Alphabet Executives Reject Diversity Proposal, Employees Shake Up Meeting

Alphabet’s management, which has voting control, squashed several proposals Wednesday that would have forced executives at Google’s parent company to rethink a hiring practice that some employees say stifles innovation.

The proposal centers on what they call a gender pay gap and lack of diversity that could make it difficult to hire and keep talented workers.

During the shareholder meeting, Google software engineer Irene Knapp said the lack of diversity and inclusion activities by individuals have weakened the company’s culture.

One Google engineer called for the pay of Google Chief Executive officer Sundar Pichai to be partly tied to diversity.

The company, still tightly controlled by the founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, shows that without their approval, gender gap compensation and diversity will not change at the company.

In a blog post published Thursday, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai wrote that as a leader in AI, Google executives take a deep responsibility to get this right. So on Thursday announced seven principles to guide its work. These concrete standards will actively govern its research and product development and will impact its business decisions.

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Google’s employees continue to criticize the company for not doing enough -- and in some cases, doing too much.

For example, reports surfaced earlier that Google would partner with the U.S. Pentagon to work on an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that identifies people and points of interest from drones.

After the employee protests, Google decided to halt its involvement with the platform, dubbed Maven, and give up the multimillion-dollar Pentagon contract that some reports pegged at as much as $250 million.

In an opinion piece running in Bloomberg earlier this week by columnist Shira Ovide titled “Maybe It’s Time For Google to Find a Spine,” she pointed to a statement from Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg L.P.

In the statement, he said it’s the job of senior management at any company to do the right thing, even if it provokes criticism. He also argued that Alphabet’s leaders failed by caving in to protests about the Pentagon contract rather than pursue a project that could help U.S. national security and limit civilian casualties.

It wasn’t until the shareholder meeting that Brin and Page seemingly followed through, when both rejected the employee-backed diversity proposal.

Employees and shareholders continue to challenge the under-representation of women and racial minorities in the company’s U.S. workforce, compared with the rest of the country and population statistics.

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