A group of Microsoft employees appeared at an employee meeting with CEO Satya Nadella Thursday to protest the company’s treatment of women. The protesters asked Nadella to address claims of discrimination against women in promotion and advancement, as well as claims of sexual harassment, raised as part of a widespread discussion that has been building steam on internal company forums for the past two weeks.
Roughly 100 to 150 employees attended the Q&A in person, others watched via livestream. It’s not clear how many were part of the protest, but some female and male employees at the event wore all white, inspired by the congresswomen who wore suffragette white to the State of the Union in February. In response to the concerns, Nadella was empathetic and expressed his sadness and disappointment. He and chief people officer Kathleen Hogan promised employees additional transparency around advancement within Microsoft, according to a Microsoft employee who attended the meeting.
The catalyst for the online discussion and subsequent protest was an email posted to a distribution list for female employees in late March, according to copies of the discussion viewed by WIRED. The email was written by a woman distraught that she had hit a brick wall after years of trying to gain a promotion, despite the support of her manager, her manager’s manager, and colleagues. “The boy’s club won out on all fronts,” the woman wrote, according to the emails viewed by WIRED.
Hundreds of responses followed, with women sharing guidance, showing support, and detailing their own experiences with alleged discrimination and claims of harassment, which were first reported by Quartz.