On an unusually warm Nov. 1 morning in San Francisco, scores of Google employees walked out of their downtown office in protest.
The staged walkout had come together quickly, and followed the Oct. 25 news that Google execs paid Android creator Andy Rubin $90 million after determining that allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against him by an employee were likely credible.
Those leaving their desks on Thursday in SF were but one part of a global effort by Google employees, all walking out at 11:10 a.m. local time, to demand accountability at the tech giant. According to organizers, who explained their thoughts in The Cut, they seek an “end to the sexual harassment, discrimination, and the systemic racism that fuel this destructive culture.”
Employees carried signs reading “don’t be evil,” and “workers’ rights are women’s rights” as what looked like thousands marched down the San Francisco waterfront to a meeting place across from the Ferry Building.
Once gathered, Google employee Cathay Bi spoke to the crowd through a bullhorn.
“People don’t change because of laws and policy,” she told the cheering crowd. “Laws and policy change because of people.”
Chants of “Not OK, Google” — in a play on the Google Assistant wake phrase — spread through the crowd.
Bi read aloud stories provided by Google employees, shared anonymously, detailing personal experiences of harassment at the company. She said that she, too, had experienced sexual harassment while at Google, but that she did “not feel safe talking about [it].”
Bi asked the crowd how many of them also had a story that hadn’t been told. Many raised their hands.
When asked about her response to the New York Times report that broke the news of Rubin’s compensation and alleged misconduct, Bi didn’t mince words.
“Personally, I was not surprised.”
That doesn’t mean that she, and all the other Google employees who walked out today in San Francisco and around the globe, have resigned themselves to the way things are. On the contrary, they’re in it for the long haul.
“These types of changes,” explained Bi to a group of reporters as the event calmed down, “they don’t happen overnight.”