Microsoft employees have been sharing stories of sexual harassment and discrimination in an internal email chain that exceeds 90 pages, as first reported by Quartz. Many say that they had brought up initial complaints to HR, but no action was taken. Now that the email chain has taken off, senior human resources employees say they will look into it.
Beginning on March 20th, one employee sent out an inquiry to other women at Microsoft about how to tackle the glass ceiling, and stories about demeaning behavior and sexist comments came pouring out. “This thread has pulled the scab off a festering wound. The collective anger and frustration is palpable. A wide audience is now listening. And you know what? I’m good with that,” one employee wrote in an email response to the chain, as seen by Quartz.
Another Microsoft employee said she had complained to HR about an employee of a partner company who asked her to perform sex acts, but no action was taken. A third woman said she had worked at engineering teams at Windows, Azure, and Xbox and had been called a bitch by other colleagues. She said that other women at Xbox shared that they had also been the target of such demeaning language.
Microsoft’s head of human resources, Kathleen Hogan, responded to the dozens of emails on March 29th to say that she would investigate the claims women had made. She wrote, “I would like to offer to anyone who has had such demeaning experiences including those who felt were dismissed by management or HR to email me directly. I will personally look into the situation with my team.”
Microsoft verified Hogan’s response to The Verge and provided further details. Hogan went on to say that Microsoft would hold sessions on the week of April 22nd to hear feedback from women employees and determine what actions needed to be taken. She added, “I also read and agree with the comments that for us to solve this as a company, the burden does not reside only with us women.”
“We are appalled and sad to hear about these experiences. It is very painful to hear these stories and to know that anyone is facing such behavior at Microsoft. We must do better,” Hogan continued. “While reading some of this is very disheartening, I am proud and encouraged to see people empowered to speak up, say this is not right, and stand together for change.”
Last year, unsealed court filings revealed that women at Microsoft had filed 238 internal complaints about gender discrimination and / or sexual harassment between 2010 and 2016. Out of 118 gender discrimination complaints, Microsoft only deemed one of these complaints as “founded.”
Microsoft has been fighting a class-action lawsuit brought by three female employees in 2015 that alleges the company discriminates against female engineers in their performance evaluations and consideration for pay raises and promotions. In the same suit, a Microsoft employee said that she had been raped by a fellow employee when they were both interns at Microsoft. After a dropped investigation, Microsoft hired the alleged rapist and the woman, telling her that they would not have to work together. This turned out not to be true, she said, as she was placed on the same team as the man after a reorganization.
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