Society

Google Engineer Fired Over Controversial Gender Memo (Photo)

| by Jonathan Constante
GoogleGoogle

A Google engineer has been fired after writing a controversial internal memo which the company says advances "harmful gender stereotypes."

Software engineer James Damore was terminated on Aug. 7 after sending out a 10-page document to his colleagues in which he noted the biological differences between men and women in the workplace, the Daily Mail reported.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement that "portions of the memo violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."

Damore, who was employed with Google since 2013, confirmed to Bloomberg that he had been terminated. His memo was published by Vice's Motherboard site on Aug. 5. The document included charts and graphs explaining the company's alleged biases.

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"At Google, we're regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership," Damore wrote. "Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it's far from the whole story.

"On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways."

Damore insisted that women have a "stronger interest in people rather than things," which he wrote explains "why women prefer jobs in social or artistic areas." He added that women are "more prone to neuroticism."

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"We always ask why we don't see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs," Damore wrote. "These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life."

The engineer then went on to accuse Google of having a "left bias."

"Google's left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence," Damore explained. "This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies."

Damore added: "Conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility," he wrote. "We should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves.

"At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases.

"Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices."

Damore concluded his manifesto by suggesting "non-discriminatory ways" to reduce inequality.

"Women on average are more prone to anxiety," Damore wrote. "Make tech and leadership less stressful. Google already partly does this with its many stress reduction courses and benefits."

According to Motherboard, Damore used blog posts, Wikipedia entries, discussion boards and academic research to support his arguments. He included news articles from The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and The Atlantic.

Google's new head of diversity, Danielle Brown, denounced the memo in her own note to employees. She said the document "advanced incorrect assumptions about gender" and was not consistent with the viewpoint that she or Google "endorses, promotes or encourages."

"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," Brown added. "But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws."

Ari Balogh, Google's vice president of engineering, also issued a statement on Aug. 7, saying the company "cannot allow stereotyping."

"Questioning our assumptions and sharing different perspectives is an important part of our culture, and we want to continue fostering an environment where it's safe to engage in challenging conversations in a thoughtful way," Balogh said. "But, in the process of doing that, we cannot allow stereotyping and harmful assumptions to play any part. One of the aspects of the post that troubled me deeply was the bias inherent in suggesting that most women, or men, feel or act a certain way. That is stereotyping, and it is harmful.

"Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do."  

Sources: Daily Mail, Bloomberg, Motherboard / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Facebook via Daily Mail, Antonio Manfredonio/Flickr

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