Microsoft has selected a law firm to review its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, the company’s board of directors said Thursday after alerting shareholders how Microsoft and Bill Gates, one of its founders, had treated employees, especially women.
The board said it chose Arent Fox, based in Washington, DC. Microsoft said the company had never done any job-related work for him in the past.
Shareholders passed a resolution during the company’s 2021 annual meeting to review the policies Microsoft has put in place for its employees to protect against abuse and unwanted sexual advances.
The resolution was passed with the support of nearly 78 percent of Microsoft shareholders. It was the only one of five ethical proposals submitted by shareholders that were successful. Others, such as calls for a report on race and gender pay gaps in the company and a promise to ban the sale of facial recognition to government agencies, failed.
“Microsoft is under intense public scrutiny due to numerous allegations of sexual harassment and the alleged failure to treat them appropriately and transparently,” says the text of the resolution. “Reports of inappropriate relationships by Bill Gates and sexual advances to Microsoft employees have only exacerbated concerns and challenged the culture of top management and the role of the board of directors in holding the culprits accountable.”
According to reports from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Gates hired at least two people while he ran Microsoft. In one incident in 2007, Mr. Gates was watching a presentation by a Microsoft employee, then immediately emailed her to ask on a date. Microsoft executives later warned Mr. Gates not to do such things. In 2019 Microsoft’s board of directors receive a letter by an engineer who claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Mr. Gates in 2000. A spokeswoman for Mr. Gates confirmed that the two were having an affair that “ended amicably.”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement Thursday that Microsoft’s workplace culture is “No. 1 priority. “
“We aim to not only review the report, but also to learn from the assessment so we can continue to improve our employees’ experience,” he said.
Karen way Reporting contributed.