“Microsoft is under intense public scrutiny due to numerous claims of sexual harassment and an alleged failure to address them adequately and transparently,” Natasha Lamb, Arjuna Capital’s managing partner, said in a statement
. “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.”
There have been a range of allegations and reports in recent weeks about Gates’ workplace behavior. The allegations emerged after his divorce
from his wife, Melinda French Gates, was announced in early May.
Much of the focus has been on an affair between Gates and a Microsoft employee in 2000, a relationship Gates’ representatives have acknowledged and which reportedly took place
while he was chairman of the board. Microsoft’s board said it launched an investigation into the matter two years ago. Gates left Microsoft’s board in early 2020
, though a Gates spokesperson has said the decision was unrelated to the investigation.
Microsoft has faced broader accusations from employees alleging gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and was hit with a class action lawsuit
in 2015 in which a former employee alleged she was unfairly discriminated against. The company said at the time it was “committed to a diverse workforce.”
In 2019, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced an overhaul of the way the company handles HR disputes in a letter to employees
, pledging more support to employees and greater transparency.
Last month, Nadella addressed the allegations
against Gates and questions about the company’s culture.
“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.”
In its resolution, Arjuna Capital urged the company to release the results of independent investigations into misconduct allegations, as well as the number of sexual harassment cases investigated.
“To avoid legal and reputational risk and maintain shareholder value, Microsoft must create a culture of accountability and transparency, protecting employees from harassment and discrimination,” the investment firm said.
Arjuna Capital has pressured tech companies
and major businesses
— including Facebook (FB)
, Amazon (AMZN)
, Alphabet (GOOGL)
and Twitter (TWTR)
— on a variety of issues including pay disparities, sexual harassment, civil rights and climate change.
Its latest resolution for Microsoft will be introduced at the company’s shareholder meeting this December.