Microsoft Launches Review of its Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination Policies

Posted on January 14, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft with 11 Comments

Microsoft announced that it will review the effectiveness of its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies. The review was prompted by the public disclosure of an internal investigation into co-founder Bill Gates, who is the subject of multiple allegations from former female employees of the software giant.

“Our culture remains our number one priority and the entire Board appreciates the critical importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees,” Microsoft CEO Satay Nadella said. “We’re committed not just to reviewing the report but learning from the assessment so we can continue to improve the experiences of our employees. I embrace this comprehensive review as an opportunity to continue to get better.”

For this review, Microsoft has hired a third-party, Arent Fox, to assess the scope of a 2019 shareholder resolution calling on the company to release the results of an internal investigation into Gates’ behavior during his time as a company executive. Microsoft will also release a summary of those results and the steps the firm has taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination.

The most unusual part of this episode is Microsoft’s promise to release a transparency report, publicly, that assesses its workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, training, and related policies. This report will include the “concerns raised by employees in 2019 in an ‘In Need of Assistance’ email thread, steps the company has taken to respond to these concerns, and additional steps that could further strengthen these safeguards. The review will also include an analysis of policies, practices, and commitments to create a safe, inclusive work environment.”

Finally, Microsoft will compare its current policies against what it calls the “best practices” used by other companies, and it will improve where needed to meet or exceed those practices.

It’s not clear what the timeframe is for this investigation or the resulting reports.

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Microsoft Launches Review of its Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination Policies”

  1. LT1 Z51

    I get that we should work to be better moving forward, but what's the point in digging up things from the past? If there was criminal behavior that's the authorities responsibility.

    I never understand when corporations do this. What happened happened, we can't go back in time and change it all we can do is learn from historical things and be better going forward.

    • fourbadcats

      They're only doing it because it was a highly-voted item on the shareholder ballot. So, it's not the company wanting to do it, it's shareholders demanding it.

    • cnc123

      what's the point in digging up things from the past?


      all we can do is learn from historical things and be better going forward.

      You nailed it.

      • ikjadoon

        Right? That’s literally what they’re doing.

        “digging up the past” is exactly the job of an investigator. What kind of a joke is it that … “hey, stop the investigation!”

  2. Dan

    Nice to see them move quickly on this. 238 gender discrimination and harassment complaints from 2010-2016, all the news about how terrible Gates still is that comes out, Moussouris case against MS, you'd think they would want to take it seriously to attract a diverse culture. Change doesn't happen quickly, or in Microsoft's case, never at all.

  3. navarac

    Let's hope that, unlike Microsoft, Arent Fox can file their report in a coherent version of the English Language! Microsoft has always seemed unable to achieve this.

    • taswinfan

      They are lawyers. You will get some crap like "in the review of Microsoft, it depends on the reviewer to determine 'what the definition of' (to quote a former president) which we have determined to mean "is" and therefore no results could be determined, and Microsoft has been found to be in legal compliance.

  4. lvthunder

    Shouldn't every company be reviewing the effectiveness of all their policies on a continual basis?

  5. misterstuart

    Here's an easy-to-understand harassment policy: if it is proven that you've harassed another co-worker, you will be dismissed from the company without severance of any kind. Period.

    It's not rocket science. Policies also don't need to be over-complicated with a bunch of legalese jargon that can be interpreted a zillion different ways. Use direct language.

    • Dan

      Microsoft's policy is the harasser gets promoted and the harassed gets reassigned to another group because they were not a team player.

  6. ikjadoon

    IDK why sexual harassment is handled by the same organization to begin with.

    It’s critical ti have Ombudsman, disconnected from the company’s management, because how on Earth will anyone at Microsoft fairly and transparently investigate say Satya Nadella today?

    This isn’t a large enough gap between the powerful and the victims here: ripe for abuse a la Bill Gates.

    Independent investigations are the only way.