Microsoft is back in the hot waters over serious discrimination and harassment claims made by several female employees and the company's alleged failure to address the problems. From being called a "bitch" at work to being asked to sit on co-worker's lap, several Microsoft employees have shared their horrific ordeals of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at one of the largest software firms in the world.
Over 100 employees attended an employee meeting with the company CEO Satya Nadella on Thursday, seeking an action to address the claims made by several female employees. Several employees who attended the Q&A came dressed in white, a move inspired by the US congresswomen who wore white during Donald Trump's State of the Union address in February.
Nadella expressed his disappointment and was empathetic towards the concerns raised at the Q&A meeting. Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft's head of human resources, has promised employees additional transparency on growth and advancement within the company, the Wired quoted an employee who was a part of the meeting as saying.
Both Hogan and Nadella have promised employees facing such discrimination and harassment at work can approach them directly and that they will do everything to stop it. Employees are encouraged to meet with Microsoft's chief diversity officer to discuss programs that will effectively tackle the problems at hand.
"I would like to offer to anyone who has had such demeaning experiences including those who felt were dismissed by management or HR to email me directly. I will personally look into the situation with my team. I understand the devastating impact of such experiences, and [Nadella] wants to be made aware of any such behavior, and we will do everything we can to stop it," Hogan wrote in response to the series of horrific experiences shared over a thread that was started last month.
From an email to a thread of horrors
It all started on March 20 when an employee sought advice from other women on how to grow within the organisation as she had hit a dead end despite several attempts at promotion and being stuck at the same position for six years. But that email inspired many other women to come forward and share their experiences of discrimination and sexual harassment.
Hundreds of employees responded to the email, forming a thread, which included Nadella and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, too. Quartz verified the contents of the emails with two employees within the firm.
The email thread gave a voice to the victims of female employees at Microsoft and the response from the senior leadership team suggests it was the right thing to do. The shocking revelations made by Microsoft employees and the fact that the matters were passed over by HR gives a sense of how deep the problem runs in the corporate world.
The female employees at Microsoft have been asked for sexual favours, sexually harassed, deemed unfit for a designated role and even stopped from getting promotions.
"This thread has pulled the scab off a festering wound. The collective anger and frustration is palpable. A wide audience is now listening. And you know what? I'm good with that," one Microsoft employee in the email chain wrote.
Another employee said she was called a "bitch" at work on more than one occasion and women commonly dealt with such verbal abuse. "We did a roundtable with the women when I was in Xbox core [team] & every woman, except for 1, had been called a bitch at work," the Microsoft employee wrote.
In another damning incident, a "Microsoft Partner" was asked to sit on someone's lap twice at a meeting in front of HR and other executives. When objected to the remark and cited Microsoft policy, the person blatantly ignored and repeated the request, the employee wrote.
Another employee said that she was an employee of a partner company threatened to kill her if she failed to perform certain sexual acts. When raised the concern with HR and management, the male manager told the woman "it sounded like he was just flirting" and asked to get over it. HR did nothing to address the problem.
With the top management directly looking into the matter, there's a shimmer of hope that the culture could change. The company had already dealt with a lawsuit in March last year for not taking matters of sexual harassment or discrimination seriously enough. Microsoft should learn from its mistakes, improve and do better.