As employees walked out, Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologised again for how it handled sexual misconduct allegations: 'We didn't always get it right'

Getty/Justin Sullivan
  • Thousands of employees walked out of Google headquarters worldwide on Thursday.
  • At roughly the same time that the walkouts were finishing up at Google’s Silicon Valley HQ, Google CEO Sundar Pichai gave an expansive interview at New York Times DealBook conference in Manhattan.
  • Pichai said that Google “didn’t always get it right” and that the company hopes to do better when it comes to dealing with issues of sexual misconduct.

The same day that thousands of employees walked out of Google headquarters in protest of sexual misconduct allegations against company executives, Google CEO Sundar Pichai gave an expansive interview at New York Times Dealbook conference in New York.

“How do you feel…right this second, when you see these headlines, what are you thinking?” asked New York Times editor at large Andrew Ross Sorkin on stage at the conference.

“This anger and frustration within the company – we all feel it,” said Pichai. “I feel it too. At Google we set a high bar and we clearly didn’t live up to our expectations. The first thing is to acknowledge and apologise for past actions. Words alone aren’t enough, you have to follow up with actions.”

Read more: PHOTOS: Google employees all over the world left their desk and walked out in protest over sexual misconduct

“We didn’t always get it right,” Pichai continued. Previously, he apologized to employees in a company-wide email.

Thursday’s walkouts were the result of a New York Times report published last week that revealed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against former Google executive Andy Rubin, known as the “father of Android.” The Times report also said that Rubin was given a $US90 million severance package when he left Google, following an internal investigation into his behaviour.

While Pichai admitted that the company is still grappling with questions raised by the report including whether or not employees should be expected to sign confidentiality agreements in cases of sexual harassment, he said that Google hopes to evolve as a company.

“Moments like this show that we didn’t always get it right,” Pichai said, referring to the New York Times report.

Pichai emphasised that Google still hopes to champion one of the company’s cardinal tenets: a culture of openness and transparency. Pichai also said that he applauded the women who had come forward with allegations of sexual harassment.

“I want to acknowledge the women who step up to do this,” he said. “It takes extraordinary courage and we want to support them better.”

Beyond discussing Google’s culture, Pichai’s remarks touched on China, matters of regulation, and the continuing importance of artificial intelligence.

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