in a highly compensated post at the company. Each time Google stayed silent about the accusations against the men.”
On Monday, BuzzFeed reports:
“Personally, I’m furious,” said one Google employee who requested anonymity. “I feel like there’s a pattern of powerful men getting away with awful behavior towards women at Google‚ or if they don’t get away with it, they get a slap on the wrist, or they get sent away with a golden parachute, like Andy Rubin. And it’s a leadership of mostly men making the decisions about what kind of consequences to give, or not give.”
On Thursday, Google executives hosted an all-hands meeting, during which they attempted to explain their treatment of Rubin and apologize to employees. But over the weekend, frustrated employees in a group for women engineers began upvoting a post on an internal forum that suggested employees organize a walkout. By Monday morning, that post had hundreds of upvotes, according to a current employee, and the Google group of employees who planned to participate numbered more than 200.
The walkout is the latest in a series of employee-led actions at Google, where frustration with management has been mounting in recent months.
What do you think, marketers?
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Related story: Ex-Google ‘Sexist Memo’ Writer Sues, Claiming Discrimination