Sexual harassment: Microsoft has internal policies reviewed

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Microsoft’s board of directors is reviewing the company’s policies on sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, US media reported on Thursday. Microsoft also plans to release a summary of earlier investigations into executive harassment allegations, including those against Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Microsoft’s board of directors is responding to a motion for increased disclosure of sexual harassment issues, which was pushed through by 78 percent of shareholders at Microsoft’s November 2021 annual meeting.

The motion was triggered by reports of numerous allegations of sexual harassment and the failure to deal with them “appropriately and transparently,” according to the statement on the demands of shareholders. In particular, reports of allegedly inappropriate relationships and sexual advances by Bill Gates against at least two Microsoft employees played a role. Gates should according to the New York Times In 2007, after a presentation, emailed a co-worker asking for a date. Executives who learned of this strongly advised Gates against such inappropriate emails and advances from senior management to their subordinates.

Additionally, Gates had a sexual affair with a co-worker that came out in late 2019. A Microsoft spokesman confirmed the relationship, which had existed since 2000, but which is said to have ended amicably. An investigation into the incident was largely in vain. However, Gates resigned from the board shortly afterwards, but there is said to have been no connection between his departure and the investigation results. Gates was also imitated by female employees of the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda announced their divorce in May 2021.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Microsoft’s corporate culture is a top priority. The entire board is aware of “how important a safe and inclusive environment is for all Microsoft employees”, writes that Wall Street Journal. An independent investigation is to be conducted by the law firm Arent Fox LLP. She is familiar with such topics and has also only worked for Microsoft to a limited extent, so that independence is given. The first results of the investigations should be available to the management and the board of directors in spring 2022. According to Nadella, Microsoft not only wants to check this report, but also use it to “learn from the evaluation” how employees can be better protected.

Specifically, a transparency report is to be published that lists the cases of sexual harassment and gender-specific discrimination in detail and evaluates the steps taken against it, according to the report Wall Street Journal. At the same time, Microsoft wants to revise its guidelines to curb sexual harassment and discrimination. In doing so, Microsoft wants to orientate itself on the “best practices” already adopted by other companies.

Natasha Lamb, portfolio manager at Arjuna Capital, the company that submitted the shareholder proposal, is positive about the independent investigation that Microsoft plans to conduct: “It looks like Microsoft is taking the situation and doing what it says it will do have to do,” she said.


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