In an unusually public criticism of Google by its own employees, a software engineer teamed with Zevin Asset Management to present a shareholder proposal requesting parent company Alphabet integrate sustainability and diversity metrics into its executive pay program. Google employee Irene Knapp was joined by two other employees at the company's annual meeting in reading a highly critical statement in support of the proposal, noting that "lack of clear, communicated policies and actions to advance diversity and inclusion, with concrete accountability and leadership from senior executives, has left many of us feeling unsafe and unable to do our work...responses from HR have been inadequate." Although the proposal was opposed by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who own 51% of Alphabet shares, it was supported by ISS and similar proposals have been submitted by Zevin Asset Management at 12 other technology companies this year. The proposal was supported by just under 20% of Alphabet shareholders.
Google has faced recent controversy and criticism over its gender pay gap and the perceived inadequacy of the company's efforts to overcome it. Though the company may have little to fear from activist investors given its current ownership structure, the combined voices of its employees may be a catalyst for further internal change, especially given the strong market position and existing retention challenges of tech company employees in general and Google engineers in particular.