An internal Microsoft email chain, first reported by Quartz, reportedly details a litany of egregious acts of sexual harassment and discrimination experienced by women at the company. The chain received hundreds of responses since it began on March 20, according to Wired, prompting employees to protest the toxic work culture at a Q&A with CEO Satya Nadella on Thursday.
“This thread has pulled the scab off a festering wound,” a Microsoft employee wrote in the email chain, Quartz reported. “The collective anger and frustration is palpable. A wide audience is now listening. And you know what? I’m good with that.”
The allegations in the email thread include issues now viewed as typical within the tech industry—such as a lack of promotions and unjust treatment toward individuals from employees from underrepresented groups within the company, Wired reported. Microsoft employees were still reportedly emailing within the chain on Thursday morning.
Other allegations are exceedingly more damning. One Microsoft Partner employee reportedly wrote in the email that she “was asked to sit on someone’s lap twice in one meeting in front of HR and other executives,” stating that they didn’t do anything in response to this violation of the company’s policy. “The person said that he did not have to listen and repeated the request a second time,” she wrote, according to Quartz. “No one said anything.”
Another female Microsoft employee said that an employee of a Microsoft partner company threatened to kill her during a work trip if she didn’t engage in sexual acts, according to reports. She also reportedly described HR’s alleged complicity and failure to investigate or discipline the involved party. “I raised immediate attention to HR and management,” she wrote, according to Quartz. “My male manager told me that ‘it sounded like he was just flirting’ and I should ‘get over it’. HR basically said that since there was no evidence, and this man worked for a partner company and not Microsoft, there was nothing they could do.”
Another employee who had worked on the Xbox core team reportedly said in the email chain that being called a “bitch” was common within the company—she said she’d been called one more than once, and during roundtables with the Xbox core women “every woman, except for 1, had been called a bitch at work,” according to Quartz.
“Before people say this is just an Xbox thing (as I’ve heard that dismissiveness way too many times within Microsoft before) the other eng [engineering] orgs where my experiences happened were Windows & Azure,” she reportedly wrote. “This is a Microsoft thing, a common one.”
About 100 to 150 employees reportedly attended the meeting on Thursday, not including those tuning in remotely, according to Wired. “We are fed up,” one employee told the outlet. “I know there are James Damores at Microsoft, they just haven’t written a memo like he did.” (Damore, a former Google employee, wrote an internal memo to his colleagues railing against the company’s diversity initiatives. The memo was first published by Gizmodo in August 2017.)
Microsoft’s chief people officer, Kathleen Hogan, reportedly responded to the email chain on March 29 and raised the issues detailed in it to Nadella on the same day. “I would like to offer to anyone who has had such demeaning experiences including those who felt were dismissed by management or HR to email me directly,” Hogan wrote in the email, which Microsoft shared with Gizmodo and other outlets. “I will personally look into the situation with my team. I understand the devastating impact of such experiences, and [Nadella] wants to be made aware of any such behavior, and we will do everything we can to stop it.”
Hogan also encouraged employees to schedule a time to meet with Microsoft’s chief diversity officer regarding the issues detailed in the email chain.
If you are a current or former Microsoft employee who experienced sexual harassment or discrimination at the company, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact us anonymously using SecureDrop.