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Google Fires Engineer Over Gender Manifesto

Sarah Thomas
8/8/2017
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Google has identified and fired the engineer who wrote a controversial ten-page internal memo perpetuating gender stereotypes, claiming women weren't biologically suited for engineering roles and disparaging the company's diversity efforts.

Bloomberg reports that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) CEO Sundar Pichai told employees Monday that the memo violated the company's code of conduct and crossed the line "by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." The engineer, James Damore, confirmed to Bloomberg he had been let go and that he's "currently exploring all possible legal remedies."

Damore's memo, which can be read in full on Gizmodo, said -- among many things -- that women aren't under-represented in tech because of bias or discrimination, but because of inherent psychological differences between the genders. The real alienation that happens at Google, he claims, is against conservative men. He called for Google to stop restricting some of its diversity programs to women and to rethink its own biases.

The post incited outrage across the tech universe, but also encouraged some to speak up in agreement. Damore claims he got private messages from many "fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired."


Join Women in Comms for its upcoming networking breakfast in Denver, Colorado, on September 28, where we'll be tackling the question: "What's the matter with the tech industry?"


Damore's memo forced Google's new vice president of Diversity, Integrity & Goverance Danielle Brown, hired in June from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), to introduce herself sooner than she planned. She spoke out against the memo, saying that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. She also acknowledged, however, that Google has to foster a culture in which those with "alternative views" feel safe sharing their opinions, but she also said that they have to "work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies and anti-discrimination laws" -- leaving room to let Damore go, as they ultimately did.

All of this is coming to light as there is heightened attention and scrutiny around the tech industry's treatment of women, spurred on by revelations of sexism and worse at Uber. Google, in particular, is also under investigation by the US Department of Labor for alleged inequitable pay across genders, which it has claimed to be inaccurate. (See Uber Does Housekeeping Amongst CEO Strategizing, Google Ordered to Turn Over Some Pay Details and Google Shares Gender-Blind Pay Policies.)

Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

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kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/18/2017 | 11:03:01 AM
Re: Reactions?
You can be sure that corporations word their employment agreement to favor themselves. If they want to get rid of someone for pretty much any reason, they'll look at that agreement and say goodbye quickly.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/10/2017 | 4:33:23 PM
Re: Reactions?
I guess if the president can refer to his nearly 40-year-old son as being a kid, then we can do the same for a 28-year-old. But it kind of stretches the definition a bit. I'd say, old enough to know better but not old enough to care.
bosco_pcs
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bosco_pcs,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/10/2017 | 4:29:20 PM
Re: Reactions?
@mendyk

Not sure i agree with you - but we all entitle to our personal opinion - but my point is really many people have made many mistakes here.Quite frankly, the kid is way too young to know what he is talking about.

It is interesting that Goldman Sachs just came out with a press release last night saying it is going to include psychological profiling as part of the hiring process. May not be a bad idea. But i suppose youth is valued in SV - my friend was over the hill in late 40s some years back even though he had finished 3 degrees (PhD EE) in 6 years - so sometimes you live by the sword and die by the sword. 

So as 7 said, there are all sort of discriminations and ineuities out there. That doesn't mean we don't want to fight them but we are focusing on the wrong things. The forest and tree syndrome, I suppose
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/10/2017 | 4:12:10 PM
Re: Reactions?
The top priority for any human resources department is to protect the organization. In that light, the case can be made that Google's HR leadership failed when it didn't understand or point out that "free expression" could clearly be in conflict with a nonhostile work environment. That it subsequently took cover under a "code of conduct" document is not surprising because those documents are created in large part to supply grounds for termination (typically applied selectively).
bosco_pcs
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bosco_pcs,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/10/2017 | 2:57:06 PM
Re: Reactions?
IMHO, many wrongs still won't make one right. There are plenty of ironies here, such in intolerant political correctness.

Allegedly, the kid has complained to HR before publishing his manifesto, so he seems to have certain grievances. Then some fairer sex engineers immediately threatened to quit unless he is fired. Then Google fired him. 

