Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been forced to curtail his the vacation because of the ensuing flap over the firing of a senior engineer who had posted a controversial memo about the tech giant’s diversity initiatives. Pichai released his own memo on Monday about the developing controversy. While Pichai wrote that he supports free expression, he contends that the memo by engineer James Damore had gone too far.
Damore’s memo, which some are calling a “manifesto,” stated that “biological causes” are at the reason why women are not represented equally in Google’s tech departments and among its leaders. He wrote that men have a "higher drive for status." Moreover, he wrote that Google is an "ideological echo chamber" that targets dissent from "Google's left bias" and "politically correct monoculture." Damore also denounced the company for its offers of mentoring and other opportunities to its employees on the basis of sex or race.
“Google’s left bias has created a politically correct mono-culture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence,” wrote Damore. He complained, “The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes, and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”
Google promotes 'tribalism'
"I hope it's clear that I'm not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn't try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don't fit a certain ideology. I'm also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I'm advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).”
In his memo, which is subtitled “How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion”, Damore claims he wants to actually increase the number of women in the tech field, but without resorting to discrimination. He complained that “discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons and school dropouts.” He suggested that Google should make tech and leadership less stressful because “women are on average more prone to anxiety”.
"Women, on average, have more: Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing)."
"These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs (software engineers), comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics."
CEO Pichai’s memo said:
"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.' "
Pichai said portions of Damore's memo violate "our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."
“People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo – such as the portions criticising Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace and debating whether programmes for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all – are important topics.”
Pichai has scheduled an all-staff meeting to discuss the situation.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Legal action expected
According to The New York Times, Damore said: "I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does." Damore said he would “likely be pursuing legal action.”
Writing at CNBC, employment lawyer Dan Eaton wrote: “Federal labor law bars even non-union employers like Google from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions … California law prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”
Eaton added, “It is unlawful for an employer to discipline an employee for challenging conduct that the employee reasonably believed to be discriminatory, even when a court later determines the conduct was not actually prohibited by the discrimination laws.”
There was some support in social media for Google’s decision to fire Damore, who is a graduate of Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Illinois. For example, Kelly Ellis -- a former Google employee -- told NPR that Damore’s firing was justified. She claimed that she left Google because she was sexually harassed. According to Ellis, the company promotes employees and determines salary levels on the basis of peer evaluations. It is thus, she said, that Damore’s attitudes could harm women at the company. There were reports that some female Google employees took the day off on Monday because of their outrage.
"Male engineers, for example, would never skip work because they were upset about a memo." - Things James Damore left out of his memo https://t.co/VHJxIAXx5s— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 8, 2017
Damore was fired on Monday after CEO Pichai said that parts of his manifesto “violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes.” Damore told Breitbart that he was fired for “‘‘perpetuating gender stereotypes’.” He had worked for Google since 2013.
Julian Assange, the founder of the Wikileaks transparency organization, said on Tuesday that he wants to hire Damore. Assange said that “censorship is for losers”. He tweeted, “WikiLeaks is offering a job to fired Google engineer James Damore. Women and men deserve respect. That includes not firing them for politely expressing ideas but rather arguing back.”
A job with WikiLeaks?
Assange added: “I value intellectual diversity and workers rights to not be fired for politely expressing the ‘wrong’ opinion.”
Eric Weinstein, who directs Trump supporter Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm, wrote an open letter to Google asking it to “stop teaching my girl that her path to financial freedom lies not in coding but in complaining to HR.”
Danielle Brown -- Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity and governance -- agreed with Google’s stance on Damore, even while she recognised “strong stands elicit strong reactions”.
Brown said that being open is about “fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions.” However, these must be balanced by equal employment and anti-discrimination laws. Since the flap arose, Brown’s Twitter account became private, thus preventing any examination of any tweets that came after Damore’s manifesto went viral.
Google, which owns YouTube, effectively punishes websites that have a libertarian or conservative point of view. For example, Spero News covered an exchange between author Ann Coulter and Ana Kasparian, a leftist who appears on The Young Turks webcasts. While YouTube declared that Spero News' video coverage of the event was not advertiser friendly (despite having more than 22,000 views) and thus removed any monetized advertising. However, ads did appear on The Young Turks' coverage of the same Coulter/Kasparian exchange.
Author and controversialist Ann Coulter issued numerous tweets about Damore and the flap over his firing. In one, she wrote: "'Alt-right': people who insist on scientific accuracy."
"Alt-right": People who insist on scientific accuracy. https://t.co/1kLSGROS0M— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 8, 2017