Investors in Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, voted down all proposed resolutions at on Wednesday’s shareholder meeting, including one that would have made the compensation of senior executives partly dependent on the company making progress toward specific diversity and inclusion goals. The proposal was opposed by Alphabet management, Reuters reported on Wednesday, which sank the resolution as insiders have effective voting control of the company. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hold supervoting shares in Alphabet that enable them to defeat any shareholder resolution they don’t approve of. Google insists that its existing commitments to diversity are sufficient:
Eileen Naughton, who leads Google’s HR operations, said the company remains committed to an internal goal to reach “market supply” representation of women and minorities by 2020, which could help bring hiring in line with the diversity of the candidate pool.
Another resolution aimed at getting Google to provide investors more information about its efforts to moderate user-generated content on the platforms it owns, including YouTube, was also voted down on Wednesday.
The proposal related to diversity was put forward by the activist investment fund Zevin Asset Management and supported by a group of Google employees who have expressed concern about how committed the company really is to being an inclusive environment for everyone who works there. One of those employees, engineer Irene Knapp, addressed Wednesday’s shareholder meeting with a statement that stressed the urgency of addressing ongoing problems in Google’s culture:
Google Glass, originally developed from a passion project of company cofounder Sergey Brin, was supposed to unlock the next frontier in digital connectivity. While the smartphone has made technology and information omnipresent in our lives, Glass promised to remove the cumbersome barrier of a handheld device and allow for hands-free computing using voice and optical commands. Apps would seamlessly integrate with reality and life would never be the same. But that grandiose vision fell infamously short, as Glass failed to take off as a mass consumer product and the company stopped offering the product in 2015. Development went on in semi-secret, however, and the product has now found a second life as a business solution, which Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is calling Glass Enterprise Edition. In a fascinating profile of the surprisingly resurgent product, Wired‘s Steven Levy catches us up on recent events:
For about two years, Glass EE has been quietly in use in dozens of workplaces, slipping under the radar of gadget bloggers, analysts, and self-appointed futurists. Yes, the population of those using the vaunted consumer version of Glass has dwindled, tired of being driven out of lounges by cocktail-fork-wielding patrons fearing unwelcome YouTube cameos. Meanwhile, Alphabet has been selling hundreds of units of EE, an improved version of the product that originally shipped in a so-called Explorer Edition in 2013. Companies testing EE—including giants like GE, Boeing, DHL, and Volkswagen—have measured huge gains in productivity and noticeable improvements in quality. What started as pilot projects are now morphing into plans for widespread adoption in these corporations.
The new version has also undergone design advancements and now has more processing power, networking capability, and battery life, but that’s the least interesting part of the product’s evolution.
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The race between Detroit’s legacy automakers and the tech visionaries of Silicon Valley to develop and market self-driving vehicles has been a major battleground in the war for talent with scarce skills in artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies. The competition among major companies in this space has been heated, driving up the value of AI talent and potentially making it more difficult for smaller firms and universities to attract or retain these experts.
Ironically, however, the high salaries on offer may not be doing as much as you’d think to help the tech giants hold onto these stars. Looking at Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, Bloomberg Technology writers Alistair Barr and Mark Bergen observe that with its unusual compensation system, the project may have driven key talent out early on by essentially paying them too much money:
Early staffers had an unusual compensation system that awarded supersized payouts based on the project’s value. By late 2015, the numbers were so big that several veteran members didn’t need the job security anymore, making them more open to other opportunities, according to people familiar with the situation. …
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, a mother of five, makes the case at the Huffington Post that generous family leave policies are essential for tech companies that want to attract and retain talented women:
I have been lucky in my life. I was Google’s first employee to go on maternity leave and last year I became the only person to take five maternity leaves at Google. Each of those leaves enriched my career and more importantly, enriched my life. They left me with the peace of mind, knowing that I could return after spending the time I truly wanted and needed at home with my new baby. Interestingly, I also found that each break gave me a chance to reflect on my career. During my second maternity leave, I decided to make a change and work in advertising, where I then spent the next 12 years of my career.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the research–and Google’s own experience–shows a generous paid maternity leave actually increases retention. When women are given a short leave, or they’re pressured to be on call, some decide it’s just not worth it to return. That’s why, when Google increased its paid maternity leave policy from 12-to-18 weeks, we saw the rate at which new mothers quit fall by 50 percent.