Google employees walk out of Cambridge offices as part of company-wide protest
CAMBRIDGE — Hundreds of workers streamed out of Google’s Kendall Square office on Thursday morning, joining colleagues around the globe to protest what they described as the Internet giant’s lenient treatment of men accused of sexual misconduct.
In Cambridge, where Google employs about 1,400, the workers walked out from the company’s building along Main Street just after 11 a.m.
The backlash comes amid a cultural reckoning over misconduct by men in positions of power, and the technology business has been particularly visible because of a years-long trend of underrepresentation of women in important roles.
A New York Times story last week detailed a misconduct claim against Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile operating system. Rubin left Google in 2014 with a $90 million exit package despite a claim, which the story said was determined credible, that Rubin had coerced a woman he had been dating into a sex act.
Rubin derided the Times story article as inaccurate and denied the allegations in a tweet.
2/2 to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle. Also, I am deeply troubled that anonymous Google executives are commenting about my personnel file and misrepresenting the facts.— Andy Rubin (@Arubin) October 26, 2018
The story also detailed allegations against other executives, including Richard DeVaul, a director at the same Google-affiliated lab that created projects including self-driving cars. DeVaul had remained at the ‘‘X’’ lab after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced about him a few years ago, but he resigned Tuesday without severance, Google said Wednesday.
The Kendall Square protest followed others around the world — all around 11 a.m. local time on Thursday — in an effort called “Walkout For Real Change.” As the day began in Boston, employees had already left their offices in Singapore, Tokyo, London, Berlin, and Zurich.
Cambridge is a key location for Google’s sales and engineering efforts, with employees working on projects including the company’s eponymous search engine, YouTube, Android, Chrome.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologized for the company’s ‘‘past actions’’ in an e-mail sent to employees Tuesday. ‘‘I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,’’ Pichai wrote. ‘‘I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society. and, yes, here at Google, too.’’
The e-mail didn’t mention the reported incidents involving Rubin, DeVaul or anyone else, but Pichai didn’t dispute anything in the Times story.
In an email last week, Pichai and Eileen Naughton, Google’s executive in charge of personnel issues, sought to reassure workers that the company had cracked down on sexual misconduct since Rubin’s departure four years ago.
Among other things, Pichai and Naughton disclosed that Google had fired 48 employees , including 13 senior managers, for ‘‘sexual harassment’’ in recent years without giving any of them severance packages.
But Thursday’s walkout could signal that a significant number of the 94,000 employees working for Google and its corporate parent Alphabet Inc. remained unconvinced the company is doing enough to adhere to Alphabet’s own edict urging all employees to ‘‘do the right thing .’’
A Silicon Valley congresswoman tweeted her support of the Google walkout using the ‘‘metoo’’ hashtag that has become a battle cry for women fighting sexual misconduct. ‘‘Why do they think it’s OK to reward perpetrators & further violate victims?’’ asked Representative Jackie Speier, who represents an affluent district where many of Google’s employees live.