Google employees are demanding top-down reform at the company, again

A proposal delivered by Google shareholders and backed by Google employees calls for the board of its parent company, Alphabet, to address issues related to gender and racial diversity, and tying these metrics to executive compensation, Bloomberg reports. The shareholder resolution states the lack of diversity in tech is a "crisis" that "threatens worker safety, talent retention, product development, and customer service." The resolution also notes that Google employees are not satisfied with the company's response to a series of concerns raised in the past year, including ending forced arbitration and adding a worker representative to its board. 

"We believe executives are out to lunch on several key social risks facing the company," Pat Tomaino, director of socially responsible investing for Zevin Asset Management LLC, a Google shareholder, told Bloomberg. Last year, Zevin and others introduced a similar shareholder proposal backed by Google employees that would tie diversity metrics to performance. Alphabet rejected the proposal.

In November, more than 20,000 Google employees staged a global walkout to protest the company's handling of sexual misconduct allegations, including its use of forced arbitration. Google agreed to get rid of forced arbitration for sexual misconduct or harassment cases for full-time workers, but employees want the company to end the use of forced arbitration in its entirety and extend that to temps, contractors, and vendors.  

Responding to the shareholder resolution, a Google spokeswoman says the company is working on improving its diversity metrics. "We're working hard to make Google more representative and build an inclusive workplace where employees feels respected, supported, and valued," she wrote in an email to Inc. "We report our progress extensively every year, including hiring and attrition rates across lines of race and gender." 

According to Google's own metrics, its workplace diversity has improved slightly since 2014. Women represented 30.9 percent of Google's total workforce in 2018, up 0.3 percent from four years earlier, when they made up 30.6 percent. Black employees accounted for 2.5 percent of its total headcount in 2018, up from 1.9 percent in 2014, and last year, Latinx workers made up 3.6 percent of Google's workforce, up from 2.9 percent.