Google’s Manifesto Nightmares Continue

Ever since an employee shared a manifesto at Google, one of the biggest tech corporations on the planet, the company has been on damage control. Unfortunately, for Google, the issue has become a front-page headline, for more reasons that one. Here’s what you need to know.

Last Friday, a now former engineer at Google, named James Damore, sent out a manifesto criticizing Google’s hiring process and explaining, in his opinion, why women are having poor experiences in the company. He went as far as saying that women are biologically unfit for the “high-stress” work that is completed at Google. Damore then turned around and said, “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” and that he values, “diversity and inclusion.”  Damore claims that he was let go from Google because he was, “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” Google has declined to comment on the firing itself.

 | Google's CEO - Sundar Pichai

| Google's CEO - Sundar Pichai

Once the manifesto was leaked, it went viral. With supporters claiming Damore should have the freedom to voice his opinion, and those that felt he was blatantly crossing a line. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai cut his family vacation short to address the memo. He sent a memo to the entire team at Google. Pichai’s memo wrote:

This has been a very difficult time. I wanted to provide an update on the memo that was circulated over this past week.

First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”

The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being “agreeable” rather than “assertive,” showing a “lower stress tolerance,” or being “neurotic.”

At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). They too feel under threat, and that is also not OK. People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo—such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all—are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics—we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions.

The past few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree—while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct. I’d encourage each of you to make an effort over the coming days to reach out to those who might have different perspectives from your own. I will be doing the same.

I have been on work related travel in Africa and Europe the past couple of weeks and had just started my family vacation here this week. I have decided to return tomorrow as clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group—including how we create a more inclusive environment for all.
— Sundar Pichai

Now, with the fact that we have a private citizen using his First-Amendment right, obviously there is going to be a debate as to how Google handled the situation by firing the Senior Engineer. Pichai said, “…portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” The scenario does, however, shine a light on the major problem women are facing in the tech industry. There are no reasons why women cannot do the work that men do, to the same standard or better than men. Although the memo did not go about it the right way, it did get people talking about the bigger problem, and that is important. Google needs to make it evident that no matter what your gender is, you have an equal opportunity to make your mark on the world.