James Damore, a computer science engineer, became an overnight celebrity with his internal memo going viral over the social media. The memo that cost him his job at Google and also led him to a job offers in other organizations, without even applying. James’s memo opened up an international debate, where he opines that women are genetically not suitable for tech jobs or take up a leadership position and that the Google culture is discriminatory against people who weren’t women or who weren’t people of color. This 10-page memo came in after he attended a “private diversity summit” at Google.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, went on record to say the memo “Violates the code of conduct of Google and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”. He, along with Google’s leadership team, lost no time, in firing James. Sunder Pichai also went on to quote
“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.”
Google employees are divided on the issue. While some out-rightly question the role of the likes of James Damore in creating a sexist workplace (by being part of the recruiting panel or being the leader responsible for promoting talent), the conservatives are supporting what Damore has written, and a few are protesting his dismissal, on the grounds of free speech [irrespective whether they support the memo or not]
Answering questions on Reddit Damore very unapologetically continue to support his claims and stated that he hasn’t; seen any valid arguments that dispute his claims. Needless to say, he has become a right-wing hero over the internet.
2014, saw all the tech giants including Google, being pressurized to make public, its human capital data. Investors and other stakeholders wanted to know more than the company’s financials and their impact on the external environment, including how they treat their people. The ratio at Google [like any other tech organization] is dismally skewed, biased towards the white male. This phenomenon is across organization levels including the leadership. About 20% of engineers at Google are women although women make up 31% of the total population at Google.
While the argument of right and wrong may continue, companies may want to re-look at their diversity & inclusion strategies, redefine what free speech is, make stronger policies against gender stereotyping. Right now … the question still remains … “Where are the women in Google?” [ and for that matter in technology]