Google's famous Googleplex headquarters was the epicentre for its worldwide walkout over gender discrimination — here's what it was like on the scene

Troy Wolverton/Business InsiderGoogle employees led by Kiwobe Allaire, left, and Tory Voight protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations following a walkout at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View on Thursday.
  • Hundreds of Google employees took part in a walkout at the company’s Mountain View, California headquarters Thursday to protest sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
  • Protestors shouted things such as, “time’s up!” and “enough is enough.”
  • Organisers have issued a list of demands, including that the company put together and share with the public a report about sexual harassment inside its offices.
  • Organisers said they felt company management heard their complaints, but urged Google brass to address their demands with “urgency.”

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA – For years, Google employees felt the company’s executives weren’t listening to their complaints about sexual misconduct and gender discrimination at the tech giant.

They have got senior management’s attention now.

Google employee Celie O'Neil-Heart, as seen in Mountain View, California on Thursday November 1, 2018 at the company's headquarters. O'Neil-Heart helped organise the global walkout by Googlers in protest of the company's handling of sexual misconduct allegations.Troy Wolverton/Business InsiderGoogle employee Celie O’Neil-Heart helped organise Thursday’s walkout.

Thousands of Google employees at offices around the globe walked out of their offices on Thursday morning to protest the company’s treatment of women and its handling of sexual harassment allegations. Among those who joined in the protest were hundreds of employees at the company’s headquarters here.

On a bright and sunny day here, Googlers crowded a main plaza on campus and heard from numerous colleagues who talked about their experiences with sexual harassment and called for change. Many of those present wore teal ribbons in solidarity with those who had experienced sexual harassment. “Time’s up,” some shouted. “Enough is enough!”

“There are so many of these stories we’ve heard for so long,” said Celie O’Neil-Heart, who helped organise the walkout. “It’s time for action and change – real change.”

In an appearance at a conference in New York, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he shared protesters anger and frustration and echoed their call for change.

“Words alone aren’t enough, you have to follow up with actions,” he said.

Revelations about Andy Rubin’s severance sparked the protest

One of the protesters who took part in the walkout at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California on Thursday, November 1, 2018. Employees were protesting the company's handling of sexual harassment allegations.Troy Wolverton/Business InsiderMany Googlers brought signs to the Mountain View walkout protesting the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

The protests were sparked by a New York Times article last week that detailed the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against three prominent men. The report revealed that Google paid Andy Rubin, who helped invent the Android operating system, a $US90 million severance package when he left the company, despite the fact that a sexual misconduct allegation had been made against him that the company found “credible.”

The revelation of the payout to Rubin was “the $US90 million straw that broke the camel’s back,” O’Neil-Heart said.

Organisers of the protest have been collecting stories from employees about sexual harassment and other issues they have faced at the company, some of which they shared during the protest here. They have also made a list of demands for company management. Among them: that Google should put together a report on sexual harassment at the company and publicly disclose its findings, and that it should end its policy of requiring employees in disputes over sexual harassment and discrimination to pursue them through binding arbitration rather than through the courts.

The demands aren’t just coming from a core group of agitators, O’Neil-Heart said. Instead, they represent longstanding desires by “hundreds” of employees.


Read more:

Google’s recent behaviour shows the troubling reality of an internet superpower that abandoned its vow to not ‘be evil’

“We’re all here representing movements that have been at Google for a long time, asking for these demands for a long time,” she said.

Employees shared stories about their experiences with harassment

Google employees by the hundreds streamed into the main plaza on its Mountain View, California, campus to take part in the walkout on Thursday, November 1, 2018, over the company's handling of sexual harassment allegations.Troy Wolverton/Business InsiderGoogle employees streamed in by the hundreds to the main plaza on its Mountain View campus to take part in the walkout.

The protest officially got underway at 11:10 a.m., but employees started showing up well before then and continued to stream into the plaza to take part for even 30 minutes after it started. Some carried signs saying things such as, “Hey Google, WTF?” “Stand Tall, Stand Together, Stand For Change” and “Not OK, Google.”

Employees generally avoided the press. The company’s policy generally requires employees to go through its public relations department before talking to the media. But some did share their thoughts anonymously as they left the protest.

“It was great,” said one female Googler. “It was the start of the movement.”

The employees who came forward to share their stories touched a chord with many who were there. O’Neil-Heart, for one said she got “very emotional” listening to colleagues tell their stories.

“I’m proud of all the women who got up there to tell their stories,” said a another female Googler, who declined to give her name. “It was moving.”

Following the main protest in the plaza, several dozen organisers and employees marched from there to the public park area just off the company’s campus where members of the press were standing. The protestors chanted slogans such as “Stand up! Fight back!” and “What’s Googley? This is Googley!”

Organisers are demanding “urgency”

The walkout is the latest development in the movement to highlight and combat sexual discrimination in the tech industry and elsewhere. Silicon Valley firms have increasingly been called on to take action on allegations of sexual misconduct against executives, employees, and investors.

In the wake of the New York Times article last week, Richard DeVaul, whom the article revealed had also been the subject of a sexual misconduct complaint, resigned from his post at X, the research lab of Google parent company Alphabet.

Organisers and employees felt like management heard their protest Thursday, O’Neil-Heart said. But that’s just the start.

“We look forward to seeing action,” she said, continuing, “We do expect urgency.”

Now read:

NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.