My observation in my final decade of my working for a big company - it retired me a while back, thanks - HR has become a paralegal department and not a human resource department.

Ultimately though, since when have people become so thin skinned? As a USNET veteran, I don't read 4chan or Reddit these days, there are a lot of nasties going on all over the place. Maybe Google & other tech have hired boy and girl geniuses but maybe they should stop listen to Peter Thiel and stay in school for a few more years to learn to be a human being.

In the end, Google's motto is "don't do evil" but it fails miserably. In the human feeling arena, appearing to take one side can be perceived as doing harm to the other side. Everyone got forced into an extreme position. If I were Google, I'd use it as a teaching moment instead and force this kid and his vocal oppositions in a room and let them duke it out. If this kid thinks it is biology and stress hormone, let him have a taste of his own medicine. Then everyone can forever hold their peace
BlueMonday
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BlueMonday,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/9/2017 | 1:25:00 PM
Re: Reactions?
"when you're an employee at will that goes out of your way to say half the population isn't fit to do a certain gender-neutral job..."

 

Can you show me where he sates this in the memo? That was not his point.
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/9/2017 | 10:49:44 AM
Re: Reactions?
First, there is a pretty simple rule....don't discuss protected working classes and characteristics at work.  

Secomd, there is a goal by companies to expand their hiring base.  They want to encourage more people to enter Science and Engineering so they have a broader base to hire from (and thus lower their employment costs).

Third, women are not the only group underrepresented.  When I went to school, we had about 1000 people in the various Engineering disciplines in my graduating years.  5 were women, 1 was African American, and none were Hispanic.  I did not cause that, but it is true.  I also had no professors of those origins in Engineering.  Again, something I did not cause.

What's funny is those that DID graduate were snapped up at higher initial salaries by folks in the Defense Contracting business.  They had quotas to fill.  Quotas look to be a problem, but encouraging and developing a broader workforce seems like a good idea.

The thing that is concerning is the whole way that we have really described the workforce.  Ever been through a layoff at a large company?  The group being let go is profited.  I worked for a company during their first layoff.  The VP of HR came into my office so upset and unable to speak on a Friday...our layoff was going to be on Tuesday.  She looked up at me with red rimmed eyes and I said, "You need a White Male under 40."  That is the only unprotected working class - by law (not by culture).  We got it sorted and we did our layoff without a labor lawsuit.

seven

 

 

 

 

 

 
gasman
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gasman,
User Rank: Lightning
8/8/2017 | 9:09:25 PM
Re: Reactions?
I'm sure I'll get flamed for this, but honestly, I worry that society and media these days has over rotated on all of these types of issues. With this particular issue, when hiring, the most qualified person for the job should be hired. I don't care what race, whether they're male/female, whatever. Hire the best person for the job without setting artificial goals for diversity. Hiring purely to meet some quota instead of hiring the most qualified, is a recipe for failure of a tech business... and will be the undoing of the valley's technical advantage as compared to the rest of the world.
alison diana
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alison diana,
User Rank: Moderator
8/8/2017 | 4:56:25 PM
Blog writer not alone at Google
The Wired story, which shared some screenshots apparently supportive of Damore, show why it's appropriate Google fired him. 

https://www.wired.com/story/internal-messages-james-damore-google-memo/

 
alison diana
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alison diana,
User Rank: Moderator
8/8/2017 | 3:55:20 PM
Re: Reactions?
Normally I'd agree with that, @Mitch, but according to some female software engineers from Google who I saw interviewed on TV this morning, the mood around Google was not good on Monday. Several women tech professionals banged in sick because they didn't want to deal with the memo, including those who agreed with the writer. And I can't imagine how Google, with the very public investment it's making to improve diversity (not simply women, but people of color, Hispanics, etc.) could then keep this guy on when he's become a distraction to the business of doing what Google does AND to the morale of employees, current and potential. 
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