Google CEO Cancels Gender-Diversity Meeting After Employees Are Targeted Online

Google CEO Cancels Gender-Diversity Meeting After
Photo by Eric Risberg/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Shockwaves continue to rattle Google after the company fired an engineer who posted a lengthy screed suggesting that women are genetically less capable than men of working in high-tech.

On Thursday afternoon, Google CEO Sundar Pichai informed staffers in a companywide email that a town-hall meeting to discuss diversity issues was canceled after individual employees were singled out online — and several had expressed fears for their personal safety.

“We had hoped to have a frank open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai wrote in the memo, sent shortly before the meeting’s scheduled 4 p.m. PT start time. But questions submitted by staffers beforehand “appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” he wrote, and some employees were “concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”

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Google Fires Author of Anti-Diversity Manifesto, CEO Ends Vacation to Deal With Crisis

Google’s firing of the engineer, James Damore, has rallied conservative agitators who are angry about what they perceive as the internet giant’s suppression of free speech and persecution of the male employee.

On Wednesday, right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos posted the Twitter bios of eight Google employees — who apparently had criticized Damore’s memo — on his Facebook page, with the comment, “Looking at who works for Google, it all makes sense now…”

Pichai in his memo Thursday wrote, “In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion. So in the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.”

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Damore has spoken out since his firing, airing his grievances against Google. In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, he accused Google execs of “trying to smear my image rather than just looking at the evidence” and said he felt “betrayed.”

Google on Monday released a memo from Pichai to employees, in which the chief executive said that while the company values critical discussion of its diversity programs, parts of Damore’s essay crossed the line “by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our 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 wrote.

Damore’s 3,300-word manifesto, which was leaked to the media, accused the company of having a left-wing political bias that has resulted in anti-male discrimination under the guise of diversity. In the memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” he suggested that women have inherent biological traits — like “neuroticism” — that make it harder for them to succeed in engineering jobs.

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  1. ffarance says:

    Mr. Pearson, you make a false claim “I read it all– and he does effectively say “women need not apply”. He claims (with zero evidence) that women are unsuited biologically to work at Google –and asserts conservative employees are better than liberal ones also.”

    His paper does NOT say that and, in fact, he thinks diversity is good. Let’s speak on something specific: if Google’s Infrastructure Engineers (their “elite team” who make everything operational work and are on call 24/7) have a disproportional number of males, is it worth lowering the bar to get more females? Infrastructure Engineers are like firefighters: very hard and firm job requirements (that can be filled by either gender), yet they are overwhelmingly males. Should a firefighter’s job requirements be reduced from lifting (say) 150-pound humans in the job test to now 100-pound humans so more females can be employed? No, that’s not what we want (as a society), the 150-pound requirement is necessary. (And considering that testosterone is a biological basis for more muscle mass, this will skew towards males.)

    But now what about Infrastructure Engineers? In theory, the requirements are gender-neutral and the knowledge/experience requirements are gender-neutral, but the outcome is not. Part of that, I believe, comes from the very high status of an Infrastructure Engineer within Google. In non-private organizations, such as government and defense, I believe there are higher proportions of women in the Infrastructure Engineer (or equivalent) because they don’t have the same culture status. So if you want more diversity in Infrastructure Engineers at Google, do you lower the bar or lower the status or something else? Or maybe you decide you’re OK with the present level of women as Infrastructure Engineers (which has less diversity).

    I believe these are the kinds of trade-offs that he was talking about. And these don’t get fixed just by diversity training, it starts by recognizing that there is a culture of “status” in tech work, and that culture is derived from the high-tech and start-up nature of business. In fact, the Infrastructure Engineers have High Business Value because they help manage/mitigate operational risk for a company (Google) that is all about operations. It’s that “culture” component (which is essential for start-ups) that might be a significant ingredient in skewing diversity, as other industries (government, defense, not-for-profit) have different cultures. For example, an Infrastructure Engineer at a public library might have the same job requirements, but not the same status (and probably lower pay) than at Google.

    What makes it unlikely that Google would change the elite status of these Infrastructure Engineers is that, in fact, they are highly valuable to the business at Google and as high-tech and start-up cultures have it: one’s value to the company is commensurate with one’s compensation and coupled with one’s status.

