The #MeToo movement may focus on Hollywood and national politics, but Silicon Valley and the technology sector have real problems, too.
Recently, a scandal came to light involving employees at Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle and T-Mobile who sent emails to brothels and pimps from company accounts and ultimately bought sex from trafficked women. This comes after a spate of stories involving mega-giants Google and Apple being sued by former employees for sexism and misogyny.
For years, the complaints from women working in an industry rife with sexism, harassment, and lack of opportunities were ignored. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found evidence of pay discrimination, while last year there was a heightened wave of discrimination and sexual harassment scandals in the tech industry. Even still, more progress must be made.
Consider the aforementioned Microsoft, the original darling of the tech world and perhaps the creator of the tech “bro” culture. The company’s newest CEO Satya Nadella, is a vocal reformer, even writing a book, “Hit Refresh,” which argues that the company is at its best “when we actively seek diversity and inclusion.” But apparently, Nadella’s definition of diversity doesn’t include female employees.
According to a recent court filing, Microsoft’s human resources department received 238 complaints by women employees over a six-year period, including 108 complaints about sexual harassment and 119 about gender discrimination. There were eight complaints of retaliation and three regarding pregnancy discrimination.
The court documents are part of a gender discrimination lawsuit against Microsoft filed in 2015 by a computer security researcher who worked at the company from 2007-2014. Two other Microsoft employees have joined the suit and are seeking class-action status for the case.
The plaintiffs accuse Microsoft of steadily denying pay rises or promotions to women and argue that the Seattle-based behemoth has an “exclusionary ‘boys’ club’ atmosphere” that is “rife with sexual harassment,” including sexual assault and rape by male coworkers.
The complaint documents the story of a female intern who was allegedly raped by a male intern. Even though the female employee reported the rape to police, her Microsoft supervisor and Microsoft’s human resources department, she was forced to work alongside her accused rapist.
Nadella says he is committed to ensuring that Microsoft’s foray into cutting-edge techniques like deep learning and artificial intelligence don’t unintentionally perpetuate societal biases in their products. But why isn’t he interested in the fact that none of the 67 men who bought women online using Microsoft email accounts have been charged with a crime, let alone be dismissed?
Indeed, the tech sector has not only employed a significant number of men who pay for sex with trafficked women, it has also enabled traffickers to reach customers more easily and to hide their business from law enforcement by moving it from the streets and onto computers.
And the numbers are deeply concerning. Women and children are forced into the $42 billion illegal sex trade every day. Federal courts handled 783 human trafficking cases involving 1,930 defendants in 2017 alone. The growing numbers have prompted a concerted effort between the F.B.I. and local police agencies, to arrest traffickers who are often involved with gangs and organized crime.
The case in Seattle is but a microcosm of a larger problem deserving attention: monolithic technology companies do not practice what they preach when it comes to diversity and respect for both progressive causes and women. If they did, abuse inside the walls and allowing for it outside of these companies wouldn’t exist.
Are they truly interested in transforming their companies and the world into moral leaders, or will they resort to politically convenient rhetoric while turning a blind eye to troubling trends?
For the #MeToo movement, the journey is just beginning. While raising awareness was important for gaining popular support, we must now demand policies and action to spur change. The tech industry should come aboard.
Catrena Norris Carter is a 30-year veteran of both the civil rights and women’s movements, and the executive director of Women United Now
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller