The talk sessions were organised in response to reports by Studio040. It was attended by hundreds of employees this week, sources within ASML tell Studio040. “ASML has gone down a very wrong path in terms of management culture”, they said.
Misogynistic work culture
It is two weeks since Studio040 published two articles about the misogynistic working atmosphere at ASML. In them, several women revealed how they are disadvantaged in the company on the basis of their gender. The pieces led to much commotion within the company itself.
The Veldhoven-based high-tech company revealed earlier that sessions were being planned. However, they could not say how many. ASML also could not yet say anything about the stories that were shared. The follow-up steps have not been revealed. The large turnout to the talk sessions should not come as a surprise, after the articles had previously received a wide response at Studio040 itself, but also at trade union FNV. In addition, the stories within ASML also met with much understanding.
Several dozen reactions to an internal message from ASML, which Studio040 has seen, mainly show understanding for the stories shared by (former) ASML employees. However, not everyone was happy that the stories were made public. “The speak-up culture that ASML so proudly claims was more evident at Studio040,” says one male employee. “Why, wasn’t it safe enough at ASML itself?”
“Apart from a culture where people can speak out, we also need to ensure a culture where people listen to each other more,” says another employee. There are also criticisms about ASML’s inclusivity scores.
The company says that an internal survey shows an inclusiveness score of 82 per cent and that those figures are something to be proud of. Several employees disagree. “We hire diversity at the bottom of the company, but currently that diversity is not evident higher up, not even in lower management,” says one person.
“I wonder if a company with 18 per cent female employees should be proud of an 82 per cent inclusiveness score. I have asked ASML to publish the scores by gender and minority groups. If they are still this high then, only then will we have something to be proud of.”
Studio040 itself also received a number of responses. Some women, but also men, let it be known that not only women are treated badly at the chip machine manufacturer. For example, one woman told us that she was treated terribly and bullied in her team. She was told that “it’s not a woman’s job”. Her contract was not renewed after the complaints, nor did human resources and the ethics office (where people who feel unsafe at the company can go, ed.) offer any help.
Bullied into resigning
Another, former employee says he also experienced a similar incident, after which he was targeted by his team leader after years of loyal service, and then bullied into resigning at the company. “Then, even internal job applications fail. It seems that everyone knows about your situation, as if you have ended up on a blacklist.”
Finally, Studio040 spoke to an employee who said he was faced racism because of his appearance. “I received racist remarks about my appearance, but nothing was done with my complaints. Colleagues from outside Europe also got derogatory remarks thrown at them. That doesn’t happen with Dutch people. I opened my mouth and now I am being pushed out. I have worked at many tech companies, but I have never been treated with such contempt,” the employee says. The idea that the work culture at ASML is much harsher than at other tech companies is also confirmed by other (former) employees.
One employee who does not dare to have his bad experiences published does think he knows why the work culture seems to be so bad. “ASML has a monopoly position. They can do whatever they like because nobody can touch them. They can treat employees but also to customers as they want with hardly any consequences. Any problem that does arise is resolved by throwing large sums of money at it.”
Finally, it is striking that many of the people Studio040 spoke to, both in the first articles and in this publication, emphatically say they are afraid of the consequences of speaking out, and that they have had serious mental problems as a result of the company’s treatment.
On the table
Because of all the stories, there are doubts at FNV about the extent to which ASML is really going to address the issues, trade union executive Peter Reniers says. “Several women have submitted their stories to us after reading the articles. The fact that EindhovenNews made the Studio040 articles available in English has also ensured that the pieces are read by internationals. The issue has been put on the table, which is often the first step towards cultural improvement.”
“I still have the impression that ASML is trying to limit the damage rather than truly addressing the causes of the problems. Take the ethics office at ASML, for example. You might wonder whether this office is independent enough. At Tesla in Tilburg, for example, the ethics office is separate from the company. This makes for independent judgment. Those working at the ethics office at ASML are paid by ASML, which makes a truly independent judgment more difficult.”
“Moreover, it becomes really problematic because if people don’t feel that they are taken seriously by the company, they also lose trust in such a desk the moment said desk is inside the company. A manager can point towards the complaints desk, but if people don’t take that step, the problem remains.”
According to Reniers, the management culture in particular needs to be addressed at the high-tech giant. “In my opinion, ASML has gone down the wrong road in terms of management culture. Inevitably, there comes a time when it has to face the consequences. But whether ASML is really going to do anything about that culture, I very much wonder.”
“Having said that, I realise that a culture change cannot be achieved in a month,” says Reniers. “That talk sessions are now being organised is a good development, but I wonder if it is enough. What you also have to take into account is that the moment expats lose their jobs at ASML, they can also lose their residence permits. That makes people very vulnerable and easier to intimidate. This should be taken into account.”
ASML did not previously answer specific questions about the unsafe work culture experienced by employees and women feeling undervalued. However, the chip machine builder did reveal that it is shocked by these reports and is “working hard to create a company where everyone feels welcome”.
Translated by: Shanthi Ramani