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Google Fires Author of Divisive Memo On Gender Differences (bloomberg.com) 1415

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: 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 email, saying that he had been fired for "perpetuating gender stereotypes." Earlier on Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a note to employees that said portions of the memo "violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." But he didn't say if the company was taking action against the employee. A Google representative, asked about the dismissal, referred to Pichai's memo. Damore's 10-page memorandum accused Google of silencing conservative political opinions and argued that biological differences play a role in the shortage of women in tech and leadership positions. It circulated widely inside the company and became public over the weekend, causing a furor that amplified the pressure on Google executives to take a more definitive stand. After the controversy swelled, Danielle Brown, Google's new vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, sent a statement to staff condemning Damore's views and reaffirmed the company's stance on diversity. In internal discussion boards, multiple employees said they supported firing the author, and some said they would not choose to work with him, according to postings viewed by Bloomberg News.

Google Fires Author of Divisive Memo On Gender Differences

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:03AM (#54961541)
    Here's what Google said internally, according to TechCrunch [techcrunch.com]:

    This has been a very difficult few days. I wanted to provide an update on the memo that was circulated over this past week.

    First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. 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.”

    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 states, being “agreeable” rather than “assertive,” showing a “lower stress tolerance,” or being “neurotic.”

    At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). They too feel under threat, and that is also not OK. People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, 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. 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.

    The past few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree — while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct. I’d encourage each of you to make an effort over the coming days to reach out to those who might have different perspectives from your own. I will be doing the same.

    I have been on work related travel in Africa and Europe the past couple of weeks and had just started my family vacation here this week. I have decided to return tomorrow as clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group — including how we create a more inclusive environment for all.

    So please join me, along with members of the leadership team at a town hall on Thursday. Check your calendar soon for details.
    • by jarkus4 ( 1627895 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:18AM (#54961621)

      I have been on work related travel in Africa and Europe the past couple of weeks and had just started my family vacation here this week. I have decided to return tomorrow as clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group — including how we create a more inclusive environment for all.

      And now we know why he was fired: due to his rant the CEO had to cut short his holidays. This is definitely a firing offense.

    • by grungeman ( 590547 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:19AM (#54961625)
      "At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint)."

      And to prove that their fears are well founded, Google will simply fire one of them. Got a minority conservative viewpoint? Don't you dare to express your view or suffer the consequences.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As long as your minority point of view is not racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory... by all means express away!

        Come on, paradox of intolerance is not _that_ complicated to understand, is it?
        http://bfy.tw/DFwQ

        • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:52AM (#54961807)

          As long as your minority point of view is not racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory... by all means express away!

          Come on, paradox of intolerance is not _that_ complicated to understand, is it?

          The man is a biologist are you honestly asserting there are no biological differences between men and women ? That there are no mental differences ?

          If that's the case what's with all the genders lately and transgenderism. Rather irreconcilable propositions there.

        • by x0ra ( 1249540 )
          did you bother to read his pamphlet, or did you just follow the tech MSM leftist point of view ?
      • by poity ( 465672 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @02:06AM (#54961869)

        The guy didn't even identify himself as a conservative. He only mentions them to make a point about the echo chamber. He identified himself as a liberal, and explicitly said he was PRO-diversity. His criticism was the WAY in which diversity is pursued at Google. Read the essay, he said it is right to encourage women into STEM, and to dismantle barriers, but he says that a 50/50 expectation is unrealistic based on the research he cites (which Gizmodo left out).

      • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @02:25AM (#54961989)
        I am not conservative , right winged. I am left winged (a look at my post history for the last 10 years should show that) and for TRUE equality of opportunity, something we did not have until recently with women and skin color minorities being suppressed consciously or unconsciously by the work environment, HR, and the various team leaders. But i am for a good discourse because women and men are different on how they handle situation, how they view social activities, and how they will have bias. This naturally impact on how they will for example chose a job, and while part of it is socially learned, part of it is inherent to sex (I avoid gender due to the pitfall of TG). And that is where I break peace with many of my friends on the left side. I am against equality of outcome. Because you then inherently 1) spit of all sex science and spit on the difference between women and men 2) add inefficiencies by having less good candidate over take better candidate to match an outcome "more women , more minorities". Naturally the converse is that since society move slowly, minorities and women would have been screwed for longer had we not have the equality of outcome. That may be true too. But that still does not make it right or better than equality of opportunity. But where it goes to the "wrong terribly wrong" deep end, is when you get fired for having this opinion like this seem to be in this case. Granted I did not read the full memo, but what I overflew seem to be quite clear : google bent over and fired him to avoid looking "sexist". And thus died any discourse right or left at google.
    • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:22AM (#54961639)

      > The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender.

