Google Fires Author of Controversial Diversity Memo

By Chloe Albanesius Features PCmag

Google this week fired the employee who penned a controversial, 10-page memo that questioned the company's diversity efforts.

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In a note to employees posted on the Google blog, CEO Sundar Pichai stressed 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."

Reports of the memo first emerged last week on Motherboard; Gizmodo later published it in full.

The memo started with a call for an honest discussion on diversity and inclusion; the employee writes that he is "not denying that sexism exists, and [I] don't endorse using stereotypes," but criticized Google's "culture of shaming and misrepresentation, [which] is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber."

But he then argues that "differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don't have 50 percent representation of women in tech and leadership," and says "discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business."

In a section called "Personality differences," the employee trots out the usual stereotypes about women, including that they "on average, have more...neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance)." According to him, "this may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on [Google's yearly surveys] and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs."

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In his memo, Pichai says "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.'"

Pichai does acknowledge, however, that "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.

"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," according to Pichai, who says he's cutting short a planned family vacation to address how to "create a more inclusive environment for all."

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.