Alphabet, Google’s parent company, faced criticism from investors for its efforts on diversity and human rights at its annual general meeting on Wednesday,media CNET reported. Criticism takes the form of shareholder proposals, a common part of the annual general meeting sq.e., and a platform used by institutional investors to express their displeasure with the leadership. But this year, as protests over the death of George Floyd have spread across the United States, critics have responded particularly well.
A proposal led by Zevin Asset Management would require executive pay to be tied to diversity and inclusion goals, which have been adopted by other tech giants, including IBM and Intel. “We askalphabet to spend money on inclusion and drive improvement sriven from the top,” said Pat Miguel Tomaino, the company’s director of socially responsible investment, referring to the recent protests in his speech.
Another proposal was put forward by Jack Paulson, a former Google employee, who called on Alphabet to pledge not to prosecute whistleblowers who violate confidentiality agreements to express their displeasure with human rights. Paulson resigned from Google two years ago.
At Alphabet’s suggestion, all shareholder proposals were rejected. Protests have taken place in several U.S. cities over the past week, including Minneapolis, New York City, Atlanta and Los Angeles, and Alphabet’s meeting is taking place invisibly. The protests were sparked by Floyd’s death in Minnesota and a video filmed by bystanders.
Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s chief executive, began the meeting by talking about the hardships of the new corona outbreak and the “additional pain caused by the sudden outbreak of violence in African-American communities.” Pichai said the deaths of Floyd, Brenna Taylor, Ahmed Alberi and others “add to the grief that has been felt.”
Earlier in the day, Google said it would invest $12 million over two years in causes related to racial equality. Mr. Pichai said the company will also hold an eight-minute, 46-second silence — that is, when Floyd was restrained by police officers — in memory of African-Americans who lost their lives. The company also said last week that it would postpone a virtual event scheduled for early Wednesday, and that it was scheduled to release the next version of its Android mobile operating system on Wednesday. Given the postponement of the protests, Google noted that “now is not the time to celebrate.” “
Meanwhile, the company has faced criticism for scaling back diverse jobs, including cutting and outsourcing staff training programs, according to NBC News. In response, Mr Pichai said earlier this month that diversity was Google’s “fundamental” value.
The shareholders’ meeting was also held at a time when the company was in a major transition period. The annual meeting is Mr Pichai’s first shareholder meeting since he took over as alphabet chief executive in December from Google co-founder Larry Page. In addition, the company has other key departures. Former CEO Eric Schmidt, who has been Alphabet’s technical adviser since leaving the board last year, left the position in February, CNET reported. David Drummond, the company’s 14-year head of legal affairs, retired in January after being scrutinised over his past relationships.
With the departure of former management, employees and industry watchers have questioned whether the world’s largest search engine, which employs more than 120,000 people worldwide, can maintain its famous liberal culture. Tensions between management and employees over the past three years have been at odds over allegations of sexual misconduct against executives and moves around the U.S. Department of Defense’s artificial intelligence.