On International Women’s Day, Wednesday March 8, Google’s Diane Greene, one of the most famous woman in tech, took the stage to lead an enormous conference of 10,000 people in tech.
In between talking up all the new products and customers for Google Cloud, Greene paused, and pointed out the red ribbon she was wearing.
Then she said something fairly amazing.
She basically promised to protect the women that work for her if they ever come forward with allegations of sexual harassment at work.
Wearing red on Wednesday is a symbol of support for women, some of whom have chosen to go on strike to show how valuable they are to the workplace.
“I want to pause. I’m wearing my red ribbon, I want to acknowledge that it’s International Women’s Day today,” Greene said and the crowd burst out into a minute of applause.
Greene has had a long and storied decades-long career in tech, as the founder CEO of major tech company VMware. She admitted that she didn’t always want to see what other women went through (emphasis ours):
“With this industry, I’ve been incredibly fortunate, but it was sort of an industry where I was lucky and I chose to be kind of oblivious to what was going on. And now we’re in an environment where women are having a huge impact and adding a lot of value to our industry. And women are celebrated. If they raise their hand and say, ‘Hey, you are missing my value. You’re not recognising what I’m doing.’ At Google, we strive at Google Cloud to have an environment where no one needs to raise their hand, but no matter what, it’s completely safe to do that.”
She added, that, “I really look forward to the day when this audience is 50% women. It’s more fun to have diversity.”
By the way, when Google CEO Sundar Pichai took the stage, he too, was wearing the red ribbon.
A time of allegations
This all comes in the wake of sexual harassment allegations that have hung over Google, as well as rival Uber, in recent weeks.
Silicon Valley is still reeling from the revelations of the “toxic culture” at Uber after a former engineer, Susan Fowler, published a blog post saying she was sexually harassed and that HR penalised her when she reported it.
Shortly after that, top Silicon Valley engineer Amit Singhal stepped down from his job at Uber after it was discovered there were sexual-harassment allegations made against him at his previous job at Google that he did not disclose when he was hired. Singhal oversaw Google’s search engine for years and was considered one of the company’s most powerful executives. He has vigorously denied the allegations.
Since then, more women at Uber have shared stories about their experiences. And women across the whole tech industry are speaking up. Even prior to the melt-down surrounding Uber, Google has shouldered its share of similar allegations in the past.
So Greene’s promise is a pretty powerful one, especially in light of the fact that fewer women have been pursuing engineering careers in tech over the past decade, and among those that do, a lot of them don’t stick around, a trend that’s been dubbed Wexit.
This kind of toxic culture has been blamed for “Wexit” and it will take people in positions of power to stand up and say: not on my watch.
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