Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai told the DealBook Conference that “it’s been a difficult time.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said a global protest by his employees over how sexual misconduct allegations have been handled reflected emotions that he shared.

“Obviously, it’s been a difficult time. There’s anger and frustration in the company. We all feel it. I feel it. At Google we set a high bar and we didn’t live up to our expectations,” he told the DealBook Conference in New York City during a session that was webcast.

Google workers earlier in the day left their desks in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world to protest how the tech giant handles sexual misconduct allegations, especially at the executive level, which includes an apparent lack of transparency.

Pichai said it was important for Google to acknowledge and apologize for past actions when it came to handling allegations of sexual harassment, but that words weren’t enough. “We need to follow up with actions,” the CEO added.

The employee protest followed a story in The New York Times that reported Andy Rubin, a former Google executive who helped develop the Android platform, received a $90 million exit package in 2014 after an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.

Protesters in an unsigned statement on Thursday urged Google and other companies to end forced arbitration when cases of sexual harassment or discrimination arise.

In his conference appearance, Pichai insisted Google had taken measures to tackle sexual misconduct across the company since Rubin left in 2014. “Let me be clear, these incidents are from a few years ago. We have always as a company, and it’s been important to me … that we draw a hard line on in appropriate behavior,” he said.

The exec pointed to 48 employees being terminated after allegations of sexual misconduct, including 13 senior executives. “But moments like this show we didn’t always get it right,” Pichai added.

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