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August 8, 2017

Google fire engineer who wrote controversial diversity memo

Software engineer James Damore has been fired by Google.

By CBR Staff Writer

Tech giant Google has reportedly fired the male software engineer who wrote a controversial memo regarding diversity and the gender imbalance in the tech industry.

Bloomberg confirmed the male engineer as James Damore, reporting that he was sacked from the company after working there for four years.

Damore sparked huge debate and criticism following the release of the 10-page, 3,000 word memo which was published and circulated internally at Google.

First published in its entirety by Motherboard, Damore wrote in the memo that “we need to stop assuming that gender gaps simply imply sexism.”

Entitled “Google’s Ideologically Echo Chamber” by Damore, the memo was split into distinctive areas across the 10 pages. These specific areas included Google’s biases, possible non-bias causes of the gender gap, personality differences and non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap.

Google fire engineer who wrote controversial diversity memo

Male software engineer, James Damore, fired by Google.

Damore’s argument was that current diversity and inclusion practices are in fact discriminatory, with the engineer introducing his comparison of the sexes as a way to “increase women’s representation in tech without resorting to discrimination.”

One such comparison was that women show a greater interest in people, versus things, with women apparently more prone to anxiety. Offering a solution to this heightened anxious state supposedly exhibited by women, Damore suggested:

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“Make tech and leadership less stressful. Google already partly does this with its many stress reduction courses and benefits. Women on average look for more work-life balance​ ​while men have a higher drive for status on average.”

In addition to women being predisposed to neuroticism, Damore also wrote how the agreeable nature of women “leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there’s overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women’s issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support.”

Calling on employees to confront Google’s biases, the ex-Google engineer said:

“I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. ​I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).”

After being leaked during the weekend, the memo fuelled anger and controversy across the world as it spread via social media.

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Some workers at Google agreed with the comments, such as former Google employee Kelly Ellis, who tweeted: “I experienced this at Google, and was frustrated that they did nothing about rhetoric that was harming employees.”

In contrast Danielle Brown, Head of Diversity at Google, was quick to slam the memo, saying: “Google has taken a strong stand on this issue, by releasing its demographic data and creating a company-wide OKR on diversity and inclusion. Strong stands elicit strong reactions. Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable.”

Brown’s statement echoed that of Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, who wrote in a note to employees saying: “Proportions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.

“The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo sates, being “agreeable” rather than “assertive” or being “neurotic”.”

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