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It's not just sexism - there's a whole lot more behind the Google walkout

When was the last time you saw a big group of bankers joining together in solidarity on a rainy lunchtime, waving placards, hugging each other and generally bonding over disgruntlement with their employer? The answer is precisely never. The closest a group of bankers has come to today's Google walkout ( ) was probably a team move to a rival firm offering them a guaranteed bonus. Bankers don't do organized rebellion.

Googlers, however, do. And today they've been downing tools in support of female colleagues following the Google sex scandal, which has seen 48 people terminated for sexual harassment in two years, and - most controversially - Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile software, given a $90m severance payment despite harassment allegations against him.

Google's male and female employees alike are on temporary strike, many of them senior. "Walking out of work in solidarity with other Xers and Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone," tweeted Obi Felton, Google's San Francisco-based head of moonshots. "I cancelled my meeting, which was for an OSS project. The work will wait until next week," tweeted Evan Anderson, a staff software engineer at Google in Seattle. "- Hard to balance consideration and taking a stand." The contrast with finance couldn't be more stark: even after UBS's alleged rape claim and alleged cover-up and despite unsubstantiated allegations of wider disaffection there hasn't been a peep from its employees.

It's partly a question of expectations: no one really goes into banking expecting to build a better world, whereas the likes of Anderson and Felton joined Google in 2004 and 2012 respectively, back when the company seemed something special. Instead, Google is increasingly ordinary, with its own issues of internal politics and biases, and senior male executives who allegedly proposition younger female colleagues in an abuse of their power.

Anyone who thinks that Google is a happy place need only look at Glassdoor for the full retinue of employees' dissatisfaction. Behind the free food and the free buses and the office slide are multiple complaints about long hours, poor pay, high pressure and a Googley culture (particularly in the growing cloud computing unit) that's being eroded by incomers from the likes of Microsoft and IBM. The negative reviews follow an article in the London Times in February, which accused Google of Amazon-like compensation Dublin, where it was allegedly paying staff as little as €11.06 an hour - less than the €11.70 allegedly on offer at local discount supermarkets. Contractors in particular are allegedly treated like second class citizens by Google's legions of Ivy League MBAs and top PhDs.

Organized rebellion feels good. The more that Google appears to eschew its principles and the more that Google employees who thought they'd signed up to save the world realize that they're mostly running a bureaucratic ad optimization platform, the more that rebellions are likely to happen. Management might even want to encourage them - they're good for morale. Banks, however, don't have the same problem: rightly or wrongly, people usually go into finance with lower cultural expectations.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • An
    4 November 2018

    Don't think this has much to do with sexism at all really, much more to do with office politics. As the first comment indicates, its more a culture thing and an internal power struggle.

  • Ak
    Akhil Sharma
    3 November 2018

    Totally agree with the last para. More details about my Google experiences and POV here:

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