GV students place third for case study concerning sexual harassment

By Elyse Greenwood | 4/7/19 11:44pm

Courtesy: Allyssa Murphy, Teagan Epley and Emily Gagnon

In 2017, the #MeToo Movement took over social media after American actress Alyssa Milano wrote a tweet encouraging victims of sexual harassment to speak up. Since then, the movement has provided survivors with a community and platform to advocate for nationwide change. Three Grand Valley State University students – Allyssa Murphy, Teagan Epley and Emily Gagnon – took this relevant topic and dug deeper to bring to light the severity of sexual harassment in the workplace, specifically within the multinational company Google. 

“For our case, we studied the sexual harassment allegations made against top Google executives,” Murphy said. 

The case study, “Google and the #MeToo Movement: Responding to a Global Walkout in the Wake of Sexual Harassment Allegations,” began as a submission to the annual Arthur W. Page Society Case Study Competition for their Public Relations Management and Cases course. The study proved so impressive, it won third place.

The case study explores the public relations efforts by Google during the exposure of the sexual misconduct by some of the company’s top executives and the incident’s alignment with the #MeToo Movement. 

“The company covered it up, but when employees found out last year, they staged a global walkout. More than 20,000 of Google's employees walked out of their jobs on Nov. 1 in protest of how leadership handled the sexual harassment allegations. We studied how Google responded.”

This topic first drew the students’ attention because of its relevance. Not only has the #MeToo Movement been spreading on social media, but the Google walkout was an ongoing process during the Fall 2018 semester when work on the case study first began. 

“We had a couple other topic choices, but we noticed that this one was the most relevant,” Epley said. “The walkout was happening while we were writing the case, so we just kept getting more and more information as we were writing.” 

For many, the truths that the case study uncovers concerning the work environment of Google may come as a shock. However, this is the main factor that makes the study interesting for both the student writers and the readers. 

“It was fascinating learning about the things that were happening behind the scenes at Google,” Murphy said. “Most people think Google has this amazing company culture and is the best place to work, but we found out some very intriguing things in our research. We did a lot of research regarding the sexual harassment allegations against the men on Google's executive team. We pieced together a timeline of everything that happened from the time of the first harassment to present day. We were very thorough in our research and, ultimately, I think that is what helped us place.”

For these three aspiring public relations workers, the opportunity to participate in the Page competition was one that could not be turned down. Through this experience, the true values of this career have become overwhelmingly clear. 

“Instances like the Google Walkout and the #MeToo Movement bring awareness to important issues,” Gagnon said. “Public relations can often be misconstrued as solely media relations. But public relations, at its core, is to build mutually beneficial relationships with many groups including employees, stakeholders, consumers and the media.”

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