Unlike most of us, people at Google had a less-than-relaxing weekend because of a document authored and shared widely within the company by a male employee. It was a 10-page manifesto proclaiming the need to dismantle diversity programs within the organization.
The screed, titled ‘Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber’, describes some misguided notions about psychological differences between men and women, and cites those as the reasons for the underrepresentation of women in engineering and leadership roles in the tech industry. It also talks about how those with conservative views are silenced in progressive work environments, and that their voices should be heard more.
Following the original report from Motherboard, Gizmodo obtained the full text of the manifesto; Google’s new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance Danielle Brown has since responded to the document, in a memo to employees.
It’d be naive of me say I can’t believe this happened in 2017 at Mountain View, but I can’t hide feeling unnerved at the thought of someone harboring these opinions at a company that claims to be as forward-thinking as Google. While the organization works towards developing an inclusive and pro-diversity culture as it says it is, it seems like there are some people who can’t be easily reached on that plane of thought.
Yonatan Zunger, a veteran Googler who’s recently left the company, took to Medium to explain the many ways in which the manifesto is problematic; the whole post is worth a read, but I’d like to draw your attention to this portion, addressed to the author of the screed in question:
What you just did was incredibly stupid and harmful. You just put out a manifesto inside the company arguing that some large fraction of your colleagues are at root not good enough to do their jobs, and that they’re only being kept in their jobs because of some political ideas. And worse than simply thinking these things or saying them in private, you’ve said them in a way that’s tried to legitimize this kind of thing across the company, causing other people to get up and say “wait, is that right?”
The fact that someone at a progressive company like Google thought it appropriate to pen and distribute 10 pages of discriminatory ideology indicates that the organization has work to do yet in building its culture. More importantly, it highlights the need for even more programs to promote and normalize diversity in the workplace, no matter whether the notions against it come from misinformation, insecurity or fear.
Update (8 August, 2017): Bloomberg reports that James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the manifesto, has been dismissed from the company for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”
In a note to employees, CEO Sundar Pichai said that portions of the memo violated Google’s code of conduct and “crossed the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”