Women at Nike had been filing complaints about sexual harassment and gender discrimination for years, but in the summer of 2017, frustrated by their lack of progress and following the high profile departures of three female executives, they began circulating a survey among the company’s female employees to document the extent of the problem.
Delivered to CEO Mark Parker in March 2018, the completed surveys showcased a pattern of systemic sexual harassment and gender discrimination as well as a culture in which complaints were covered up or ignored. This grassroots data collection effort prevented leadership from dismissing employee complaints as a few isolated incidents and elicited public scrutiny, resulting in 11 executives leaving the company and a policy and practice overhaul including mandatory manager training for sexual harassment.
Prompted by the news that Google paid out over $100 million to executives who left the company in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, over 20,000 employees walked off the job in 50 cities around the world on November 1, 2018.
Within a week following this historic collective action, Google ended mandatory forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims –allowing employees greater avenues for legal recourse – and increased transparency in their sexual harassment complaint process. Despite these achievements, Google employees are still working together to achieve the rest of their demands, including improved employee representation, increased protections for temporary or contract workers, and an end to discriminatory pay practices; they are particularly focused on preventing retaliation against those filing complaints and are continuing to leverage the power of group protest as a way to protect individuals from being targeted.
In March 2019, a female employee emailed other women at Microsoft for advice on how to break through the glass ceiling. Dozens of women responded, detailing their own experiences of discrimination and sexual harassment, resulting in an email thread almost 90 pages long.
Released to the media, garnering responses from top executives including CEO Satya Nadella, and inspiring a company-wide series of Q&A sessions, this thread spurred Microsoft management to revamp their sexual harassment policies. All managers are now required to complete training on how to handle sexual harassment claims; the reporting process has been centralized and streamlined; and employees filing a complaint have access to an Employee Advocacy Team to guide them through the process. Building off this success, Microsoft employees are now publicly and collectively documenting disparities in compensation through a shared salary spreadsheet.