Google's New Diversity Chief Criticizes Employee's Memo -- Update

By Jack Nicas Features Dow Jones Newswires

Google's new diversity chief criticized the contents of an employee's memo that went viral inside the company for suggesting Google has fewer female engineers because men are better suited for the job.

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Danielle Brown, Google's vice president for diversity and inclusion, sent a letter to employees Saturday saying the employee's memo "advanced incorrect assumptions about gender" and is "not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages," according to a copy of the statement published by Motherboard, which earlier reported on the employee's memo.

The Google employee argued company initiatives to increase diversity discriminate against some employees, and that a liberal bias among executives and many employees makes it difficult to discuss the issue at Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., according to a copy of the memo published by Gizmodo.

Some Google employees denounced the memo on Twitter, and Motherboard reported it was being shared widely among staff. That backlash drew a response from Ms. Brown, who joined Google in late June.

"Given the heated debate we've seen over the past few days, I feel compelled to say a few words," she said in the statement. "Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture."

Google didn't respond to a request for comment.

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The controversy over the memo comes as the tech industry struggles with gender and diversity issues. Many tech companies have admitted a majority of their employees are white or Asian men, particularly in technical and leadership roles. Some tech companies and investors have faced a string of sexual-harassment scandals over the past year.

For its part, Google is pushing back against a Labor Department investigation into its pay practices that spilled into court recently.

The Labor Department in January sued Google for more compensation data as part of a routine audit into the company's pay practices, a probe that is possible because Google provides advertising and cloud services to the federal government. Last month a judge ruled Google had to turn over a narrower set of data than what the department sought, saying that the request was too broad and invaded Google employees' privacy.

During the case, a Labor Department official testified investigators found evidence that Google systematically pays women less than men.

Google has denied the accusations, saying its internal analyses have shown no pay gap among Alphabet's nearly 76,000 employees. The Labor Department hasn't formally charged Google with any wrongdoing.

Google said in its annual diversity report in June that 31% of its employees are women, unchanged from a year prior. The percentage of black employees also was unchanged at 2%, and the number of Hispanic workers increased by 1 percentage point, to 4%. Most Google workers remain white and Asian men.

Write to Jack Nicas at jack.nicas@wsj.com

Google's new diversity chief criticized the contents of an employee's memo that went viral inside the company for suggesting Google has fewer female engineers because men are better suited for the job.

Danielle Brown, Google's vice president for diversity and inclusion, sent a letter to employees Saturday saying the employee's memo "advanced incorrect assumptions about gender" and is "not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages," according to a copy of the statement published by Motherboard, which earlier reported on the employee's memo.

The Google employee argued company initiatives to increase diversity discriminate against some employees, and that a liberal bias among executives and many employees makes it difficult to discuss the issue at Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., according to a copy of the memo published by Gizmodo.

Some Google employees denounced the memo on Twitter, and Motherboard reported it was being shared widely among staff. That backlash drew a response from Ms. Brown, who joined Google in late June.

"Given the heated debate we've seen over the past few days, I feel compelled to say a few words," she said in the statement. "Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture."

When reached for comment, a Google spokesman referred to Ms. Brown's statement and an additional statement posted online by Google engineering executive Ari Balogh, one of the managers of the employee who wrote the memo. Mr. Balogh wrote the memo "troubled me deeply" because it suggested "most women, or men, feel or act a certain way. That is stereotyping, and it is harmful."

The controversy over the memo comes as the tech industry struggles with gender and diversity issues. Many tech companies have admitted a majority of their employees are white or Asian men, particularly in technical and leadership roles. Some tech companies and investors have faced a string of sexual-harassment scandals over the past year.

For its part, Google is pushing back against a Labor Department investigation into its pay practices that spilled into court recently.

The Labor Department in January sued Google for more compensation data as part of a routine audit into the company's pay practices, a probe that is possible because Google provides advertising and cloud services to the federal government. Last month a judge ruled Google had to turn over a narrower set of data than what the department sought, saying that the request was too broad and invaded Google employees' privacy.

During the case, a Labor Department official testified investigators found evidence that Google systematically pays women less than men.

Google has denied the accusations, saying its internal analyses have shown no pay gap among Alphabet's nearly 76,000 employees. The Labor Department hasn't formally charged Google with any wrongdoing.

Google said in its annual diversity report in June that 31% of its employees are women, unchanged from a year prior. The percentage of black employees also was unchanged at 2%, and the number of Hispanic workers increased by 1 percentage point, to 4%. Most Google workers remain white and Asian men.

Write to Jack Nicas at jack.nicas@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 06, 2017 17:50 ET (21:50 GMT)