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- Google has fired James Damore, an ex-Google engineer who authored a 10-page memo criticizing Google’s alleged intolerance of dissenting opinions and diversity efforts.
- Damore wrote that “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence,” and that biological factors “may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership.” Damore included recommendations for fixing “discriminatory practices” within the company’s culture.
- Gizmodo published the 10-page memo, which is titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber: How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion” and which is being referred to as the “Google Manifesto,” in full.
- Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded to the memo in a company-wide email titled “Our words matter.” An excerpt from Pichai’s email states, as reported by Recode:
“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.’”
- Damore confirmed his termination in an email to Bloomberg. He wrote that he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”
- Damore told the New York Times that he would likely pursue legal action, stating:
“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 opens the piece by stating:
“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem. Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber.”
- Damores argues that Google’s political ideology has created a monoculture where minority opinions are silenced. In the section TLDR, he asserts:
- “This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.”
- “The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.”
- “Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression.”
- “Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression.”
- He goes on to say that this has prevented dissenting opinions on Google’s diversity outreach programs. Specifically, he claims that biological factors may explain why more men are in tech than women.
- On the differences between men and women, he wrote:
“Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business…
Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from women in the following ways or that these differences are ‘just.’ I’m simply stating that 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. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.”
- He included the following graph:
From the google memo itself: pic.twitter.com/6lsssetdV0
— Bucko (@fatherlyconcern) August 8, 2017
- Damore then criticized what he calls “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).”
- Google’s total workforce consists of 69% males and 31% females. In tech, 20% of Google’s employees are women.
- CNET has reported that, on average, the percentage of women working in the tech industry is just under 30%, according to diversity reports published by 11 of the world’s largest tech companies. The study included data from Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft, and Intel.
- In January 2017, the Department of Labor announced that it was requiring Google to submit its compensation data and documents to ensure that the company had not discriminated in employment or payment based on “race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.” Google works as a federal contractor, and as such is required to “permit the federal government to inspect and copy records and information relevant to its compliance with the equal employment laws administered by OFCCP.”
Supporters of Firing Damore
- Danielle Brown, Google’s Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, responded to the memo with a company-wide email. Motherboard obtained and published the email, part of which read:
“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.”
- April Glaser, Slate’s technology editor, wrote an article titled “Google Was Right to Fire the Memo Writer.” She begins by saying “Firing an employee who made it clear he felt many of his co-workers were inferior was the right move, and it says something about what Google wants to be as a company.”
- She argues that Damore’s memo is a representation of a misogynist culture at Google.
“The memo also is, unfortunately, illustrative of an organization that allows someone with such hard-line prejudices to work there for nearly four years, perhaps even expressing these views in ways that do, in fact, harm the ambitions of women and people of color at the company. That could have happened simply through disrespecting colleagues, participating in hiring decisions, or ignoring Google’s mandatory trainings on ‘unconscious bias’ in the workplace. Damore may point to ‘biological causes’ that prevent women from being successful engineers; in all likelihood, however, he or someone with similar views may have been the variable preventing those women from advancing.”
- The Mary Sue, a self-described “inclusive, feminist community” and the “heartbeat of geek culture,” supported Google’s decision to fire Damore.
“Many people—especially those who decry ‘left-leaning’ values as Damore did—will take this action as a call to arms, as evidence that people and ‘ideologically-minded’ companies can’t handle criticism and refuse to have honest debates. Had Damore made his screed a document for debate rather than an outright assertion that biological differences divided the genders into different ability camps, this might have gone another way. ‘Here’s what I’ve read and consider may be the case’ is a far cry from ‘we know these things to be true.’ Our words matter. Here’s the thing: don’t cry for James Damore. He’ll be just fine. In fact, if I were to hazard a guess, he’s probably fielding handfuls of job offers and other opportunities as we speak. Unfortunately, in Silicon Valley and much of the world, a large swath of the population agree with his hot take. And there’s plenty of places that will offer him a role just to prove how ‘open-minded’ they are.”
Critics of firing Damore
- Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief at the Daily Wire, wrote an article criticizing Google titled “CORPORATE FASCISTS: Google Fires Employee Who Wrote 10-Page Memo Critiquing Company’s Leftist Monopoly.” In the article he defends Danmore’s arguments, stating:
“At no point did the memo author claim that women working at Google were somehow less than men; he suggested that disparity in hiring and pay could be due not to discrimination, but to differences, on average, between men and women. That was not a castigation of any individual women.”
- Shapiro later criticized Google’s corporate culture:
“Google is a private corporation; they have every right to do what they want. But if dissenting from the company political line at a supposedly non-political company is enough to get James Damore and Brendan Eich of Mozilla fired, polarization of our corporate culture is only going to get worse. And that polarization will one day lead to completely parallel worlds for Left and Right that will exacerbate differences to the point of open conflict, as it has on college campuses.”
- Eric Weinstein, a mathematician and Managing director of Peter Thiel’s investment firm, tweeted:
Stop teaching my girl that her path to financial freedom lies not in coding but in complaining to HR.
Thx in advance,
— Eric Weinstein (@EricRWeinstein) August 8, 2017
Thx Cat. There’s a war against my brother & other biologists where social justice is threatening their families if they don’t tow a PC line. https://t.co/NiBE0rmCSy
— Eric Weinstein (@EricRWeinstein) August 8, 2017
You can’t be a biologist & profess to believe in Zero variation between populations. I don’t know who variations may favor, but they exist.
— Eric Weinstein (@EricRWeinstein) August 8, 2017
- Russ Belville wrote an article for the Huffington Post defending Damore’s right to bring up the question of the role of biology in work preferences.
“Damore never argued that women as individuals ‘are not biologically fit;’ rather that our biological differences may lead us toward different work endeavors in an aggregate sense. Damore was asserting that not all disproportionality between men and women can be explained away by bias, stereotyping, discrimination, prejudice, and the patriarchal society. Some of his assertions are broad-brush and questionable, but it is not an unscientific or immoral question to ask.”
William Spruance contributed to this report.