June 6, 2018 / 5:14 PM / 5 months ago

Alphabet shareholders reject diversity proposal backed by employees

The logo of Google is pictured during the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc’s shareholders, including top executives, voted down several proposals on Wednesday, defeating campaigns to tie pay to diversity goals and to get the Google parent to provide more data about efforts to moderate user-generated content.

Alphabet management, which effectively has voting control of the company, had moved against the proposals.

Shareholders and employees said Wednesday that a gender pay gap and lack of diversity could make it difficult for the company to hire and retain workers, posing a long-term risk to its 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. “The chilling effect … has impaired company culture.”

Eileen Naughton, who leads Google’s HR operations, said the company remains committed to an internal goal to reach “market supply” representation of women and minorities by 2020, which could help bring hiring in line with the diversity of the candidate pool.

Reuters reported in March that several hundred employees formed an organized effort asking Google to adopt several measures, including human resources guidelines that specify protections for anyone involved in an internal HR investigation.

The shareholder proposals had centered on some of Google’s biggest issues outside of the antitrust scrutiny it is facing at home and abroad. Employees and shareholders have challenged the company to address the persistent underrepresentation of women and racial minorities in the company’s U.S. workforce relative to the national population. Google is fighting multiple lawsuits from ex-employees accusing the tech giant of discriminating against women in pay and promotions. Employees have also demanded that the company do more to promote civil discourse on the company’s internal online message boards. How to combat extremist material on Google’s YouTube video service and other public products has also been a major challenge for the company. Google has tried to quell advertiser unease about advertising on open platforms such as YouTube, and stave off proposed regulations to impose penalties for failure to remove problematic uploads.

Shares of the company were down 0.6 percent at $1,143.67 in afternoon trading.

Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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