One of two Google walkout organizers who claimed retaliation by management after protests last fall is leaving the company. Claire Stapleton worked in Google’s social marketing department in New York, and had been with the company since 2007.
The protest that took place in November 2018 included more than 20,000 participants from 50 Google offices around the world.
News of a $90 million payout to former Google VP Andy Rubin after sexual harassment claims sparked the protest, but Google’s Dragonfly project to bring its search engine to China and Maven AI work with the U.S. military were also motivation for other walkout participants, according to a release from the group Google Walkout For Change.
Stapleton fondly recalled beginnings at company headquarters in Mountain View, California and explained her reasons for leaving today in a Medium post. Past months have been “unbearably stressful and confusing,” as she said.
“Google’s always had controversies and internal debates, but the ‘hard things’ had intensified, and the way leadership was addressing them suddenly felt different, cagier, less satisfying. It was the way that management answered the TGIF questions about the Andy Rubin payout — the sidestepping, the jokes, the total lack of accountability — that inspired me to call for the walkout,” Stapleton added.
Stapleton said she chose to leave in the short term for health reasons and is expecting a baby in the fall, but also said she’s leaving because she no longer feels able to do her job.
“I made the choice after the heads of my department branded me with a kind of scarlet letter that makes it difficult to do my job or find another one. If I stayed, I didn’t just worry that there’d be more public flogging, shunning, and stress, I expected it,” she said.
In April, multiple news outlets reported that Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker, cofounder of the AI Now Institute, said they felt they’ve been retaliated against since the protest took place. Whitaker told the New York Times she was told to cease work at New York University and AI Now Institute following after the protest.
Days before news of an internal letter detailing the alleged harassment emerged, Whittaker’s AI Now Institute released a report highlighting a need for more diversity in AI and the dangers of a lack of diversity in artificial intelligence at tech giants including Google.
In other news, San Francisco Pride is considering the exclusion of Google from its parade and festivities due to YouTube’s willingness to leave a homophobic video online earlier this week, according to Hoodline.