Google sacks engineer over memo defending gender bias

A woman attempts to use a laptop
Credit
Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy  Getty Images Contributor

A woman attempts to use a laptop Credit Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy Getty Images Contributor

James Damore, the Google engineer fired after writing a controversial 3,300-word memo on diversity, is questioning why Google pushed him out when it did.

The women's stories bolster the claims of United States labour department officials, who have said that a preliminary analysis found that women face "extreme" pay discrimination across the company and have recently raised concerns that Google's strict confidentiality agreements are discouraging employees from speaking up.

Memegen, an internal forum that uses images overlaid with amusing captions, was filled with irreverent posts that openly mocked how an email discussing the memo from Sundar Pichai, Google's chief executive, had leaked to the media so quickly. Not the one about the firing of Google Memo author James Damore, which has been taking up oxygen in online conversation all week.

My objective here instead is to relate another Google bias-claims-and-employee-privacy story from last month, which would have counted as fairly significant news in its own right had it not soon been eclipsed by the memo episode.

In late June, Google announced the hiring of Danielle Brown as its new head of diversity. Someone with access to an employee-only version of Google Plus made screenshots of messages written by Google employees pledging to create blacklists of colleagues not supportive of the company's diversity measures. Google said he had crossed the line "by advancing harmful gender stereotypes" and many employees were upset about the views outlined in the memo.

While some individuals surmised the memo may have sprung from Damore's resentment toward Google's diversity initiatives, others welcomed it.

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The op-ed comes a day after Google CEO Sundar Pichai was supposed to hash it all out in an all-hands meeting with the company's more than 60,000 employees.

Damore, who has emerged as a hero of conservative media, stands by his memo, saying he considered it a "reasoned, well-researched, good-faith argument". Damore's firing has sparked a furious debate both within and outside Google, with the alt-right reportedly outraged and even calling for a boycott of Google.

Representatives for Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. Fired4Truth, widely believed to be Damore's Twitter account, hit 35,000 followers in a matter of days.

Damore has already filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming his rights were violated. Meanwhile, Google is facing a lawsuit by the Department of Labor that alleges it underpaid female employees. And some are anxious that you can not speak out at work freely.

For those not following along, Damore, a senior engineer at the world's biggest search engine, wrote a memo about a month ago entitled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber". It signifies their belief that liberals stifle free speech by humiliating right-wing voices.

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