Microsoft said Thursday is has commissioned an outside law firm to launch an investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct by founder Bill Gates, as well as the company’s overall handling of sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims in the workplace.
Gates resigned from Microsoft’s board of directors in 2020. The year prior, a Microsoft engineer alleged she had a sexual relationship with him, The Wall Street Journal reported in May.
According to The New York Times, Gates “developed a reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings.”
“On at least a few occasions, Mr. Gates pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to people with direct knowledge of his overtures,” the outlet reported last year.
Gates and his wife announced they were getting divorced in 2021. According to The Times, “Multiple people said that during their marriage, Mr. Gates engaged in work-related behavior that they said was inappropriate for a person at the helm of a major publicly traded company and one of the world’s most influential philanthropies.”
According to Microsoft’s Board of Directors, Gates’ alleged behavior is included in the scope of the newly announced probe, which will be conducted by the law firm Arent Fox.
“The Microsoft Board of Directors announced today that it will review the effectiveness of the company’s sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies and practices,” the board said in a statement Thursday.
“This review responds to an advisory shareholder resolution that passed during the 2021 Annual Shareholders Meeting, and it will build on steps the company has taken in recent years to address these issues and strengthen Microsoft’s culture,” the board added.
The plan is to publish a “transparency report” at the end of the investigation.
“This will include a review of concerns raised by employees in 2019 in the ‘In Need of Assistance’ email thread, steps the company has taken to respond to these concerns, and additional steps that could further strengthen these safeguards,” the board said. “The review will also include an analysis of policies, practices, and commitments to create a safe, inclusive work environment.”
That’s not all.
“The report will summarize the results of any sexual harassment investigations during this same timeframe against members of the Board of Directors and the company’s Senior Leadership Team, including the allegations that a Board committee investigated beginning in 2019 involving Bill Gates,” the statement added.
Microsoft CEO and Chairman Satya Nadella said the company is committed to improving its culture.
“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,” Nadella said.
“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.”