      This is particularly disturbing. EVERYONE is judged based on everything, down to subconscious eye movement.
      Words do not equate to violence and being offended is not something to avoid at the cost of others.
      What shockingly ignorant, backward thinking set of concepts.

      Thanks for trying to regress the culture. No less, from a company founded on the monetizing the populist search for knowledge.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Words do not equate to violence [...]

        Telling 1/3 of your colleagues that they are not as biologically suited to working at your workplace as you are isn't violent, but it is hostile. I don't know what the law is in the United States, but hostile work environments are serious shit in all sensible jurisdictions.

        It's also contrary to the evidence, irrational, and stupid, any of which could by itself be a firing offense at Google.

        TL;DR Precious little broflake's feelings are hurt, film at 11.

        • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @04:26AM (#54962635)

          > Telling 1/3 of your colleagues that they are not as biologically suited to working at your workplace as you are isn't violent, but it is hostile.

          That's not what was said. It was proposed that biological factors (which give rise to psychological and social factors) would contribute or even explain a gender ratio imbalance. Please look into Finland, where the equality of opportunity has been achieved in a surprisingly progressive manner. The gender ratios in labor have grown farther apart, rather than lessened, in many industries that the opportunities were meant to correct.

          > It's also contrary to the evidence

          Please cite this evidence so I can tease out the nature of the hypothesis. I cannot fathom what you think you read. This fragment...which you go on to call irrational and stupid, is amusingly redundant. If the evidence existed, wouldn't it be rational to act on it? Even if the appropriate action was simply to articulate a descriptive narrative in a memo as possible causal factor to some perceived cultural problem?

          Color me interested. Open dialog about sensitive topics is a tool that I'm grateful we have here, unlike those within Google.

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:23AM (#54961651) Journal

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

      Did he actually suggest that women are less biologically suited to be programmers? My reading was he was trying to explain why women don't want to become programmers, not that they are less good at it when they choose to do so. I didn't read anywhere in the thing where it said women are worse programmers.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:43AM (#54961759)

        More importantly, POPULATION AVERAGES ARE NOT THE SAME AS AN INDIVIDUAL!!! For example, it's clear that ON AVERAGE more men appear to commit violent crimes. Does this mean that ALL men are more violent than all women? NO! You can have a super peaceful man who wouldn't hurt a fly and a woman who is a murderer. Google mischaracterized the memo very badly. The author did NOT suggest that this applies to ALL women. It's a very stupid way to miss the point and I will certainly avoid buying anything from Google while they are so fascist in their approach to RESPECTFUL DIFFERENCES OF OPINION. The guy was VERY NUANCED in what he said. Google's just being pathetic here.

    • by E-Rock ( 84950 )

      Hm, he's concerned that "co-workers ... are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace ", but they track down and fire the guy who was expressing his views.

  • That's harsh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nikhilhs ( 1292298 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:06AM (#54961551)

    That seems harsh. Does this prove the part of his post about being scared to disagree?

  • Freedom of speech (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:06AM (#54961553) Journal
    They should have explained where he was wrong instead of firing him.

    "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. Only an emergency can justify repression. Such must be the rule if authority is to be reconciled with freedom." --Justice Edward Terry Sanford

    I'll bet anything the guy got a solid severance package though.

    • by sethstorm ( 512897 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:10AM (#54961575) Homepage

      To those supporting Google's termination, any deviation from the approved narrative is an emergency.

  • by sethstorm ( 512897 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:08AM (#54961567) Homepage

    After the controversy swelled, Danielle Brown, Google's new vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, sent a statement to staff condemning Damore's views and reaffirmed the company's stance on diversity. In internal discussion boards, multiple employees said they supported firing the author, and some said they would not choose to work with him, according to postings viewed by Bloomberg News.

    Looks like Google decided to help Damore make his case [documentcloud.org] by reinforcing their bias against differing opinion. Science also supports [quillette.com] (mirror [archive.is]) his conclusions.

    • by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @02:58AM (#54962209)

      Thanks for the cites - this part from quillette stands out:

      "Here, I just want to take a step back from the memo controversy, to highlight a paradox at the heart of the ‘equality and diversity’ dogma that dominates American corporate life. The memo didn’t address this paradox directly, but I think it’s implicit in the author’s critique of Google’s diversity programs. This dogma relies on two core assumptions:

      * The human sexes and races have exactly the same minds, with precisely identical distributions of traits, aptitudes, interests, and motivations; therefore, any inequalities of outcome in hiring and promotion must be due to systemic sexism and racism;

      * The human sexes and races have such radically different minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and insights, that companies must increase their demographic diversity in order to be competitive; any lack of demographic diversity must be due to short-sighted management that favors groupthink."

