Though it’s hardly breaking news these days, yet another prominent man has been pushed out of his high-level position for the serial abuse of power and sexually harassing, assaulting, and exploiting several women who reported to him.
Yes, it does seem like the same old story we’ve been hearing since #MeToo began galvanizing a movement early last year. But this one, uncovered by the New York Times, is different. Because this one is Andy Rubin, the “Father of Android” and he worked at Google, a company that touches almost every man, woman, and child on earth, and where “don’t be evil” is the ingrained credo.
Google feted his departure, with Larry Page himself publicly wishing Andy “all the best with what’s next” and, according to the Time’s stellar reporting, backed that good will up with $2.5 million cash in Rubin’s bank account every month for years to come.
Why didn’t they just fire him with nothing, you ask? It’s a reasonable question, and Google has at least three valid reasons for why it’s more important to pay nearly a hundred million dollars to the abuser rather than, say, publicly disavow his crimes, press charges, or equally compensate the women he was credibly accused of abusing.
1. He’s a genius.
Google is known for hiring the most skilled, mostly male, technology talent in the world. Andy Rubin is both. He’s the guy who developed Android—a platform that made it easier to put Google in the hands of the masses. Page called his creation of Android “truly remarkable” and he’s been hailed as a genius in Silicon Valley. As Hannah Gatsby famously asserts, once it’s decided a guy is a genius, his reputation is more important that his actions—even if some of those actions include storing bondage porn on his work computer and forcing a woman who worked with him to perform oral sex in a hotel room. Rubin’s no Picasso, but still, Google found it easy enough to separate the man from the art. After all, geniuses must be protected, and must be revered.
So why doesn’t Goggle hire some equally genius women software developers? Like most big tech companies like to espouse, there just aren’t enough talented women in the pipeline. Girls outperform boys in school, and more women graduate college now than men, but female genius seems to vanish when women join the workforce. According to a Google search, only about 30% of Google employees are women—a stat that hasn’t changed in many years.
2. He’s worth it.
Rubin made his first $50 million when Google acquired his software company. Once he joined Google, they gave him a $40 million bonus and $72 million in stock, on top of his reported $20 million a year in salary. Even in the midst of the harassment investigation, the Google board continued to demonstrate his exorbitant value to the company when it awarded him another $150 million stock grant. And to sweeten his departure, on top of his incredibly generous exit package, Google kicked more millions to help fund his startup. The women he’s accused of abusing weren’t being paid anything close to equal what he was, which indicates their relative worth to Google, if not to Rubin himself.
Though he wasn’t known for valuing the feelings or morale of his team, Rubin does know the value of women. In her divorce suit, Rubin’s ex-wife supported her case with a screenshot of an email to a woman, “Being owned is kinda like you are my property, and I can loan you to other people.” One has to wonder if that’s the general attitude of other men at Google, who seem to look at the women there as mostly romantic interests.
3.Google leads by example.
Google is the third most valuable company in the world, employees more than 80,000 people and interacts with several billion users every day. Like most tech companies, its leadership makeup reflects its employees, not its customers. The company is 70% male. The board and top executives are overwhelmingly male, too, many of whom have been involved in questionable behavior with women—reportedly, extramarital affairs with underlings are common among leadership. There have been countless accounts that the two founders, the former CEO, and even the chief counsel have been romantically involved with women employees—most while married. How can any of these men in leadership condemn one of their own with a straight face? Of course, Google would keep silent about the accusations. Women are liabilities in these cases, and are treated that way.
Google: The world’s most innovative company?
The fact is, until women are hired, groomed, and promoted at Google in equal numbers to men, given equal seats on the board, equal job titles and duties, and paid equal pay for equal work, Google will not fulfill its promise to be one of the most innovative companies in the world.
If the leadership obfuscates facts, Google is not fulfilling its mission of democratizing information.
And if leadership condones harassment, assault and exploitation of women, then clearly, they are failing at their commitment to do no evil.
Google, the same old patriarchal ideas and behaviors will not change the world. Isn’t that what you set out to do?