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Software engineer fired by Google over 'sexist' letter threatens to sue tech giant

Google has terminated an employee who wrote a controversial internal memo that asserted that women’s under-representation in technology jobs and leadership positions was a consequence of biological factors and not ostensibly because of gender discrimination.


By   |  Updated On : August 11, 2017 03:27 PM
Software engineer fired by Google over 'sexist' letter threatens to sue tech giant (Video grab)

Software engineer fired by Google over 'sexist' letter threatens to sue tech giant (Video grab)

New Delhi :  

Google has terminated an employee who wrote a controversial internal memo that asserted that women’s under-representation in technology jobs and leadership positions was a consequence of biological factors and not ostensibly because of gender discrimination.

In an email to the New York Times, Google software engineer James Damore wrote that he had been fired because of the manifesto, which he claimed he had written with the aim of nurturing an honest discussion on the company’s diversity policies.

Damore, whom the Times said had worked at Google’s search group, is currently planning to sue his former employer for wrongful termination. Damore described his memo as a way of expressing rightful concerns about the terms and conditions of his employment at Google.

Previously Google CEO Sundar Pichai had said that Damore’s screed violated Google’s code of conduct and talked about harmful stereotypes about gender in the workplace.  “To suggest a group of our colleagues, have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai said in an internal email titled “Our Words Matter” that Recode obtained and published this week.

Damore had said that left-leaning prejudices at Google had shaped a “politically correct monoculture” at the company that muffled honest and open discussions about gender and race.

His memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” indicted the company of resorting to different treatment for women and people of certain races to augment their representation in technology and leadership positions.

As examples, he gave the example of hiring practices that supposedly lowered the bar for “diversity” candidates, unnamed special treatment for them and special programs and mentoring classes for women and members of certain races.

“At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership,” Damore said. However, Damore says it is really the biological differences between men and women that are responsible for the gender gap.

Damore’s 10-page memo also listed several of what he perceived as differences between the genders including personality differences and the seemingly higher drive for status that men have as compared to women. The memo also gave advice on non-discriminatory ways that Google can adopt to reduce the gender gap.

Damore’s manifesto spurred a lot of outrage inside the company, with many employees requesting his termination for his views.  Pichai acknowledged that the memo had affected employees some of whom he said were hurt because they felt they were being judged only on gender.

The Times published another excerpt from Pichai’s email where he asserted “our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they must prove that they are not like the memo states, being ‘agreeable’ rather than ‘assertive,’ showing a ‘lower stress tolerance,’ or being ‘neurotic.’”

Damore’s LinkedIn profile reveals that he has graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a PhD in systems biology from Harvard. He joined Google as an intern in 2013 and was employed as a software engineer at the company since December that year.

Since publishing the memo, Damore has received some support from people including Brietbart News and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who used his Twitter account to offer the fired engineer a job. “Censorship is for losers,” Assange claimed. “@WikiLeaks is offering a job to fired Google engineer James Damore.”

First Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 03:15 PM


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