      Never heard that paradox laid out so bare before.

  • by Templer421 ( 4988421 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:10AM (#54961573)

    Obey the party line or be fired and banned from the industry.

  • by bankman ( 136859 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:13AM (#54961593) Homepage

    I don't agree with the pamphlet but I take it diversity is fine as long as you follow the arbitrary rules (aka code of coduct) that are set and don't argue anything that might actually lead to a real discussion.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:20AM (#54961633) Journal

    They just proved Damore's point about conformity at the company. What good is gender diversity if everybody is forced into goodthink?

  • by oic0 ( 1864384 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:22AM (#54961645)
    If he takes them to court and can prove that his statements are scientifically backed at the statistical scale, they they aren't stereotypes and it would be wrongful termination right? I would LOVE to see that happen. So tired of the like that says everyone is genetically the same. It's literally shouting at proof to try and scare it into falsehood.
    • It will never get to court. Google's lawyers will tell them to give the guy Youtube as a settlement rather than have to face discovery.

      Of course, Wikileaks has been hinting that they may have some "discovery" of their own coming soon...

    • If he takes them to court and can prove that his statements are scientifically backed at the statistical scale, they they aren't stereotypes and it would be wrongful termination right?

      California is an at-will state, which means he can be fired for almost any reason. Speech being factual will not protect you here (unlike slander cases).

      Unfortunately for Google, it seems that criticizing company policy is explicitly protected by the law [lexology.com], so you can't fire someone for criticizing company policy. Google claims they fired him for creating a hostile environment, not for his criticism of company policy.

      A lawsuit might revolve around whether his criticism of women is separate from his critic

  • by Craig Cruden ( 3592465 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:29AM (#54961679)
    Killing the messenger of a politically correct and quite honestly really moronic memo was not the right move.

    He did not make the memo public -- so even if he wrote it -- it was not him that "damaged" Google... Google obviously has it's own issues and feels that firing the employee rather than dealing with issues directly would be the best PR move... He should not be fired over his memo -- I would however not put him up for promotion since he would have a high bar to prove that he would be able to work with all others without bias. If he was able to do his current job, and do it well (meritocracy)... they should have just used the memo as a discussion point and say although they thoroughly disavowed the comments in regards to gender equality.

    Then just assign him to always work for a woman... who was proven to be better than him :p
  • by BlueCoder ( 223005 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:46AM (#54961771)

    They ask for open internal discussion and when they get it they fire people. He expressed his views after being invited to do so privately within the company. TLDR: men and women are different. And that Google company should not be extreme right or left on any issue.

    The correct thing to do would have been to rationally disagree. All he did was express his thoughts.There was no proof he took any action of discrimination. He was in fact pointing out discrimination he sees his company doing and they turn around and prove him right.

    Google is all about image. The communists in China should hire Google to run their country for them. I have a feeling they fired him and gave him a big paycheck to leave quietly; not to sue them or talk publicly.

  • by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @02:18AM (#54961933)

    I mean, firing people over an _opinion_, formulated without aggression and without attacking anyone - that's harsh. I'd be scared shitless in such an environment that I might accidentally say something that bothers the SJWs and be fired for my troubles. And it's a great demo how, once again, "diversity" means "you'll agree with me or I'll silence you."

    An employer who acts like this is not worth working for.

    • by Yosho ( 135835 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @08:16AM (#54963553)

      "diversity" means "you'll agree with me or I'll silence you."

      You misunderstand; "diversity" means diversity of skin color & gender, not of opinion. Everybody has to have the same opinion in order for everybody to be happy.

  • by iliketrash ( 624051 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @04:40AM (#54962693)

    Someone at Gizmodo should be shot or sued for editing the memo, "Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber," by removing the references—"hyperlinks," as they call them. The hyperlinks are to many scholarly journal pieces and otherwise respectable publications. Without the references to back up the author's claims, he just looks like a boob to most folks.

    Here is a link to a PDF that contains all the hyperlinks to references and also two missing figures left out from the Gizmodo version.

    https://assets.documentcloud.o... [documentcloud.org]

  • It's not only SJWs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lucasnate1 ( 4682951 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @06:32AM (#54963035)

    Where I live it is sometimes the opposite of this. During our last military confronation, people were fired for writing facebook statuses against the war. There are companies whose policy is not to hire people who skipped conscription, and in general "leftist" is mostly equated with tratior. Sure, there are few companies that are more left leaning and act the opposite, but to me it feels the same. Everybody knows that without a workplace you will starve, thus they decide to threaten you with hunger in order to make you comply.

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