Google gender debacle speaks to tech culture wars, politics

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

The women's stories bolster the claims of U.S. 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.

Damore lost his job Monday after a firestorm erupted over the weekend when his memo went viral.

My 10-page document set out what I considered a reasoned, well-researched, good-faith argument, but as I wrote, the viewpoint I was putting forward is generally suppressed at Google because of the company's "ideological echo chamber". There are about 87,000 Google groups - essentially email lists formed around a central theme - and more than 8,000 discussion groups like "misc" - short for miscellaneous - where employees debate and disagree on topics ranging from the optimal temperature in the office to the brand of laundry detergent the company should use for washing employee towels.

Google must now grapple with possible lawsuits; a fired employee who's fast becoming a public figure; an ongoing debate over the limits of free speech; a surge of employees leaking information; and a struggle to protect employees as it becomes the latest villain for the alt-right.

A Google engineer fired for criticising the tech giant for its diversity policy continued his blitz against the company and dubbed his former workplace a "cult".

But Google executives, including the chief executive officer and the chief of diversity, deemed the document to be in violation of the company's code of conduct because it "perpetuated gender stereotypes". "I got that at Google before all of this leaked".

"Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and anxious they may be "outed" publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall", Pichai wrote. Non-union or "at will" employees, such as most tech workers, can be fired in the United States for a wide array of reasons that have nothing to do with performance.

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 has emerged as a hero of conservative media. Critics of Damore's firing are planning to protest outside Google offices in five US cities. Fired4Truth, widely believed to be Damore's Twitter account, is closing in on 50,000 followers in a matter of days. But on external websites, some Google employees who had spoken out against Damore's memo were being harassed. And some are anxious that you can not speak out at work freely.

"I am a moderately conservative Googler", one employee wrote, "and I am and have been scared to share my beliefs". The loud voice here is the liberal one. "What is leadership doing to ensure Googlers like me feel *invited and accepted*, not just tolerated or safe from angry mobs?"

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