Google has fired the male engineer who authored an internal memo blasting the web company’s diversity policies, and claiming women were 'biologically' less likely to succeed at the company.
Software engineer James Damore was sacked on Monday for violating the company's code of conduct. Google Chief Executive (CEO) Sundar Pichai told employees in a note that portions of the anti-diversity memo "violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."
Damore confirmed that he had been fired in an email to news agency Bloomberg, saying that Google gave "perpetuating gender stereotypes" as the reason for his dismissal. He added that he was "currently exploring all possible legal remedies," and that before being fired, he had submitted a charge to the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing Google upper management of trying to shame him into silence.
The software engineer had worked at the tech giant since 2013. In the memo he asserted there are biological causes behind gender inequality in the tech industry.
"The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and ... these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership," he wrote.
His controversial 10-page document - which was first published by technology news site Motherboard on Saturday - has divided opinion since it went viral on social media.
Gender stereotypes rife in tech sector
Debate over the treatment of women in the male-dominated tech industry has raged for months. Claims of persistent sexual harassment in the ranks of ride sharing company Uber and of several venture capital firms led to management shakeups.
Management at the largest tech firms, including Google, have publicly committed to diversifying their workforces, although the percentage of women in engineering and management roles remains low at many companies. Damore's memo attacked the idea that gender diversity should be a goal.
Danielle Brown, Google's new vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, sent a statement to staff condemning Damore's views and reaffirmed the company's stance on diversity.
"We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company," Brown said in the statement. "We'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul."
In internal discussion boards, multiple employees said they supported firing the author, and some said they would not choose to work with him.
The memo and surrounding debate comes as Google fends off a lawsuit from the US Department of Labor alleging the company systemically discriminates against women. Google has denied the charges, arguing that it doesn't have a gender gap in pay, but has declined to share full salary information with the government.
According to the company's most recent demographic report, 69 percent of its workforce and 80 percent of its technical staff are male.
uhe/kd (Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP)