On Monday, Google fired an employee for writing a controversial internal memo about the value of diversity initiatives at the company. James Damore, who confirmed to multiple outlets that he was the male software engineer behind the diversity memo, told Bloomberg News that he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”
Damore told the New York Times that he believed the firing was illegal and that he would “likely be pursuing legal action.” Damore said that he had already filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on the basis that Google was “misrepresenting and shaming me in order to silence my complaints.”
Male engineer: I was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”
Although Google did not specifically comment on the firing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed the controversy directly in a memo to employees. Pichai said that “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”
Pichai noted that Damore’s memo violated the section of the Code of Conduct that expects and enforces “‘each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.’”
Titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” the memo alleged that women are underrepresented in technology because “men and women biologically differ in many ways.” According to Damore, women are less suited to technology jobs because they are more anxious and have lower stress tolerances than men. Meanwhile, he said that men are well suited to leadership because they are born with a “higher drive for status.”
Many employees and ex-Googlers have weighed in on the matter. Former Google executive Yonatan Zunger said the memo was grounds for firing because Damore had created “a textbook hostile workplace environment.” Ex-Googler and current Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg indirectly addressed the memo by debunking the biological differences Damore cited in his memo.
Inequality in tech isn’t due to gender differences. It’s due to cultural stereotypes that persist. We all need to do more.
Damore’s firing is only the latest controversy Google is facing. Google is already in hot water with the U.S. government about the gender gap at its company. The U.S. Department of Labor is currently investigating Google for what it says is an “extreme” gender pay gap.