Last year we reported that Microsoft has been caught in a harassment scandal after a report revealed that over 200 cases of harassment have been filed between 2010 and 2016. This prompted Microsoft to issue a statement and change its internal policies to help women who face harassment.
Now a fresh set of emails have revealed that the situation hasn’t changed since last year. All this started on March 20 when a woman wrote an email asking for promotion after working for 6 years in the company. This brought forward dozens of stories of sexism and harassment that snowballed into more than 90 pages of emails written by women complaining about sexual harassment. The emails were verified by Quartz and it revealed some disturbing details. For instance, one woman claimed that she was told to sit on another coworker’s lap. Another woman revealed how she was forced to take minutes, book meetings after getting hired for a technical role at the company. One woman who worked with the Xbox team in the past revealed how frequently women in the company were called a “bitch.” Surprisingly enough, managers and HR usually overlooked these complaints saying it’s “just flirting” or ignored for lack of evidence.
We did a roundtables with the women when I was in Xbox core [team] & every woman, except for 1, had been called a bitch at work. Before people say this is just an Xbox thing (as I’ve heard that dismissiveness way too many times within Microsoft before) the other eng [engineering] orgs where my experiences happened were Windows & Azure. This is a Microsoft thing, a common one.
– Ex-Microsoft Employee
The matter became so big that women ambushed Satya Nadella at the Monthly Employee Q&A with Satya. The good news is that Satya along with Microsoft’s head of HR, Kathleen Hogan promised additional transparency in the company moving forward. Kathleen Hogan addressed the emails and said she would investigate the claims and invite anyone who has suffered such experiences or had their complaints dismissed by management or HR to contact her directly.
I discussed this thread with the SLT (Senior Leadership Team) today. 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.
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. I understand the devastating impact of such experiences, and the SLT wants to be made aware of any such behavior, and we will do everything we can to stop it.
As mentioned earlier in the thread, Lindsay-Rae (our Chief Diversity Officer) will be setting up sessions the week of April 22 to ensure we hear and are clear on the feedback, and determine what initiatives or programs to keep/stop/start based on input from this community. Invites for these sessions will be sent to all women’s community groups next week, will accommodate multiple time zones, and joining Lindsay-Rae will be Erin Chapple; Co-Exec Sponsor of the Women’s Community at Microsoft. While I do want to create a forum for the community on the thread, 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.
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. Thank you.
– Kathleen Hogan
Last year, Phil Spencer, Executive Vice President, Xbox talked about the toxic culture that infests the video game industry in a talk at the DICE Summit. This is not the first time Microsoft has been called out by someone from the company about its policies towards the employees. In 2015, Microsoft was sued by a female engineer for practices claimed to be discriminatory. The lawsuit almost got the Class-action status and was the starting point of what turned out to be a long list of complaints directed towards Microsoft involving sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace.