Regulation

Google Fires Author Of Controversial Diversity Memo

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

Follow on: Google +

The internal memo, which argued Google’s diversity practices were ‘discriminatory’, caused a backlash both within and outside the company

Google has fired James Damore, the software engineer whose memo criticising the company’s diversity programmes drew an angry response both within and outside the company.

Damore confirmed in an email he was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes” and said he was exploring his legal options, according to Reuters.

‘Not OK’

The programmer, who worked at Google for about four years, finishing as a senior software engineer, according to his LinkedIn profile, said he had previously submitted a charge to the US National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) arguing that Google’s management tried to shame him into silence and that it was illegal to “retaliate against an NLRB charge”.

It isn’t clear what legal tactic Damore could use to contest the sacking, since under US law non-unionised staff, which includes most tech employees, can legally be fired for a wide range of reasons.

GoogleIn an internal email late on Monday Google chief executive Sunday Pichai said parts of Damore’s memo violated the company’s code of conduct by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes”.

“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” he wrote.

He acknowledged that the sacking raised free speech issues, saying that “much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it”.

Gender gap

But he said Google’s priority was to “create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination”.

Google didn’t identify Damore and declined to offer further comment on the matter.

Silicon Valley tech companies have recently faced increased criticism over allegedly male-oriented work practices, with accusations of widespread sexism recently leading to senior management reorganisations at Uber Technologies and several venture capital firms.

GoogleGoogle is currently fighting US Department of Labour allegations of that it routinely pays women less than men in comparable jobs.

The percentage of women in management and engineering roles remains low at many companies in spite of public commitments to increase diversity.

Damore’s 3,000-word document, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, alleged the company’s diversity practices ignore the differing capacities of men and women and as such amount to harmful “discrimination” sustained by a “politically correct monoculture”.

“Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50 percent representation of women in tech and leadership,” he wrote.

He argued women have a “stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men” and may prefer “jobs in social or artistic areas” while “more men may like coding”.

As the backlash grew more heated over the weekend the company’s new vice-president of diversity, integrity and governance, Danielle Brown, sent an internal memo saying the document doesn’t represent “a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages”.

What do you know about the history of mobile messaging? Find out with our quiz!