Google Has Fired the Writer of the 3,000-Word Viral Memo That's Gripping the Company
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This story was updated on Aug. 8, 2017.
Over the weekend, an internal memo from a male Google engineer titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” went viral as a glaring example of the attitudes that companies such as Google have to contend with over longstanding issues of diversity.
In the 3,000-word, 10-page post, which was obtained by Gizmodo, software engineer James Damore shared a number of his views about diversity at Google.
It included an argument that gender gaps were not due to sexism, but rather due to biological differences between men and women. Here is one passage that's representative of Damore's position: “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.”
Damore was fired on Monday. He told The New York Times that he was considering legal action against the company.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai today wrote a letter to employees to address the fallout from the post.
"To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK," Pichai wrote. "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.’"
Danielle Brown, the company’s recently installed chief of diversity and inclusion, said of the incident that “it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages. … Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.”
The memo arrives as Google’s handling of inclusion and diversity has been highly scrutinized. At the end of the June, the company released its annual diversity report, which revealed that its workforce is 56 percent white and 69 percent male.
In early January, the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Google to get the company to turn over its data about how it pays its employees, accusing Google of discriminatory compensation practices. However, in July, a judge ruled that the company didn’t have to turn over all the information that the Labor Department required, after it cited concerns about the cost of collecting the data.
As Brown noted in her letter to Google staffers, “Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable." The firing of Damore shows that Google is committed to tackling the issue head on, but the attitudes shared in his memo show that however well-meaning Google’s leadership is, it will take a lot more time and effort to fix this problem that has longed plagued workplaces in Silicon Valley and the tech industry at large.