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Read Google employees’ shareholder plea to link diversity to compensation

Read Google employees’ shareholder plea to link diversity to compensation
[Photo: Flickr user Shawn Collins]

Three Google employees presented a formal proposal that the tech giant tie executive compensation to diversity and inclusion outcomes at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. The statement:

My name is Irene Knapp and I am an engineer at Google. On behalf of Zevin Asset Management and concerned employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries, I hereby move Proposal Number 8. Integrating executive performance measures with diversity and inclusion metrics will further our company’s values, address long-term human capital risks, and make it clear that diversity and inclusion are a business priority throughout the organization.

Diversity and inclusion are key components of business sustainability and success. McKinsey & Company research shows that companies in the top quartiles for gender and racial/ethnic diversity were more likely to have above average financial returns.

Yet, at Alphabet, diversity and inclusion activities by individual contributors and managers alike — including mentorship, outreach, and community building — have been met with a disorganized array of responses, including formal reprimand. The lack of clear, communicated policies and actions to advance diversity and inclusion, with concrete accountability and leadership from senior executives, has left many of us feeling unsafe and unable to do our work.

The chilling effect of harassment and doxxing has impaired productivity and company culture. Responses from HR have been inadequate, leaving minority communities unprotected. Now we are forced to weigh the risks to ourselves before giving each other support. This backwards response is tied to immediate retention issues, as entire support networks shut down in fear.

The proposed metrics will incentivize long-term progress on diversity and inclusion. However, Alphabet must also immediately address human capital risk by improving its code of conduct, by cracking down on malicious leaks that have intimidated individuals, by publishing to employees a manual formalizing the procedures for HR investigations, and by finding a solution for bad-faith HR complaints. We are hopeful that executives are finding ways to implement these solutions, as concerned employees requested two months ago.

It is our belief as investors, as engineers, and as technical professionals, that a lack of executive leadership around sustainability, diversity and inclusion fundamentally hurts the quality of products Alphabet can deliver to users. As a company that aims to focus on the next billion internet users and bring the convenience and power of information access to them, Alphabet must credibly integrate diversity and inclusion into its strategy.

Today, it is clear that Alphabet shareholders are listening to employees’ experience, and standing with us as we all challenge our company to be better. Together, we are sending a strong message to Alphabet’s leadership that they must prioritize diversity and inclusion in the interest of all employees and of long-term investor value.

We urge our fellow shareholders to support Proposal Number 8.

The shareholder proposal (Item Number 8 on Alphabet’s annual meeting ballot) was originally submitted by Boston-based socially responsible investment firm Zevin Asset Management (www.zevin.com) and cosponsored by Azzad Asset Management, Boston Common Asset Management, Consumer Health Foundation, RBC Wealth Management, and the Sisters of the Order of St. Dominic of Grand Rapids.

This comes on the heels of a diversity report that indicates the company’s workforce is still dominated by white men and in the aftermath of the controversy caused by one engineer’s internal screed against the company’s D&I efforts.

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