You be­long in this in­dus­try; we need you

Google CEO speaks to girls be­ing hon­oured at a cod­ing event

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - EL­IZ­A­BETH WEISE

MOUN­TAIN VIEW, CALIF. — Google abruptly can­celled a town-hall meet­ing to ad­dress the fall­out from an anti-di­ver­sity memo on Thurs­day, but CEO Sun­dar Pichai made his feel­ings on the mat­ter known at an event hon­our­ing girl coders from around the world.

“I want you know that there’s place for you in this in­dus­try, there’s a place for you at Google. Don’t let any­one tell you other­wise. You be­long here and we need you,” he told the cod­ing teams who were be­ing hon­oured at the Tech­no­va­tion awards cer­e­mony Thurs­day night at Google’s cam­pus.

The 12 fi­nal­ist teams, all made up of young women who de­vel­oped apps to solve chal­lenges in their com­mu­ni­ties, come from Hong Kong, Kazhak­stan, Cam­bo­dia, In­dia, Ar­me­nia, Kenya, Canada and across the United States.

“I know the journey won’t al­ways be easy,” he said, then con­tin­ued, say­ing he hoped this was the be­gin­ning of long ca­reers in tech for each of them, build­ing things peo­ple around the world would use ev­ery day.

When he said they be­longed in tech and, “don’t let any­one tell you other­wise,” the crowd burst into cheers, with the loud­est com­ing from Google staffers who were help­ing host the out­door event.

“At Google, we are very com­mit­ted to build­ing prod­ucts for ev­ery­one in the world, and I think to do that well, we re­ally need to have peo­ple in­ter­nally who rep­re­sent the world in to­tal­ity. So it’s re­ally im­por­tant that more women and girls have the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in tech to learn how to code cre­ate and in­no­vated,” he told the fam­i­lies in a short speech at the be­gin­ning of the fes­tiv­i­ties.

The speech has been his sole pub­lic com­ment on the on­go­ing is­sue of for­mer Google en­gi­neer James Damore’s memo ques­tion­ing the com­pany’s ef­forts to bring more women into tech­nol­ogy.

Pichai fired Damore on Mon­day for what he said was a vi­o­la­tion of Google’s poli­cies, be­cause his man­i­festo ad­vanced “harm­ful gen­der stereo­types in our work­place.”

The meet­ing Thurs­day was to have al­lowed staff to ask ques­tions about the fir­ing and the con­cerns it has raised.

But min­utes be­fore it was sup­posed to start, Pichai said in an email to Googlers it had been scotched due to con­cern about on­line ha­rass­ment of em­ploy­ees whose names and ques­tions were pub­lished on alt-right web­sites.

“Googlers are writ­ing in, con­cerned about their safety and wor­ried they may be ‘outed’ pub­licly for ask­ing a ques­tion in the town hall,” Pichai wrote.

The last-minute can­cel­la­tion is the lat­est twist in a saga that be­gan last Fri­day with a few tweets about a long memo by Damore which quickly be­came a pub­lic­ity in­ferno, call­ing into ques­tion Google’s fo­cus on in­creas­ing the num­ber of women, African-Amer­i­cans and His­pan­ics in its tech­ni­cal and lead­er­ship ranks, as well as the com­pany’s com­mit­ment to free speech and the lim­its of in­ter­nal de­bate.

The is­sue be­came so toxic Pichai cut short a fam­ily va­ca­tion in Africa and Europe, re­turn­ing Mon­day to dis­cuss the mat­ter with staffers and even­tu­ally mak­ing the de­ci­sion to fire Damore.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Google CEO Sun­dar Pichai can­celled a town-hall meet­ing with staff Thurs­day where he was go­ing to dis­cuss a memo writ­ten by an em­ployee who de­cried the com­pany’s ef­forts to di­ver­sify its work­force.

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