Microsoft shareholders backed a protest vote calling for the company to reveal more about its handling of sexual harassment allegations, in the shadow of recent cases and disclosures that the co-founder Bill Gates has a relationship with an employee of the company.
The call turned out to be a rare vote against management at the company’s annual shareholder meeting and brought about an immediate promise from Microsoft for more transparency. However, the company stopped short of saying it would disclose details of individual cases and did not make any commitments to reopen handling cases from previous years.
The shareholder revolt comes after years of complaints by some workers that the company has denied allegations of harassment pervasive under the disaster. Arjuna Capital, which filed a shareholder proposal to challenge management, said Microsoft’s human resources department had only one lawsuit against the company out of 238 people included in a class action lawsuit. forced discrimination and harassment in 2012.
“Reports of Bill Gates’ inappropriate relationships and sexual advances against Microsoft employees only exacerbate concerns, raising cultural questions raised by top management.” and the board’s role bears considerable responsibility,” it added.
Earlier this year, Microsoft revealed that its board had hired an outside company to look into the decades-long “intimate relationship” Gates had with an employee. Gates resigned from the board before the investigation was complete. The results of any investigation have yet to be released.
The shareholder vote deals a blow to Microsoft’s lofty reputation with investors focused on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. The group was the most widely held company in US ESG funds as of July, according to Bank of America.
The shareholder advisory groups ISS and Glass Lewis have recommended investors support the Arjuna resolution, arguing that failure to effectively address sexual harassment allegations would damage its reputation and employability. use of the company, affecting the shareholders of the company.
“There are new steps we’re going to take that we’ve been thinking about,” Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, said after the vote. “I think the resolution, and the dialogue that we had, helped us advance our decision-making.”
Smith said the company had gathered more inside information about the claims of harassment and realized it was in the “interest of the shareholders” that it was also important to disclose more of this publicly.
He said that during Microsoft’s last financial year, Microsoft investigated 51 complaints and 47 percent were well-founded, compared with 49 percent of the 142 cases investigated the previous year. He added that the drop in claims probably reflects the fact that more people are working from home.
Smith also said Microsoft will conduct an independent review of how it handles harassment complaints and publish the results. However, he did not promise that the company would adopt any recommendations, but only said that the company would “think hard” about implementing the changes.
Smith said Microsoft will also release more details about the company’s gender pay gap, despite shareholders’ rejection of a separate proposal on the matter. The company has been asked to publish the date in the UK and will expand this globally, he added.