Following allegations of sexual harassment against Microsoft founder Bill Gates, an activist investor is urging the company to do more to combat sexual harassment.
Impact investment firm Arjuna Capital called on Microsoft to release an annual transparency report detailing its sexual harassment policies and investigations into alleged incidents across the company in a shareholder resolution published Wednesday.
In a statement, Arjuna Capital managing partner Natasha Lamb said, “Microsoft is under intense public scrutiny due to numerous claims of sexual harassment and an alleged failure to address them adequately and transparently.” “Reports of Bill Gates’ alleged inappropriate relationships and sexual advances towards Microsoft employees have only exacerbated concerns, putting in question the culture set by top leadership.”
Microsoft (MSFT) did not respond to a request for comment about the shareholder resolution.
In recent weeks, there have been a slew of allegations and reports about Gates’ work behavior. The allegations surfaced after he and his wife, Melinda French Gates, announced their divorce in early May.
Much of the attention has been focused on a 2000 affair between Gates and a Microsoft employee, which Gates’ representatives have acknowledged and which reportedly occurred while he was chairman of the board. Microsoft’s board of directors announced two years ago that it had begun an investigation into the matter. Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board of directors in early 2020, though a Gates spokesperson claimed the decision had nothing to do with the investigation.
Microsoft has faced broader allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment from employees, including a class action lawsuit filed in 2015 by a former employee who claimed she was unfairly discriminated against. At the time, the company stated that it was “committed to a diverse workforce.”
In a letter to employees in 2019, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced an overhaul of the company’s HR dispute resolution process, promising more support and transparency.
Nadella addressed the Gates allegations and questions about the company’s culture last month.
“The Microsoft of 2021 is very different from the Microsoft of 2000,” Nadella said in an interview on CNBC. “To me and to everyone at Microsoft, our focus on our culture, our diversity, our inclusion, in particular, the everyday experience of our people is super important, it’s a huge priority.”
Arjuna Capital urged the company to release the results of independent investigations into allegations of misconduct, as well as the number of sexual harassment cases investigated, in its resolution.
Microsoft must create a culture of accountability and transparency, protecting employees from harassment and discrimination, to avoid legal and reputational risk and maintain shareholder value, according to the investment firm.
Arjuna Capital has pushed tech companies and major corporations, such as Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Alphabet (GOOGL), and Twitter (TWTR), to address issues such as pay disparities, sexual harassment, civil rights, and climate change.
Its most recent resolution for Microsoft will be presented at the company’s December shareholder meeting.