Female Microsoft employees have reported numerous instances of sexual misconduct over the past few decades. Recently, allegations of improper workplace misconduct have surfaced against its co-founder Bill Gates, known globally as the billionaire philanthropist and software pioneer.
Microsoft’s Record of Sexual Harassment and Discrimination
In the past decade, Microsoft faced a class-action sexual misconduct lawsuit involving 238 of its female employees. In 2019, an email chain gained widespread notoriety as female Microsoft employees detailed the rampant sexual discrimination and harassment that they suffered at work.
- Being passed over for promotions
- Pregnancy discrimination
- Offensive slurs directed at women
- Sexist comments
- Unwanted sexual advances
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella first addressed the issue in 2019 and said that the company would revamp its processes for addressing employee harassment and discrimination complaints. Microsoft also promised to increase trainings and staff to address potential claims within the human resources department.
Bill Gates and a Pattern of Misconduct
Now, several women have reported that Gates engaged in inappropriate sexual misconduct or sexual advances over the past few decades while he was married. He allegedly made sexual advances and pursued sexual relations with women who worked for him at Microsoft and at his philanthropic organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Specifically, in 2019, Microsoft’s board of director, on which Gates sat at the time, opened an investigation into one of the claims after it received notice that Gates had pursued an “intimate relationship” with an employee back in 2000.
Gates was also accused of having a multi-year romantic relationship with one of the company’s female engineers. After the allegations, Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board, but continues to serve as a technology adviser at the company. His spokespeople say that this decision did not relate to the alleged affair.
Gates has also been linked to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, with whom he allegedly got to know in 2011, three years after Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor. While Gates states that their exchanges were for philanthropic reasons, this relationship does nothing to improve his image as his interactions with women are under scrutiny.
Activist Investor Demands Change
Following the recent misconduct allegations against Gates, one of Microsoft’s activist investors, Arjuna Capital, is pushing Microsoft to do more to stop sexual harassment.
Arjuna Capital told Microsoft that they want an annual report detailing its sexual harassment policies and investigations into alleged incidents. Arjuna also has called for greater transparency and requested that Microsoft release the results from independent investigations into allegations.
It appears that Microsoft has a serious issue with tolerating sexual misconduct and harassment in the past. To turn this around, the company will need to scrutinize its policies, work environment, and instill a zero-tolerance approach towards such misconduct moving forward.