The Current

Tough to tackle sexism, harassment in tech world with 'narcissistic men' at the top: lawyer

In the wake of a worldwide walkout by Google employees to protest the company's handling of executives accused of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment, a San Francisco lawyer says more such action is needed.

Change will be slow, unless the attitudes of 'narcissistic men' who head tech companies are 'tempered'

Workers protest against Google's handling of sexual misconduct allegations at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (Noah Berger/Associated Press)
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In the wake of a worldwide walkout by Google employees to protest the company's handling of executives accused of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment, a San Francisco lawyer says more such action is needed.

"I'm hopeful that Google will start to get it right. They seem to be making an attempt," Barbara Lawless told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.

Walkouts were planned for 11:10 a.m. Thursday across different time zones, beginning in Asian countries, and demanded "five real changes."

On Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologized for the company's "past actions" in an email sent to employees,

But Lawless, who has has spent decades tackling sexism in Silicon Valley, says change will be slow, unless the attitudes of "narcissistic men" who head tech companies are "tempered."

"They kind of feel they have a right to violate the rules, they, you know, say, 'Well, we can disrupt cultures' and do whatever they want," 

"I think once that is tempered, it'll be a lot better, but I haven't seen it."

To explore what changes need to be made in the tech industry to address sexism at work, The Current spoke to:

  • Takara Small, founder of Venture Kids Canada, and host of the Globe and Mail's tech podcast I'll Go First
  • Barbara Lawless, an employment litigator specializing in sexual harassment and discrimination.

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.


Produced by Samira Mohyeddin and Danielle Carr.

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