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Microsoft shareholders vote for a report into harassment within the company

Median pay gap reporting found less favour

Microsoft shareholders have voted for a report into the effectiveness of the company's sexual harassment policies while rejecting another on median pay gaps across race and gender.

In a surprise to nobody, shareholders also booted a proposal to prohibit the sale of facial recognition to government entities deep into the long grass (with only 4 per cent votes for).

Both the harrassment policy effectiveness and median pay gap reports were proposed by investment management firm Arjuna Capital earlier this year.

The notice of exempt solicitation, made on 21 October, warned that "sexual harassment at Microsoft presents a material investment risk."

It also highlighted other companies where complicity in the alleged bad behaviour of those in power resulted in a tumbling of share prices or eye-watering settlement costs. Something to focus the mind of stockholders, for sure.

Microsoft has long handled such complaints internally (in 2018 court documents revealed 238 were made between 2010 and 2016, of which 119 were related to gender discrimination and 108 of sexual harassment). The proposal, described as being in the long-term interest of shareholders, was aimed at getting an independent investigation into the allegations and publicly disclosing the results.

Almost 78 per cent of shareholders reckoned it was a good idea.

The proposal to report on median pay gaps across race and gender did not fare so well, though, despite the suggestion that "Median Pay Disclosure can hold Microsoft accountable to its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Goals."

For its part, Microsoft already produces a Global Diversity and Inclusion Report, which discloses some data about groups' representation as a percentage of the workforce, although it is not fine-grained.

While the October proposal from Arjuna Capital may have thundered that "Microsoft's refusal to publish unadjusted pay gap data is reflective of a lack of transparency and accountability to investors and employees," those same stockholders could well have taken a look at the company's rocketing share price and seen all the accountability they needed (even if a hair over 40 per cent reckoned that a bit more wouldn't hurt).

We asked Microsoft for its reaction to the vote and will update should the company respond. ®

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