Alphabet shareholders vote down employee-backed diversity proposal

Alphabet shareholders vote down employee-backed diversity proposal
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Shareholders, including top executives of Google's parent company, Alphabet, voted down a proposal on Wednesday aimed at increasing the company's diversity.

Some Google employees had supported a proposal submitted by Zevin Asset Management that would have tied several factors to executive incentive plans, including diversity and inclusion.

But Alphabet heads voted down the proposals, prompting pushback from employees concerned with the company's ability to hire and retain talent, which could eventually damage Alphabet's ability to innovate. 

“At Alphabet, diversity and inclusion activities by individual contributors have been met with a disorganized array of responses, including formal reprimand,” Google software engineer Irene Knapp said during the shareholder meeting, according to Reuters.

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“The chilling effect … has impaired company culture,” she added.

Google’s head of HR, Eileen Naughton, said the company is committed to reaching its goal of having a “market supply” representation of women and minorities by 2020.

Google has faced criticism for lacking diversity among its corporate ranks, both from employees and its shareholders. The company is up against a number of lawsuits from ex-employees who say Google discriminated against women in pay and promotions.

Last year, the Department of Labor sued the company for data as part of an investigation into whether the company engaged in gender pay discrimination. A judge, however, ruled in Google's favor, stating that the department's request was too broad and broached privacy concerns.

The company found itself further embroiled in controversy last year over a then-employee’s controversial memo. The memo — which was sent to employees in August and later posted publicly — argued that biological gender differences were a factor in the lack of women in computer programming jobs, prompting a massive backlash against the company.

The author was later fired for his comments.