In Focus: Employee Memo Questioning Google Diversity Efforts Sparks Furor

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek August 7, 2017

Updated 12:15 p.m. Aug. 10

Google has fired the software engineer who wrote a 10-page document that reveals resentment toward efforts that the tech giant and other tech companies have taken to increase the number of its female engineering employees, including at the senior level.

In the manifesto titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," the engineer writes that "to achieve a more equal gender and race representation, Google has created several discriminatory practices." He argues that it's because of differences in women's preferences and abilities—not sexism—that women don't hold more tech and leadership positions. 

Silicon Valley companies have taken steps to diversify their workforces and to include more female, black and Hispanic employees—and to create a more welcoming culture. In an industry where hiring numbers have been a closely guarded secret, in 2014 Google became the first of the large tech companies to publish its diversity figures. Many tech companies have since followed suit.

Google Fires Author of Divisive Memo on Gender Differences

Alphabet Inc.'s Google has fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the web company's diversity policies, creating a firestorm across Silicon Valley. 
James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the note, confirmed his dismissal in an e-mail, saying that he had been fired for "perpetuating gender stereotypes." He said he's "currently exploring all possible legal remedies."
The imbroglio at Google is the latest in a long string of incidents concerning gender bias and diversity in the tech enclave. 

Viewpoint: James Damore, the Google Employee Fired for His Anti-Diversity 'Manifesto' Is (Almost Certainly) Not a Victim of a Free Speech Violation

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents the government from restricting your speech. It doesn't restrict your employer from controlling your speech when you are at work. As the government is not involved in this case, Damore is already on shaky ground if he files a lawsuit arguing a free speech case, according to a Business Insider opinion piece.

Damore's legal problem, the writer says, is that he does not have a constitutional right to a job at Google. If he is an "at-will" employee — i.e. an ordinary employee not governed by a special contract, like a film star might have — then Google has every right to demand that he leave.
(Business Insider)  

Google Flap: How to Have an Opinion and Still Keep Your Job  

The firing of a Google engineer who sent a controversial anti-diversity memo begs the question what exactly can you say at work? The answer? Only what your individual employer allows. 

James Damore was fired in the wake of writing an essay that asserted that it wasn't sexism keeping women from making up half of the company’s tech and leadership positions, but women's preferences and biological differences from men. On Tuesday, Damore appears to have filed an official complaint against Google with the National Labor Relations Board alleging "coercive statements" though the substance of the charge is not publicly available. 
(USA Today)  

Google Manifesto Hits a Nerve in Silicon Valley 

As tech companies work to increase the diversity of their ranks, a 10-page document allegedly written by a Google engineer — purporting to explain why more women aren't engineers — is adding fresh fuel to the fiery debate around gender bias in Silicon Valley.

"I am just kind of tired of it," said Cate Huston, a former Google engineer. "These things keep happening and the details change but the substantive portion of it is that women shouldn't be engineers are we aren't welcome."
(NBC News

Diversity Debate Divides Silicon Valley

Differences in women's preferences and abilities—not sexism—is the reason that women don't make up 50 percent of the company's tech and leadership positions, according to a male engineer's post, "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber." And he does not think employees can speak freely about these things at Google. The document had gone viral by early Sunday, igniting a furor.
(USA Today)

Google on Anti-Diversity Manifesto: Employees Must 'Feel Safe Sharing Their Opinions'  

Danielle Brown, Google's new vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, responded to the essay, telling employees in a memo that their co-worker's message "advanced incorrect assumptions about gender." She did not include a link to the employee's document, she told them, "as it's not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages" and stressed that diversity and inclusion "are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate."

[SHRM members-only Member2Member Solutions: Your Culture Shapes What Your Business Becomes

So, About This Googler's Manifesto.

The conclusions of an employee's anti-diversity manifesto are backwards, a former Google engineer responded in his own blog post. 

"Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers," says Yonatan Zunger. While at Google he served as chief architect for social and distinguished engineer on privacy. "It's true that women are socialized to be better at paying attention to people's emotional needs and so on — this is something that makes them better engineers, not worse ones. It's a skillset that I did not start out with, and have had to learn through years upon years of grueling work." 
(Medium blog post)  

Women at Tech Companies Still Struggle to Reach C-Suite

Female executives in male-founded tech companies are more likely to head HR than to hold other leadership positions, and that's if they're among the relative few who make it to the C-suite, a new study reveals.

U.S. tech startups have made little headway in getting women on boards of directors and in executive suites in recent years. This despite growing industry attention on women's underrepresentation in those arenas, according to Silicon Valley Bank's (SVB's) 2017 Women in Technology Leadership report.
(SHRM Online)  

Google Struggles To Increase Workforce Diversity

Google hasn't made much progress on diversity. June 29, it released its annual diversity report, and it showed little improvement over last year. The tech giant still overwhelmingly employs white men. About 69 percent of its total workforce is male, and 56 percent of all employees are white. 

In Focus: Google Resists Government's Demand for Wage Data

In May, facing accusations that it has unlawfully underpaid women, Google officials testified that retrieving wage data that the Department of Labor (DOL) thinks will help show discrimination would take up to 500 hours of work and cost $100,000. The DOL said it uncovered pay disparities in a 2015 snapshot of salaries but said investigators needed an earlier snapshot to better understand the wage gap, The Guardian reported.

Google provided the DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs with "hundreds of thousands of records" in 2016 but was sued Dec. 29, 2016, for not handing over documents that would reveal private employee contact information, according to the company.
(SHRM Online)  

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