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Fired Google Employee Gets Criticism, Praise Over Views

| by Selena Darlim

James Damore, the Google employee who wrote a 10-page internal company memo lambasting the tech giant's diversity hiring policies, was dismissed from his position on Aug. 7.  The controversy surrounding Damore's letter drew both criticism and praise, while his firing garnered him a job offer.

The memo, which went viral on a company discussion board, chastised Google for operating in a biased "ideological echo chamber" that Damore claims is inhospitable toward people with conservative viewpoints.  He also attributed the company's lack of women to biology, saying the company is comprised of 80 percent men because women were less interested in ideas than people, which is not suited to engineering, WIRED reports.

The memo instantly drew backlash from Google employees and the public at large.  The Guardian reports Google employees tweeted "the internal response to the doc ranges from anger and disgust, to sadness."

A small fraction of Google employees expressed support for Damore over private messaging websites.  According to The Guardian, one employee shared his views over the anonymous but employment-certifiable app Blind:

"Can we go back to the time when Silicon Valley [was] about nerds and geeks, that’s why I applied [to] Google and came to the US. I mean this industry used to be a safe place for people like us."

Diversity activists had their eyes fixed on Google and claimed the company could only remedy the situation by firing Damore. 

"Google can claim they value inclusion but this is a test of whether or not their values actually have any teeth," said Erica Baker, former Google employee and co-founder of diversity-in-tech program Project Include, according to WIRED. "If they choose not to take measure against someone who has gone out of their way to make a large percentage of their coworkers feel excluded, then their inaction will speak much more loudly than their words have."

Others noted that Google's personal versus professional values were being tested, and doubted whether or not they could legally take action against Damore.

Danielle Brown, Google's vice president of diversity and inclusion, condemned Damore's views on gender, but added that "building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions." 

“How do we ride that line that by law you are entitled to your opinions and write whatever you want but the culture we are trying to build does not support these ideas?” Nicole Sanchez, former head of diversity at GitHub, told WIRED.

On Aug. 7, Google CEO Sundar Pinchi said in an email that Damore's views "violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."  Bloomberg reports that he did not confirm in the memo whether or not Damore would be fired. 

That same day, Damore told Reuters in an email that he had been fired for "perpetuating gender stereotypes," a statement he would tell later tell multiple news websites. 

Other right-wing websites voiced their support of Damore's views.

"James Damore: Writes memo respectfully saying Google suppresses conservative views. Google: You're fired for having conservative views," tweeted Right Wing News owner John Hawkins.

Julian Assange, head of WikiLeaks, was so supportive of Damore's opinions that he took to Twitter and offered him a position at his company. 

"Censorship is for losers," Assange wrote. "Women & men deserve respect. That includes not firing them for politely expressing ideas but rather arguing back."

According to The Guardian, Damore said in an email reported by The New York Times that he will "likely be pursuing legal action."

"I have a 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."

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