Google has fired one of its employees, who penned the 10-page document titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, which went viral over the weekend. The said employee confirmed his firing to Bloomberg, stating that he was terminated for ‘perpetuating gender stereotypes’. Google has not yet commented on the matter.The post discussing topics involving gender and diversity went viral within the organisation for its controversial content. The post went to the extent of saying that women in the same position as men were paid less not due to any bias but because of inherent psychological differences between the genders.
Over the last weekend, Motherboard reported the story which was followed by Gizmodo, who published the entire 10-page document.
Google is currently defending itself from a lawsuit from the US Department of Labour which is alleging that the company systematically discriminates against women. At such a juncture, employing a person who just published a 10-page document promoting discrimination is the last thing the company wants to deal with.
As expected, the points mentioned in the manifesto did not go down too well with a lot of Google employees. The newly appointed vice president for Diversity, Integrity and Governance at Google, Danielle Brown, also sent out a memo to Googlers on the issue. “Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul,” said Brown.
According to Recode, even Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent out a memo saying that the employee had violated Google’s code of conduct and that the post had “crossed the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.” The entire memo is available on Recode.
Pichai has also cut short his vacation and along with his leadership team, Pichai will be addressing Googlers on Thursday in a town hall meeting.
According to Google’s 2017 diversity report, while the overall women to men ratio is 31:69, in the technology and leadership roles, the gap becomes even wider. While there are 20 percent women in tech in Google in 2017 as compared to a mere 17 percent in 2014, only one in four women hold leadership roles. In terms of racial diversity, over 50 percent are White, a consistent figure for every year since 2013.
Geetha Kannan, managing director, India, for the Anita Borg Institute which works towards advocating diversity in technology and educating organisations on its importance, said that this was nothing new. According to Kannan, the attitude emerging from the 10-page document was a classic example of falling victim to the unconscious bias — prejudices which are defined by attitudes or stereotypes which affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner.
It remains to be seen how this removal of the employee will play out in the coming days. After all, Pichai had mentioned in his memo, “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 criticising 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.”