After a news report that Google paid $90 million to Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, as he left the company over an allegation of sexual misconduct, its CEO Sundar Pichai has sent out a memo to employees telling them that Google is "dead serious" about sexual harassment. Pichai has revealed that the company has laid off nearly 50 people, including 13 people from senior management, over such allegations.
In the memo, Pichai noted that these people have not received an exit package. However, it did not directly address the allegations of the payout to Rubin, or the fact that Google continued to maintain a relationship with him by investing in his new company.
In the memo, instead of directly addressing claims about Rubin, Pichai wrote: "We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace. We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action."
The New York Times report, which Pichai said was "difficult to read", did not focus only on Rubin, though. It said that he was one of three senior executives that Google has shielded in the past decade after complaints of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Diversity is a problem
Sexual harassment is a major problem in Silicon Valley as tech companies struggle with diversity. Although there are a number of Asians in leadership roles (apart from Pichai at Google, the other most well-known example is Satya Nadella at Microsoft), gender diversity is poor.
In its diversity report released earlier this year, Google noted that men account for 75% of the leadership ranks, which is a worrying figure. It's the kind of culture that has become the norm in Silicon Valley, leading to systematised harassment. Most famously, an engineer at Uber posted detailed accounts about how she was harassed by her manager, and how the company HR did not help her at all.
That incident led Uber to lay off some 20 people after examining 215 claims. Co-founder Travis Kalanick also had to resign as CEO, as part of a larger effort to clean up the company's "toxic culture".