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The #MeToo Movement is Gaining an Edge in Silicon Valley

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The #MeToo movement has brought a high level of attention to allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

The movement has important implications not only for alleged victims and perpetrators, but also for the companies they represent. It may seem like a daunting task for organizational leaders to stay on top of every incident of one-off bad acts of employees that would violate any reasonable company policy. However, many companies have found themselves criticized for how they have handled such allegations after the fact. This includes disciplinary action against the alleged perpetrator as well as reactive efforts to address potential institutional issues.

As we’ve often stressed, an appropriate focus on diversity and inclusion doesn’t end at the point of hire. It’s not about meeting hiring quotas or goals for traditionally underrepresented groups. What, arguably, matters more is ensuring that these groups—all groups—enjoy the safety and support of a positive workplace culture. In the context of the #MeToo movement, it means demonstrating a company has and enforces strong policies prohibiting sexual misconduct against any employees.

A prominent recent example of the type of backlash a company can face without such protections is the recent global walkout of Google employees. As Sherisse Pham reported for CNN on November 1, 2018, “Google employees around the world walked out of their offices…in a global protest over how the company deals with sexual harassment.” Pham explained that, “demonstrations, dubbed ‘Google Walkout,’ follow an outcry over a New York Times investigation that detailed years of sexual harassment allegations, multimillion-dollar severance packages for accused executives, and a lack of transparency over the cases.”

Related: Changing Demographics Require New Forms of Inclusion

The specifics of the New York Times report include claims that Google stayed silent about misconduct allegations against three executives over the past decade as well as new details on a $90 million exit package paid to Android creator Andy Rubin who left Google in 2014 following sexual misconduct allegations.

The Google walkouts are an example of how public opinion of a company can be impacted by failing to properly address specific or systematic issues around sexual misconduct. Not only do these protests damage Google’s reputation in the market, they also tarnish the company’s reputation with respect to support for diversity and inclusion, which could negatively impact recruitment efforts in the future.

Silicon Valley is a very competitive job market, particularly for top tech talent. These days not being Google, or not being like Google, could give other companies an edge.

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