Google CEO Sundar Pichai is cutting short his vacation to return to office as a gender debate raging among the tech major’s employees has gone public, much to its embarrassment. The company on Tuesday fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the firm’s diversity policies.
“Differences in distribution of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50 per cent representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business,” senior software engineer James Damore said in a 10-page note he circulated among staff.
The incident, joining the long list of episodes concerning gender bias and diversity in the tech enclave, prompted sharp reactions, with one employee tweeting: “If HR does nothing in this case, I will consider leaving this company for real for the first time in five years.”
Damore reportedly confirmed his dismissal saying he was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”, and added that he’s “exploring all possible legal remedies”.
Pichai, however, didn’t say whether the company would take action against him, but on Monday wrote to staff saying that portions of the memo “violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes”.
Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, pitched in saying, “We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company.” She had earlier suggested Google was open to hosting “difficult political views,” including those in the memo.
Damore had accused the tech giant of silencing conservative political opinions. According to Google’s most recent demographic report, 69 per cent of its workforce and 80 per cent of its tech staff are male.