SEATTLE – Despite allegations that Bill Gates is harassing women who work for him, do not expect a change in his roles in the two iconic institutions he founded, Microsoft and his charitable foundation.
Critics say the revelations raise concerns about accountability, although it remains unclear how much damage to Gates’ reputation could affect institutions so closely associated with him.
The Bill Melinda Gates Foundation says it is not investigating the allegations in the media, as an “anonymous former employee” told of an incident involving one of the world’s largest, most influential, non-profit organizations.
“The foundation has never received a formal complaint against Bill Gates,” the spokesman said in a statement to the Associated Press. “When we are accused of wrongdoing, we take it very seriously, we conduct an investigation, we take deliberate action in accordance with the situation.”
The New York Times’s Wall Street Journal reported on Gates’ treatment of women over the weekend, ranging from a full-time job with the now-defunct Microsoft և co-chair Melinda French Gates, as she asked women who were uncomfortable with the two from promotions.
Microsoft said it hired a law firm in late 2019 to investigate after a Microsoft engineer claimed in a letter that he had had sex with Gates for several years.
A spokesman for Gates’ private office called it “a case almost 20 years ago that ended amicably.”
Microsoft spokesman Frank X. Shaw this week declined to answer further questions about what the board concluded and why the investigation had not previously been revealed.
The company in 2020 In March, Gates announced that he was leaving the board to “devote more time to his charitable priorities,” but will continue to serve as executive adviser to CEO Satya Nadella and other Microsoft executives.
Gates’ spokesman said the investigation did not force him to leave the board because he had planned to spend more time on his charity for years.
The speaker referred to the statement given to The New York Times. “It is very disappointing that so many inaccuracies have been published about the reason, circumstances and schedule of Bill Gates’ divorce.”
On May 3, Gates tweeted that he had decided to end his 27-year marriage.
The allegations against Bill Gates are a red flag for some Microsoft shareholders, said Natasha Lamb, chief executive of Arjuna Capital, an investment firm that has pushed the company to address wage mismatch issues. He said the company that fired him was feared by both Gates and the board that the revelations were “a real setback for Microsoft in its ability to capture and retain its diverse talent”.
“The case of Bill Gates is a classic example of the power of money and power. It is clear that hitting his employees was his move. That’s how he met his wife. It is clear that this kind of behavior continues, “Lamb said. “This leaves open the question of how the board և’s management treats sexual harassment within the company. Some of the changes that followed MeToo changed the way the company handled internal affairs. But it is clear that you have had this signal of bad behavior from above, which sets the culture. ”
A former Microsoft employee who has fought in a five-year lawsuit against the company over alleged gender-based pay promotions says Gates’ allegations reflect broader issues with the company’s culture.
“Many of their harassment policies in the workplace have been so ineffective in protecting women,” said Katie Moussouris, a cybersecurity researcher who dropped her lawsuit against Microsoft in November. “I was not surprised at all.”
Mussouris, who joined the company in 2007 under then-CEO Steve Ballmer, said it was not uncommon for engineers to sometimes clash with corporate executives, especially when it came to their research. He said it raised concerns about Gates’ continued role as Nadella’s technical adviser.
“It means that he will sit in exactly that type of meetings, continuously,” he said. “It does not prevent him from meeting other women at Microsoft.”
It is unclear how much Melinda French Gates knew about such allegations, but it is assumed that she was aware of her wandering eye, terrified of her relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. His private office, Pivotal Ventures, did not respond to a request for comment.
When she filed for divorce earlier this month, the couple vowed to continue working with the foundation. But now observers say recent revelations could have given Melinda French Gates more access to opening her own charity with a stake in Gates’s fortunes after her divorce.
“No matter how many stories appeared in the press that Melinda did not know before, she could become less and less interested in continuing to work with her ex-husband,” said David Callahan, founder and founder of Insider Philanthropy. Wealth, power and humanity in the new gilded era. “
Gates’s spokesman has denied the allegations.
“The description of Epstein’s meetings with others about charity is incorrect, including who took part. Likewise, it is false to say that Gates was embarrassed to talk about his marriage or Melinda. Allegations of ill-treatment of employees are also false. Rumors and speculations about Gates’ divorce are becoming more and more absurd; it is unfortunate that people who have little information about the situation are described as “sources”.
Most shareholders are unlikely to want to shake up Microsoft’s ship, given its steady growth since 2014, when Nadella took office, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world. Its rising earnings and stock performance were largely unaffected by the epidemic due to the inability to provide services for people working or studying at home.
In 2019, Arjuna Capital asked its Microsoft shareholders to vote on a report on gender pay gaps at the company’s annual meeting. Microsoft asked investors to reject the offer, which they did, although 30% voted in favor of the relatively high percentage of activists. The investment company will try again this year.
Although recent reports have hurt Bill Gates and the foundation that bears his name, Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at the University of Georgetown, says it is unlikely to affect the way nonprofits seek funding.
“Most grant recipients will continue to come for the fund because they are more interested in the money than the intrigues that continue in the fund,” Gostin said. But, he added, the reports are likely to affect how the public continues to view the foundation’s long-standing work on gender equality.
“The foundation will eat that it will not uphold the high standards it expects its grantees to uphold,” Gostin said, adding that the charity “will have to work very hard to restore its reputation, in particular to show that it is serious.” allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment. “
O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press business writer Hallelujah Hedero contributed to this report.