Microsoft has selected a law firm to review its policy on sexual harassment and gender discrimination, the company’s board said on Thursday after shareholders raised concerns about the way Microsoft and Bill Gates, one of its founders, treated employees, especially with women.
The board of directors said it had chosen Arent Fox of Washington, DC.
At the company’s 2021 annual meeting, shareholders decided to review Microsoft’s policies for its employees to protect them from abuse and unwanted sexual harassment.
The resolution was passed with the support of nearly 78 percent of Microsoft’s shareholders. This was the only one of five ethical proposals put forward by shareholders that were successful. Others, such as calling for a report on the pay gap based on race and gender at the company and a promise to ban the sale of facial recognition systems to government entities, were unsuccessful.
“Microsoft is under intense public scrutiny due to multiple allegations of sexual harassment and perceived failure to adequately and transparently respond to them,” the text of the resolution reads. “Reports of Bill Gates’ inappropriate relationships and sexual harassment of Microsoft employees have only exacerbated concerns by calling into question the culture established by senior management and the role of the board of directors in bringing perpetrators to justice.”
According to reports in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Gates hired at least two employees while running Microsoft. On one occasion in 2007, Mr. Gates listened to a presentation by a Microsoft employee and then immediately emailed her to ask her out on a date. Gates was later warned by Microsoft leaders not to do such things. In 2019, the Microsoft board received a letter from an engineer claiming to have had a sexual relationship with Mr. Gates in 2000. A spokeswoman for Mr. Gates confirmed that they had an affair that “ended in peace.”
Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, said in a statement Thursday that workplace culture is “a number for Microsoft.” 1 priority.
“We are committed to not only reviewing the report but also learning from the assessment so that we can continue to improve our employee experience,” he said.
Karen Way made a report.