Google employee fired over ‘gender bias’ memo, as CEO flies back from holiday to sort out the fallout

Social media erupted yesterday, as reports emerged of a Google memo which accused the search giant of a left bias and claimed that the reason women were not in more leadership roles was because of their biological differences with men.

The negative PR saw the memo’s author, James Damore, being swiftly dismissed, and Google’s CEO sending a memo out to staff, and cancelling the end of his family holiday.

Engineer Damore’s 3000 word memo alleged:

“Googles (sic) left bias has created a politically correct monoculture,” the engineer wrote.

“Distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we dont see equal representation of women in tech and leadership,” the engineer added.

Google’s VP of diversity, integrity and governance, Danielle Brown, had already responded with a memo saying the essay “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender” and added:

 “part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions, but that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.” 

Google engineering vice president Aristotle Balogh also wrote an internal post stating that “stereotyping and harmful assumptions” could not be allowed to play any part in the company’s culture.

It is therefore unsurprising to learn the author was subsequently dismissed.

Confirming his dismissal to Reuters, Damore said that he had been sacked for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”, however in his note to staff, Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained that whilst much of the memo was fair to debate, some of the content violated the company’s code of conduct and could make other workers feel uncomfortable.

HR News has acquired a copy of the memo Pichai sent to staff:

“This has been a very difficult time. I wanted to provide an update on the memo that was circulated over this past week.

 

“First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.

 

“The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being “agreeable” rather than “assertive,” showing a “lower stress tolerance,” or being “neurotic.”

 

“At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). They too feel under threat, and that is also not OK. People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo—such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all—are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics—we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions.

 

“The past few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree—while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct. I’d encourage each of you to make an effort over the coming days to reach out to those who might have different perspectives from your own. I will be doing the same.

 

“I have been on work related travel in Africa and Europe the past couple of weeks and had just started my family vacation here this week. I have decided to return tomorrow as clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group—including how we create a more inclusive environment for all.”

Author: Editorial Team

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