The Uneven Consequences of a Google Extramarital Affair: The Broadsheet

August 29, 2019, 11:59 AM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand drops out of the presidential race, Hudson’s Bay sells off Lord & Taylor, and an ex-Google employee shares details about her alleged relationship with her former boss. Have a nice Thursday. 


Today's Broadsheet essay comes courtesy of Fortune's Beth Kowitt, who weighs in the gasp-inducing Medium post published yesterday by former Google employee Jennifer Blakely:

- Who bears the consequences? Part of the fabric of the #MeToo Movement has become depressing and devastating self-published first-hand accounts of the ways women have been treated in Silicon Valley.

The latest: a Medium post from Jennifer Blakely, who, in striking detail, lays out the history of her relationship with David Drummond, the chief legal officer of Google's parent company Alphabet. In the post, Blakely alleges that the two had an extramarital relationship when she worked for him and that they had a son together in 2007.

Blakely says Drummond knew the relationship was against company policy and that after their son was born, she was told by Google HR that one of them would have to leave the legal department. She says she transferred to the company's sales team, despite knowing nothing about sales, and soon left the company. She claims that after Drummond left her, he for years refused to pay child support and would go for months or years without seeing their son. (Google did not respond to requests for comment.)

“‘Hell’ does not begin to capture my life since that day,” she writes. “I’ve spent the last 11 years taking on one of the most powerful, ruthless lawyers in the world.” She later adds: "Looking back, I see how standards that I was willing to indulge early on became institutionalized behavior as Google’s world prominence grew and its executives grew more powerful," she writes.

While her relationship with the married Drummond was included in a New York Times investigation published in October of last year—and originally reported by The Information in November 2017—this is the first time Blakely has written about the experience herself. The NYT investigation also includes details that could be used to support Blakely's accusation of "institutionalized behavior," reporting that co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have allegedly had consensual relationships with Google employees, among other claims of line-blurring by top executives. 

The details revealed in that story sparked last November's employee-led walkout, in which 20,000 Google workers took to the streets to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment. The cornerstone of the piece was the revelation that Google had paid former executive Andy Rubin a $90 million exit package—despite facing sexual misconduct claims that Google deemed credible. (In a statement to the Times, Rubin said the story contained “numerous inaccuracies" about his employment.)

The walkout was the most public aspect of the employee rebellion that was—and is—taking place inside Google. I chronicled the phenomenon in our Fortune 500 issue in May. (For a refresher: Inside Google’s Civil War.) My reporting revealed a deep sense among some employees that Google is no longer upholding its famous "don't be evil" ethos, an erosion in values that they argue is destroying the company culture.

But Blakely's allegations, which go back more than a decade, support another narrative: that the Silicon Valley ideal of fairness and meritocracy never really existed to begin with—something that many of the women and people of color I talked to in my reporting said they have long known and has led them to be among the most vocal leaders of the labor organizing happening in tech. Blakely may just be another example of the myth of the tech meritocracy: She says her career was derailed by the relationship. Drummond is still a powerful executive at Alphabet. 

Blakely writes: “What I never understood is why I was the only one bearing the consequences."

Beth Kowitt


- One down. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination yesterday after not qualifying for the third debate. The senator, who had made women and families the center of her campaign, said she would endorse another candidate in the primary. "I think that women have a unique ability to bring people together and heal this country. I think a woman nominee would be inspiring and exciting," she said. New York Times

- Le Lord & Taylor. As Helena Foulkes continues to attempt to turn around Hudson's Bay Company, the Canadian retailer announced it would sell off Lord & Taylor to rental subscription company Le Tote for $100 million. Hudson's Bay is investing in Le Tote as part of the deal. Bloomberg

- More Google news. The tech giant this week shut down Hire by Google, the service intended to help human-resources staff communicate with job applicants. The service was the descendant of Bebop, the startup whose 2015 acquisition brought its founder and CEO, Diane Greene, in as head of Google's cloud business. Greene left in November. CNBC

- God ask the Queen. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's move to suspend Parliament to keep Brexit opponents at bay put Queen Elizabeth II the closest she's been to the Brexit debate. The monarch had to approve Johnson's request to suspend Parliament, which she did from Balmoral. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Ruth Davidson has resigned as Scottish Tory leader, saying she wants to spend more time with her son, but not without taking a subtle swipe at Boris Johnson's approach to Brexit. Former Airbnb communications head Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean joins DoorDash as VP of communications. Kirkbi A/S, the fund that manages the $16 billion in assets of the Danish family that founded Lego, tapped Google Denmark country director Malou Aamund as the first woman to join its board


- A legacy of speed. Jessi Combs was known as the "fastest woman on four wheels." The 36-year-old race car driver and TV host died in a crash Tuesday while attempting to break her own record of 478 miles per hour. Washington Post 

- Ticket to compete. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, is calling on the Justice Department to investigate the state of competition in the ticketing industry. Live Nation Entertainment, which merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, is the main target of their concerns. New York Times 

- Still a no. Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson's resignation announcement brought up a by-now familiar question: Will Stacey Abrams run? Abrams says that, no, she won't run for this Senate seat. Slate

- Women in Hollywood. The Wall Street Journal examines 2019 Hollywood releases and finds that "the share of films with women playing leading roles increased to 61% from 42% in 2015" and the number of women in directing jobs for these movies doubled from eight to 16. The percentage of nonwhite actors in leading roles also doubled since #OscarsSoWhite in 2015, the WSJ found, although a USC Annenberg study on Latino representation in Hollywood this week found "no meaningful change" over the past 12 years. Plus: movie reviews site Rotten Tomatoes is approving more women as critics

Today's Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe. Share it with a friend. Looking for previous Broadsheets? Click here.


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