Microsoft announced on Thursday it has hired a law firm to review how the company has handled sexual harassment allegations against some of its top executives – including founder Bill Gates.
The review will be conducted by Washington, DC-based Arent Fox LLP, which the board of directors selected because it has experience in dealing with sexual harassment allegations and has not conducted much work with the company in the past.
‘Our culture remains our number one priority and the entire board appreciates the critical importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees,’ Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said in a statement.
‘We’re committed not just to reviewing the report but learning from the assessment so we can continue to improve the experiences of our employees,’ she continued.
‘I embrace this comprehensive review as an opportunity to continue to get better.’
The move to hire an independent firm to review the company’s investigations comes after activist shareholders demanded greater disclosure of the company’s handling of sexual harassment issues.
A resolution seeking greater transparency passed in November with support from almost 78 percent of the shareholders in November, the New York Times reports.
Tech giant Microsoft announced on Thursday it has hired an independent law firm to review how the company has handled sexual harassment allegations
As part of the review, Arent Fox is expected to submit its findings to Microsoft senior management and board members with recommendations on how to improve the culture at the company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The company would then share a summary of the findings with the public in the spring, which would lead to a public release of Microsoft’s transparency report detailing effectiveness of the company’s workplace policies related to sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
The report will include data on the number of sexual harassment cases Microsoft has investigated, and what the results of those investigations were, and is expected to summarize the results of investigations into Gates and other senior leaders.
In a statement, Microsoft executives said the report ‘will assess the steps that have been taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination.’
The firm will also compare Microsoft’s sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies against the best practices that have been adopted by other companies.
Founder Bill Gates has been accused of soliciting at least two employees while he was running the technology giant
Gates met and married Melinda French Gates, left, when she was working as a product manager for the company right out of college
Gates is pictured with his ex-wife Melinda, second from right, and their three children
Founder Bill Gates has been accused of soliciting at least two employees while he was running the tech giant, according to the Times.
In at least one instance, in 2007, it reports that Gates sat through a presentation by a Microsoft employee then promptly emailed her asking for a date. He reportedly wrote: ‘If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened.’
Microsoft executives then reportedly warned Gates not to do things like that.
But at a cocktail party on a work trip years later, Gates allegedly asked a woman who worked for him to dinner.
Then in 2019, Microsoft’s board received a letter from an engineer claiming to have had a relationship with Gates in 2000 that lasted for several years.
Microsoft’s board investigated the incident and wanted Gates to resign from the board, Business Insider reported, and he stepped down one year later.
A spokeswoman for the billionaire said his decision to step down ‘was in no way related to this matter. In fact, he had expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy starting several years earlier.’
Gates also met his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, when she joined the company as a product manager straight out of college. He asked her out one day in the company parking lot, Insider reports.