Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL) Google has fired the employee that authored a controversial memo that suggested men were better suited for tech jobs than women.
The 10-page memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” went viral within Google last week and was first reported externally by the tech blog Motherboard. In it, the author says that women are underrepresented in tech because of inherent psychological differences between men and women.
Alphabet shares were little changed in after-hours trading at $945.10 after closing at $945.75 each in New York Monday.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai Monday evening wrote to staff saying the memo violated the company’s code of conduct and “cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”
“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai wrote. “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.'”
Google has not publicly named but Bloomberg reported that software engineer James Damore confirmed in an email that he had been let go for “perpetuating gender stereotypes” and was exploring legal action against the company. Internal discussions boards seen by Bloomberg suggest that multiple employees supported the dismissal of the employee and said they would choose not to work with him.
The memo also criticized the company’s diversity programs and questioned whether differing views could be said freely within Google.
“Many points raised in the memo-such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all-are important topics,” Pichai wrote. “The author had a right to express their views on those topics-we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions.”
He added that Google needs to find a way to debate issues on which there is disagreement but within the lines of the code of conduct.
To be sure, the memo has ignited a firestorm of debate on diversity in the workplace.
Such a memo demonstrates “explicit bias and unconscious bias,” said Sharon Jones, CEO of the global consulting firm on diversity and inclusion initiatives, Jones Diversity, in an interview with TheStreet. Jones said the biological claim is an explicit bias because the author is saying women are not fit biologically to be engineers or coders at Google; the author’s unconscious bias stems from his reliance on stereotypes, such as female characteristics, throughout the memo. She also thought that the engineer was rehashing past views on biological differences, something that as a country “we have rejected.”
Danielle Brown, Google’s recently installed vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, issued a statement regarding the memo saying it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender, adding that it is “not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”
“We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul,” Brown said.
Google VP Ari Balogh, whom the engineer reported to, also felt compelled to respond.
“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,” Balogh wrote. “That is stereotyping, and it is harmful.” He said building an open, inclusive environment is core to Google and is the right thing to do.
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