Google fires software engineer who wrote controversial memo on gender differences

James Damore (Facebook).

Late Monday night, Googled fired the software engineer behind the controversial memo that had gone viral and triggered heated debate on gender dynamics inside (and outside) the company. James Damore confirmed to Bloomberg, which first reported the news of his dismissal, that he’d been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” That’s roughly the same reasoning Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, who left his vacation early to deal with the uproar, provided in a company-wide email to employees announcing the dismissal. He said the engineer had gone too far by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” Pichai added, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

In the memo, a 10-page document titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” Damore had questioned a number of diversity initiatives being deployed inside Google, which has been fighting a federal investigation into accusations of extreme gender pay disparities, to achieve greater gender parity among its ranks. Damore argued that the disparity in the number of male and female engineers and those in leadership positions inside the search giant, and across the tech industry at large, was attributable to “biological” differences between the genders, and that Google’s attempts to correct the disparity amount to discrimination.

“Women on average look for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average,” Damore wrote in the memo. More broadly, he also criticized the corporate culture inside Google, which in his view silences those with conservative viewpoints. Not surprisingly, the memo ignited controversy inside the company as it went viral internally. One woman, who said she’s been working at Google for five years, wrote on Twitter that she’d consider leaving the company if the H.R. department did nothing in response. Many inside Google called for Damore’s firing, according to CNN, but he also had a constituency of supporters who defended his right to express an opinion, unpopular though it may be.

The memo began making waves outside the company after the tech website Gizmodo published the complete document, which can be read in its entirety here. Reaction from outside of Google has been just as divided as inside the company, with some praising Damore’s firing as a necessary step to combat the company’s sexist culture, and others comparing his dismissal to Stalinist tactics.

Meanwhile, Damore has vowed to pursue legal action after his firing. “I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does,” Damore said in an email to The New York Times.

Read the full story at Bloomberg.


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