BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In the wake of recent allegations of sexual misconduct on the job by former CEO Bill Gates, Microsoft’s shareholder meeting in December 2021 will face a proxy resolution from investment management firm Arjuna Capital urging the software giant to “independently investigate and confront … transparently claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination” dating back to at least 2012.
The Arjuna Capital resolution is available online here.
Natasha Lamb, managing partner, Arjuna Capital, 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, and the board’s role holding those culpable accountable. Investors are concerned Microsoft may be facing a culture of systemic sexual harassment, putting at risk the company’s ability to attract and retain talent.”
According to the Arjuna Capital shareholder resolution: “In 2012, a class-action lawsuit was brought by 238 Microsoft workers alleging gender discrimination and sexual harassment, noting Microsoft’s human resources team continuously overlooked and denied these allegations, only deeming one as founded. Claims resurfaced in April 2019 after several women activated a company-wide email chain claiming Microsoft disregarded such complaints. With mounting internal pressure, Chief Executive Satya Nadella announced Microsoft would change its human resource processes, commit to publish(ing) internal reports on data of investigations, and form a Global Employee Relations team to guide employees through investigations. As of 2020, Microsoft employees stated that internal reports had yet to be seen and that they were unaware of the newly formed team.”
Action by Microsoft would not only be the right thing for employees; it also could directly advance the bottom line for shareholders. The Arjuna Capital resolution notes that “sexual harassment and gender discrimination can harm shareholder value—resulting in higher turnover, lower productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher sick-leave costs.”
Data cited in the Arjuna Capital shareholder resolution includes the following:
- A recent academic study found companies with the highest incidences of sexual harassment claims underperformed the US stock market by 19.9 percent the subsequent year.
- Companies that experienced a high number of allegations also saw a decline in Return on Equity of 10.9 percent, and labor costs rose 7 percent.
- A Harvard Business Review study found a single sexual harassment claim can make a company seem less equitable and more problematic than financial misconduct or fraud and would “be enough to dramatically shape public perception of a company and elicit perceptions of structural unfairness.”
Arjuna Capital is an investor champion of workplace concerns for minorities and women. In the 2020 proxy season, Arjuna Capital submitted a total of 13 shareholder resolutions seeking median race and gender pay gap disclosure, and an additional four in 2021. Since 2016, Arjuna has compelled gender pay equity disclosures at 22 companies, and racial pay equity disclosures at 17 companies, including leading U.S. tech, finance, and retail firms Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Starbucks, Nike, and Adobe.
Arjuna Capital is a sustainable and impact investment firm that works with high-net-worth individuals, families, and institutions to invest their assets with a lens toward Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risk and opportunity. Natasha Lamb and Arjuna Capital have been recognized for using shareholder resolutions to promote racial and gender pay equity in the tech, banking, and retail sectors. Lamb was named to the “Bloomberg 50” list of influencers who defined global business in 2017. For more information, visit www.Arjuna-Capital.com.
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