    • Jeff Pearson says:

      I like how you cry ” false claim” without quoting him yourself. He does indeed pay lip service to diversity at the top — then spends the rest of the piece rationalizing lack of diversity as natural: “Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.” He just knows this in his science bones, I guess.

      Ironically(?) so do you as you ape his style as you disco into a bunch of scenarios no one is arguing (straw man fallacy and red herring both) shifting the ground of the argument away from his fact-free essay to your own fact-free musings on the topic of infrastructure engineers and status at Google — again without a shred of evidence, just how you see it as self-evident fact. Just like Damon. Clearly he isn’t the only one who could use some unconscious bias training.

      • TJCooper says:

        Do you realize what each side has to prove to be correct?

        The left

        The psychology of men and women are IDENTICAL. The brain structure is IDENTICAL. Brain activity is IDENTICAL.

        The (not left)

        Its not identical

        LOL

        Its the simple. People like you can only argue semantics and spew dogma because you have set yourself up for an impossible task. There are differences between men and women (biologically), and to expect everything above the shoulders to be IDENTICAL, is ludicrous.

        Now when it comes to rape culture, men and women are not the same. If we were to talk about violence, men and women are not the same. LOL. It seems when its convenient to the left and their dogma, men and women are not the same. When its inconvenient, men and women are IDENTICAL.

      • ffarance says:

        Mr. Pearson, sounds like you’re familiar with the art of rhetoric, so the onus is upon you to provide the citation. Focusing upon one of your claims “He claims (with zero evidence) that women are unsuited biologically to work at Google […]”. Where is he claiming that women are unsuited biologically to work at Google? And so on with your claims.

        As for my discussing Infrastructure Engineers, well that’s one of the very few job titles Google has, and I interviewed and qualified at Google for the position, but didn’t want to move to the Bay Area. So I’m reporting the facts first hand. And it’s not a strawman because it is a class of jobs at Google, and these questions about diversity would apply, i.e., maybe discussion of Infrastructure Engineers might help better understand the concerns of Mr. Damore. The description of the “elite” status is how Google describes the position. And the knowledge that the High Business Value positions correspond to High Compensation and High Status is well known in the high-tech industry in the US, which I have about four decades of experience. So my reporting is first hand.

        But I tried to add some insight into what I see are some obstacles for women in high tech. While I don’t agree with everything Damore said, I think his identification of “status” is an important one, and how that might play out for diversity. For example, in my experience in working also with the not-high-tech-private industry, like government, defense, not-for-profits, etc., the same job (Infrastructure Engineer) doesn’t have the same status and there are higher proportions of women in these jobs.

        And my point on high-tech is that they have a culture that clashes with diversity. Not merely because one can observe it and measure it, it’s because there are other factors, like vying over High Status jobs that might have something to do with the disparity of diversity between high-tech and non-high-tech. You can read “Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior” published by Springer (available on Google Books) and search for “men’s drive for high status jobs”. That’s an academic book, with chapters and lots of citations. You’ll see support for the idea that men with high status jobs make them more attractive to women.

        As for various biological factors related to empathy and so on, go to Wikipedia and look up “empathy” and you’ll find the neuroscience foundations, the gender differences, and so on. As stated elsewhere, those are broad statements that apply to populations, not individuals. But when we’re looking at diversity, we are measuring it in terms of populations, e.g., 50-50 gender breakdown for humans, 80-20 gender breakdown for Google software engineers.

        So with both sets of citations (Springer book and Wikipedia article), there is enough to question Is The Lack Of Gender Diversity Merely Due To Sexism Or Are There Other Factors? You’ll find Damore’s questioning that on the top of page 5 of his paper:

        Damore: “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.”

        That’s a reasonable insight, and a reasonable suggestion for further study. Just so you know these kinds of insights aren’t just about gender differences, as most New Yorkers know the NYPD’s Stop-n-Frisk program was a big problem. But after the details scientific studies of the data, the conclusion was clear: black/Hispanic officers were discriminating against blacks/Hispanics because they were black/Hispanic. That’s counter-intuitive because the simplified paradigm of discrimination is that there are victims (V) from a group (P) and aggressors (A) from a different group (Q), and that aggressors (A) are not members of the victims group (P). But the NYPD Stop-N-Frisk studies proved otherwise.

        Thus, it’s really worth thinking about this clearly. As I said, I’ve offered some insights. But if one really wants to tackle issues of diversity (or discrimination), we should be open to hearing and thinking things that might be counter-intuitive, and using scientific methodologies to test our hypotheses.

