Google fires author of anti-diversity memo

A Google employee who wrote a controversial memo about workplace diversity has been fired

8 August 2017, 8:18am
Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc based in Mountain View, California
Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc based in Mountain View, California
Internet giant Google has fired the male engineer at the centre of an uproar in Silicon Valley over the past week after he authored an internal memo asserting there are biological causes behind gender inequality in the tech industry.

Entitled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, the paper argued that "the 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”.

The document takes aim at Google’s “diversity and inclusion” initiatives, such as implicit bias training and programmes to promote women and under-represented minorities, and argues that the company is intolerant of conservative political views.

“When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence,” the author wrote. 

James Damore, the engineer who wrote the memo, confirmed his dismissal, saying in an email to Reuters on Monday that he had been fired for "perpetuating gender stereotypes".

"We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism," the author wrote.

Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai said on Monday in an email to employees that the controversial memo broke the firm’s code of conduct.

Pichai added that the text crossed the line due to it "advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”.

“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to [Google’s] work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our code of conduct.”

The 10-page “manifesto” was initially published internally, but was leaked to the press on Saturday after prompting a firestorm within the company.

Damore said he was exploring all possible legal remedies, and that before being fired, he had submitted a charge to the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing Google upper management of trying to shame him into silence.

"It's illegal to retaliate against an NLRB charge," he wrote in the email.

Like most of Silicon Valley’s top tech companies, Google is overwhelmingly male, white and Asian. Women make up just 20% of the technical workforce, and African Americans just 1%, according to Google’s most recent diversity report.

Google is also engaged in a legal battle with the US Department of Labour, which is investigating the company for wage discrimination. A DOL lawyer told the Guardian in April that its analysis of wage data showed “that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry”.

“At this point the department has received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters,” the attorney said.

Google denies the charges.