Microsoft pledges to make public investigation into claims of sexual harassment, including those against Bill Gates

Lauren Rosenblatt, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

One woman wrote to the human resources department that the announcement "does not honestly represent us as a company."

According to Seattle Times reporting in 2018, complaints against Microsoft focused on a culture of casual sexism, a male-dominated hierarchy and poor resolution of grievances.

Those complaints are not uncommon among women working in science, technology, engineering or math.

Roughly 22% of women working in STEM fields reported they had experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a 2018 study from Pew Research Center. About 74% of women working in computer jobs said they had experienced gender-related discrimination at work.

In 2021, women made up nearly 30% of Microsoft's workforce.

Moving quickly to act on the shareholder resolution and then release a report just a few months later shows the initiative is likely a priority for Microsoft, said Darla Stuckey, the president and CEO of the Society for Corporate Governance, a nonprofit based in New York.


Roughly 78% of shareholders voted in favor of the resolution, a level of support that is hard for a company to ignore, Stuckey said.

"The way the law works is [shareholders] can't really tell businesses how to run their business," she said. "But they can ask for reports on what they're doing."

Microsoft has hired law firm Arent Fox to conduct the review. The Washington, D.C.-based firm represents global corporations, local and national politicians and large nonprofits.

Arent Fox will first provide a report to Microsoft's board and management. The management team will then prepare an implementation plan, according to a release Thursday.

The board pledged to publish a public report documenting the review, its findings and management's plan. Microsoft did not disclose the cost of the report.

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