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Google’s Claire Stapleton describes meeting that sparked mass walkout



google walkout
20,000 Google employees
walked out in protest.

Wolverton/Business Insider

  • The Google
     organizers told Recode’s Kara Swisher about
    the “disastrous” internal meeting which sparked the mass
    protest over sexual harassment.
  • The so-called TGIF meetings are hosted by Google
    founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, where any employee can ask
    any question.
  • YouTube exec Claire Stapleton said management’s
    “dismissive” approach to questions about a New York Times
    exposé on sexual misconduct at Google was a turning
  • “It was a very awkward, hollow, somewhat disastrous
    TGIF,” she said.

An organizer behind the mass Google staff walkout over sexual
misconduct has vividly described the disastrous all-hands meeting
which prompted the protest.

Googlers Claire Stapleton, Meredith Whittaker, Erica Anderson,
Celie O’Neil-Hart, Stephanie Parker, and Amr Gaber told
Kara Swisher’s Recode Decode podcast
about the events leading
up to the Google Walkout, in which 20,000 employees left
their desk in protest at sexual harassment. 

The protest related to
a New York Times exposé
, which revealed that Android inventor
Andy Rubin was among a number of senior executives to be
accused of sexual misconduct. Rubin, who reportedly left Google
with a $90 million exit package, denies any wrongdoing.

Read more:

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

But according to the Google Walkout organizer Stapleton, it
wasn’t necessarily the story itself that sparked the protest, so
much as management’s response to it.

Google held its so-called TGIF meeting — in which founders Larry
Page and Sergey Brin field questions from staff — the day after
the New York Times report was published.

According to YouTube marketing executive Stapleton, the
atmosphere at recent TGIF meetings had become increasingly tense,
and the New York Times report was “a major reckoning moment for
the culture building upon all this anxiety.”

Sergey Brin and Larry Page Google
Google founders Sergey
Brin (left) and Larry Page.

Getty/Michael Kovac/Kimberly White

“The real turning point for me was the way that the execs handled
it that day at the TGIF that followed,” she said.

“Googlers, as always, showed up. I mean, they had really smart
thoughts. They brought their outrage, but it was also
constructive ideas and questions.

“I think that it was a very awkward, hollow, somewhat disastrous
TGIF which, you know, has been much-reported, but we needed to
see accountability and commitment, and neither happened.”

“There was a kind of dismissiveness to it”

Stapleton added that to begin with, the presentation didn’t even
address the New York Times story, but rather carried on as
previously planned by discussing Google Photos.

She said: “The optics were really tough because like I said, the
community was gripped by this. And I think it was the sort of
moment where we needed to hear that the system needs to change.

“We needed to see a genuine commitment to that, and I think it
was … There was a kind of dismissiveness to it. There was a
sort of, ‘we care. We’re going to follow up on this.’ It did not
at all match the urgency and intensity of what happened.”

The next day, Stapleton set up a Google group for women at the
company, which snowballed and by Monday it had 1,000 members, men
and women. “We said, ‘F it. Let’s do it Thursday,'” she

In the end, 20,000 Googlers left their desks in protest, with

five demands to change Google’s management of sexual misconduct
and discrimination claims
. While Google acquiesced to some of
the demands, the organizers said they feel there is still work to
do — and that senior management needs to re-engage.

When asked who she’d like to see take the reins, Stapleton said:
“Larry and Sergey, where are they?”

Business Insider has contacted Google for comment.

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