Microsoft shareholders pass resolution calling for new insights into sexual harassment cases

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, center, with (left to right) John Thompson, top independent director; Amy Hood, chief financial officer; Brad Smith, president, and Brad Iverson, general manager of investor relations. (Screenshot via webcast.)

Microsoft pledged to release more data on sexual harassment cases within the company after shareholders passed a resolution on the matter, among other examples, allegations that emerged earlier this year related to the issue. related to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

During a Q&A session at the company’s virtual shareholder meeting, Microsoft President Brad Smith gave a preview of the types of data that will be released: Microsoft received 51 complaints from employees during the financial year. just ended recently and 47% of it has been proven. . Compared to 142 complaints filed the previous year, 49% of them were substantiated.

The drop in the annual total is probably due to the shift to remote working, he said.

Smith called it an issue of “tremendous importance” to Microsoft and its employees. The company has shared more data internally and will now release new reports externally, he said.

“There are new steps that we are going to take that we have in mind, and I think the resolution and the dialogue that we have had has helped us advance our decision-making process,” he said. .

The shareholder proposal submitted by Arjuna Capital, Natasha Lamb, the company’s managing partner, presented at the meeting.

“Reports of Bill Gates’ inappropriate relationships and sexual advances against Microsoft employees only exacerbate concerns, raising cultural questions raised by top management.” and the role of the board of directors bears considerable responsibility,” the resolution said in part. “Investors are concerned that Microsoft may be facing a culture of systemic sexual harassment that threatens to incapacitate the company’s ability to attract and retain talent.”

This is a resolution that has been approved by the shareholders.

Shareholders urge the Board of Directors to publish a transparent report (at a reasonable cost, omitting confidential or privileged information) to shareholders assessing the effectiveness of sexual harassment policies at company’s workplace, including the results of any independent, comprehensive audit/investigation, analysis of its policies and practices, and its commitment to creating a safe working environment. safety and inclusion.

Microsoft’s board of directors proposed a vote against the shareholder’s proposal, calling it “unnecessary because Microsoft has approved plans to begin annual public reporting this fiscal year on the Microsoft implements our sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies.”

It is normal for companies to object to shareholder proposals, and they are rarely approved by shareholders. Four other shareholder proposals at the Microsoft meeting were rejected. However, Smith noted that one of them, which called on the company to report average wage disparities by race and gender, received “a substantial number of votes.”

“Honestly, the proposal is a good motivator,” Smith said. “You know, it was a good conversation. And so you’ll see us next year taking even more steps to publish our average wage differential data globally. “

This proposal was also submitted by Arjuna Capital.

Votes are expected to be released later today.

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