        Lastly, I have given you the courtesy of polite, serious, and thoughtful discussion. I’ve disagreed with you, but I haven’t been dismissive. I request that your responses weren’t so flippant because I might hear your points better. Thanks.

  2. Cath says:

    Assuming as a starting point that women are not “biologically” up to the job is the problem because someone hiring would automatically dismiss a candidate (regardless of strengths) because of gender bias. This is the crux of the dispute. It is akin to the old “Irish may not apply” signs.

    • TJCooper says:

      That’s not what the memo said. I’m sure that’s what you heard.

      • TJCooper says:

        He didn’t say that at all. You have issues. He simply stated the SCIENCE. Men are attracted to systems, women are attracted to people. That biological difference drives INTEREST in software engineering jobs at Google.

        Why is that so hard for people like you to understand without reading all your biases into it? Its not hard.

      • Jeff Pearson says:

        I read it all– and he does effectively say “women need not apply”. He claims (with zero evidence) that women are unsuited biologically to work at Google –and asserts conservative employees are better than liberal ones also. And setting neo-eugenics dumpster fires should get you canned. Obviously, the only one who didn’t read it for sure is you.

  3. Sam says:

    Not too many women are interested in that type of work. Not too many men are interested in being a nurse. So what.
    Buy a chihuahua buy a bulldog nobody cares. So what.

    • Frank says:

      The person stepped outside of his job description. And then (he) publicly targeted his employer instead of making an office visit to discuss privately and give the employer a way to have other interested employees make suggestions on the topic.
      The employee breached implied contract of employment and the employer has suffered damages through this employee action.
      Go start your own company, idiot.

  4. ffarance says:

    I’m progressive/liberal, but I think Google’s CEO got it wrong on a scientific basis, and wrong on the optics. Skipping Mr. Damore’s foundation (which has some flaws), let’s look at his suggestions, which are mostly reasonable. Google’s excluding people by gender/race in training classes? Unacceptable, even classes such as (hypothetically) a “Women In The Workplace” class for only women. Excluding men from that class doesn’t help promote gender-neutral thinking because (assuming males are aggressors and females are victims) that just further enshrines an Us vs. Them framework. It’s helpful for all parties (potential aggressors, too) to hear about common thinking on improving the workplace. Likewise, having a work environment where the “microaggressions” have significant currency, e.g., everyone can feel slighted and victimized with no resolution (There’s Always Room For Jello in the world of feeling insulted), is just a toxic work environment.

    As for the optics, I feel Google’s CEO has given alt-right/conservatives much ammunition. As Mr. Damore described the shaming aspects, labeling a person as “sexist”, this is part of the problem because it allows the quick rhetorical Win on the meta-argument (“You’re racist/sexist/etc.”), but shuts down hearing the other person. I believe this gives rise to the Not Politically Correct crowd because they’ve been shut down as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. and not heard. Just because one might be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., it doesn’t imply that they don’t have legitimate points to make — it’s called Listening Non-Judgmentally. And people who trade in microaggressions and such can be quick to dismiss (feels morally superior to label your opponent racist/sexist/etc.), meanwhile they feel the self-pity of feeling victimized in which you give your purported aggressor no route to resolving purported transgressions.

    And, stupidly, it has morphed into attacking the attackers. Someone needs to stand up and make sense, it will probably be someone outside of Google, but we don’t have too many national leaders of that caliber.

    • Pragmatic Independent says:

      Sorry ffarance but all you have to do to disprove your entire contention is to replace the word women with Nazis, child molesters etc to show that no, we really don’t need to hear “rational” arguments about ideas and concepts that reasonable people know on their face are flat out wrong. If the writer was discussing “scientific” reason why the Nazis or NAMBLA had a point the red flag would be thrown immediately. Wrapping ignorance and prejudice with words from scientific dictionaries doesn’t make the ideas less repugnant. And I say that as someone who was a Republican their whole life. Funny enough… YOU don’t get to decide what offends other people. You sound like a child trying to negotiate the ability to smack his sister by resorting to “logical” arguments with your parents and then pouting when they simply cut you off and say “No, you can’t hit your sister”

      • ffarance says:

        Pragmatic Independent: You are correct when you say “you don’t get to decide what offends other people”, but that’s the nature of our First Amendment. Likewise, you don’t have the right to not be offended. You do have the right not to be assaulted, injured, murdered, etc., including “smacking one’s sister”, but free speech is different.

