Contentious Memo Strikes Nerve Inside Google and Out

Labor News

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said a memo written by an engineer had promoted “harmful gender stereotypes.” Credit Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Reprinted from The New York Times by Daisuke Wakayashi on August 8, 2017.

After leaving Harvard’s doctorate program in systems biology to join Google as a software engineer in 2013, James Damore joked on his Facebook page that he knew he had made the right move as he enjoyed a morning smoothie with oats. It was the type of workplace perk that is standard for Google employees.

That initial assessment of Google seemed far removed from the contentious memo written by the 28-year-old Damore last week that has enraged advocates of greater diversity in the technology industry. The memo has also served as a rallying cry for conservatives and the alt-right who view Google — and Silicon Valley — as a bastion of groupthink where people with different opinions are shamed into silence.

His 10-page memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” argued that “personality differences” between men and women — like a woman having a lower tolerance for stress — help explain why there were fewer women in engineering and leadership roles at the company. He said efforts by the company to reach equal representation of women in technology and leadership were “unfair, divisive, and bad for business.”

The memo was originally posted on an internal mailing list and was shared widely inside the company and throughout Silicon Valley. It struck a nerve and was harshly criticized inside a company and an entire industry struggling to explain why women are underrepresented in key engineering ranks and are often underpaid when compared with their male peers.

Google fired Damore on Monday and said that he had violated the company’s rules by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes.” …

NY Times 8/8

 

By Firing Engineer, Google Shows What You Can Say — and What You Can’t — at Work

Reprinted from The Los Angeles Times by Tracey Lien on August 8, 2017.

In a country known for its reverence of free speech, in a state strict with labor codes, in an industry steeped in libertarian and progressive ideals, if an employee has something to say, he should just be able to say it, right?

Not quite, as one Google employee learned the hard way when he was fired Monday after writing and internally circulating a memo in which he criticized the company’s diversity efforts as unfair and discriminatory.

When the memo became public, women and under-represented groups in tech decried it and Google denounced it. But by Monday night, after Google fired the engineer, claiming he’d violated the company’s code of conduct, the conversation shifted. Some in tech were incredulous that someone could lose his job for expressing dissent. People took to Twitter: Whither free speech? …

LA Times 8/8

About Jeffrey Burman 1734 Articles
Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at jeffrey.s.burman.57@gmail.com.

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