Google triggered a social-media backlash with the firing of an employee who had blasted the company’s diversity policies, fuelling tension over an issue shaking up Silicon Valley.
The dismissal of James Damore, a Google engineer, came after he wrote a 10-page manifesto criticising what he deemed a left-leaning culture at Alphabet’s web division that he said ignores the differences between the sexes.
In an email confirming his firing, Mr Damore said he is “currently exploring all possible legal remedies”.
Some right-wing websites lionised Mr Damore and accused the company of censoring conservative views. Firing the engineer could be seen as confirming some of the claims in the memo itself — that the ’s culture makes no room for dissenting political opinions. That outcome could galvanise any backlash against Alphabet’s ongoing efforts to make its workforce more diverse.
The imbroglio at Google is the latest in a long string of incidents concerning gender bias and diversity in the tech enclave. Uber Technologies chief executive officer Travis Kalanick lost his job in June amid scandals over sexual harassment, discrimination, and an aggressive culture.
Ellen Pao’s gender-discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2015 also brought the issue to light, and more women are speaking up to say they’ve been sidelined in the male-dominated industry, especially in engineering roles.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai had sent a note to employees that said portions of the memo “violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”.
The company’s shares have been little affected.
Mr Damore’s memo argued that biological differences play a role in the shortage of women in tech and leadership positions.
It circulated widely inside the company and became public over the weekend, causing a furore that amplified the pressure on Google executives to take a more definitive stand.
After the controversy swelled, Danielle Brown, Google’s new vice president for diversity, integrity, and governance, sent a statement to staff condemning Mr Damore’s views and reaffirmed the company’s stance on diversity.
According to the company’s most recent demographic report, 69% of its workforce and 80% of its technical staff are male.
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