        As for “we really don’t need to hear “rational” arguments about ideas and concepts that reasonable people know on their face are flat out wrong”, but how will you be informed of new ideas if you can’t make room for things you disagree with?

        Not sure what point you’re making with Nazis, et al.

      • TJCooper says:

        And you prove the man correct. A discussion can’t be had because you immediately have an emotional reaction that crowds out reason.

        Who is more a “Nazi”, the person who wants to talk, or the people who send everyone to “right think” classes based on dogma?

        It’s not even close man. Stop and think.

  5. iancjclarke says:

    “Shockwaves continue to rattle Google after the company fired an engineer who posted a lengthy screed suggesting that women are genetically less capable than men of working in high-tech.”

    A factually false statement in the very first sentence. If Todd Spangler journalist had bothered to read the memo itself, he would know that the paper doesn’t say this, doesn’t imply it, nor is there any evidence that the author intended anyone to draw this interpretation.

    • Todd Spangler says:

      He wrote: “Women, on average, have more… Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.” How else can you interpret that kind of statement?

      • TJCooper says:

        Are women in general less capable of being a fireman? Yes. Why does biology and evolution end at the shoulders?

        Neoraticism is a scientific term. Do you believe all traits, biological and psychological are PERFECTLY evenly distributed across male and female? That must be what you think. It’s ludicrous, simplistic to the point of fantasy.

      • Well, I searched this phrase and immediately found several fairly scholarly articles saying the same thing (including one from the National Institutes of Health, so I would call it something at least worthy of debate and discussion. Interpret the propensity as a negative, but men have propensities toward violence that are even worse. As Damore made clear over and over, he was not saying these are universal statements about ability or that the concept applies to everyone.

        Admit or not, you can indeed make generalities about almost any demographic that can be refuted by a number of examples in the minority. Doesn’t mean the generality is wrong or offensive.

        In Googleworld, I would be shut down for even suggesting the above.

      • Well, I searched this phrase and immediately found several fairly scholarly articles saying the same thing, so I would call it something at least worthy of debate and discussion. Interpret the propensity as a negative, but men have propensities toward violence that are even worse. As Damore made clear over and over, he was not saying these are universal statements about ability or that the concept applies to everyone.

        Admit or not, you can indeed make generalities about almost any demographic that can be refuted by a number of examples in the minority. Doesn’t mean the generality is wrong or offensive.

        In Googleworld, I would be shut down for even suggesting the above.

  6. tommariner says:

    “Diversity at Google”. Average Age of Google workers?

    I guess those who violate the “not over 30” rule don’t have a political activist base that threatens enterprises.

  7. F-GOOGLE says:

    Oh boo hoo! Google SJWs can dish out harrassment but they can’t take it, huh?

  8. Jeff Pearson says:

    TJ wiffs it hard and now he’s angry. So he goes full tyrant: he alone decides the value on this thread–and I am dismissed! How dare I expect evidence for things he thinks are self evident? All he can muster is typing science again in caps as proof then lashing out with the the only tools on his empty belt — cheap insults, characterizations, cartoonish stereotypes and smears. You think you know me? I think youve made plain who you are.

  9. TJCooper says:

    And Jeff Pearson post nothing of value. I would wager Jeff Pearson considers himself to be a very smart man. Such a disconnect between reality and perception is the point of the memo, and it applied to you quit nicely.

    So, enjoy your science denying life. Enjoy looking for heretics, omens, and such. Enjoy being a PC acolyte. I am done with you. You don’t add anything of value, you are just a troll.

    Good day.

  10. Jeff Pearson says:

    TJ repeats the dopey fact-free manifesto’s premise LOUDER and thinks adding “people” is evidence, I guess. This is what passes as argument these days. Sad.

  11. TJCooper says:

    A typical SJW tactic. Claim some emotional irrational fear. Are they truly that child like? Seriously, how immature and prone to hysteria do you have to be?

    The science backs the memo. Sorry people. Your myths and fairy tales are not real. Humanities is NOT science.

    Anyone who disputes the science is no different than a climate denier, vaccine denier, etc. Worse yet, because they have created policies based off of anti-science dogma. They have clustered together in psuedo cult like compounds complete with “right think” classes.

    So sad.

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