Microsoft board approves outside review of harassment and discrimination policies, including assessment of Bill Gates investigation

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says the company is “committed to not only reviewing the report but learning from the assessment so that we can continue to improve our employees’ experiences.” (Geekwire photo)

Microsoft’s board is directing the company to hire an outside firm to review its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies and practices, saying it will “address the full scope” of a shareholder proposal that was announced in November. An extraordinary 78% approval was received at the company’s annual meeting.

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Plan announced Thursday afternoonThe board said the third-party review would include an assessment of its prior investigation into allegations against Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Microsoft previously said that the 2019 investigation focused on the relationship between Gates and a Microsoft employee in the year 2000.

However, this new review is not expected to re-examine Gates or release new information about his behavior during his time as an executive. Gates is no longer on the Microsoft board.

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shareholder offer was submitted By Arjun Capital, whose managing partner Natasha Lamb called on Microsoft to publicly release the results of Gates’ independent investigation after the vote.

Prior to the November meeting, Microsoft’s board recommended voting against the proposal, calling it “unnecessary because Microsoft plans to begin annual public reporting on the implementation of our sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies by Microsoft this fiscal year.” adopted.”

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The Microsoft board’s announcement on Thursday was “very timely, sooner than I would have anticipated,” said Darla Stuckey, CEO and president. Society for Corporate Governanceof which Microsoft is a member.

“The intention is to be very transparent,” Stuckey said, calling it “a very responsible way to deal with a shareholder resolution that’s passed. I feel like they want to take care of the problem.”

The board said it has authorized the company to hire a law firm erent fox to review. “The firm is experienced in these matters and has not previously been involved in representing Microsoft in employment matters, nor has it done significant work for the company in the past,” the announcement said.

The board’s announcement included this statement from Microsoft CEO and President Satya Nadella:

“Our culture remains our number one priority and the Board as a whole appreciates the vital importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees. We are committed to not only reviewing the report but learning from the assessment so that we to continue to improve the experiences of our employees. I take this comprehensive review as an opportunity to continue to improve.”

The components of the review, quoting the Board’s announcement, are as follows:

  • It will also publicly release a transparency report assessing the effectiveness of the company’s workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, training and related policies. This will include a review of the concerns raised by employees in the 2019 “Need Help” email thread, the steps the company has taken to respond to these concerns, and additional steps that may further strengthen these safeguards. The review will also include an analysis of policies, practices and commitments to creating a safe, inclusive work environment.
  • The report will summarize the results of any sexual harassment investigations during the same time frame against members of the board of directors and the company’s senior leadership team, including allegations that the board’s committee conducted an investigation involving Bill Gates in 2019. Of.
  • It will assess the steps taken to hold employees, including officers, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination.
  • The report will include data on the number of sexual harassment cases investigated and their resolution.

2019 Email Thread, Basically Reported by Quartz, including reports of incidents in which women were called derogatory names, forced to perform administrative tasks despite working in technical roles, and being asked to sit on one’s lap in front of human resources and other officials. were put in such compromising situations.

Nadella promised to take action and made several changes following those reports.

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