Microsoft's board of directors announced that it has appointed law firm Arent Fox to review the effectiveness of company's sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies and practices.
The review is in response to an advisory shareholder resolution that was passed during the 2021 annual shareholders meeting, after concerns were raised about the company's culture that resulted in dozens of claims being made about alleged incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination, including against company founder Bill Gates.
"Our culture remains our number one priority and the entire board appreciates the critical importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees," Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said.
The board assured that the review being carried by Arent Fox is completely independent as the company "has not previously been involved in representing Microsoft in employment matters, nor has it done a significant amount of work for the company in the past".
The board detailed the review will examine concerns raised by employees in 2019 in an email thread which followed a class-action lawsuit filed in March 2018 alleging there were 238 cases of sexual harassment and/or discrimination encountered by Microsoft female employees between 2010 and 2016. The review will also look at the steps the company has taken to respond to those concerns raised and any additional steps that need to be taken.
The review will also include an analysis of Microsoft's policies, practices, and commitments to create a safe, inclusive work environment, as well as benchmark Microsoft's current practices against "best practices" adopted by other companies to help identify opportunities for improvement.
Following the review, the board said, Arent Fox will provide a report to the board and management detailing its findings and recommendations, which will then see the company's management team prepare an implementation plan to act on the recommendations and will report to the board on this plan.
The board will then publish a public transparency report assessing the effectiveness of the company's workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, training, and related policies and practices.
The report will also summarise the results of any sexual harassment investigations, including allegations that a board committee previously investigated beginning in 2019 involving Bill Gates; assess the steps that have been taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination; and include data on the number of sexual harassment cases investigated and their resolution.
This transparency report is expected to be delivered in Spring this year.
"We're committed not just to reviewing the report but learning from the assessment so we can continue to improve the experiences of our employees. I embrace this comprehensive review as an opportunity to continue to get better," Nadella said.