Google fires de­fender of tech gen­der gap

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Google on Mon­day fired the au­thor of an in­ter­nal memo de­fend­ing the gen­der-gap in Sil­i­con Val­ley tech jobs as a mat­ter of bi­ol­ogy, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports. The move, which was not of­fi­cially con­firmed by Google, splashed fuel on a burn­ing con­tro­versy about whether “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness” at the com­pany was sti­fling free speech. Google said that the com­pany “can’t com­ment on in­di­vid­ual em­ployee cases.”

In an email to em­ploy­ees, Google chief ex­ec­u­tive Sun­dar Pichai sup­ported the right of em­ploy­ees to ex­press them­selves, say­ing that much of what was in the memo is fair to de­bate, ac­cord­ing to a copy of the mes­sage ob­tained by AFP. “How­ever, por­tions of the memo vi­o­late our Code of Con­duct and cross the line by ad­vanc­ing harm­ful gen­der stereo­types in our work­place,” Pichai said in the email. “To sug­gest a group of our col­leagues have traits that make them less bi­o­log­i­cally suited to that work is of­fen­sive and not OK.”

Pichai noted that the com­pany code of con­duct calls for ‘Googlers’ to do their ut­most to cre­ate “a culture free of ha­rass­ment, in­tim­i­da­tion, bias and un­law­ful dis­crim­i­na­tion.” How­ever, Pichai de­fended the au­thor’s right to crit­i­cize Google train­ing, work­place ide­ol­ogy, and whether pro­grams pro­mot­ing work­place di­ver­sity are ad­e­quately open to all. “The au­thor had a right to ex­press their views on those top­ics,” Pichai said. “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.” Re­code, Bloomberg and other me­dia out­lets on Mon­day re­ported that the au­thor of the con­tro­ver­sial in­ter­nal doc­u­ment was fired.

Mar­tyr or sex­ist?

The news be­came a hot topic at Twit­ter, with some call­ing the em­ployee a mar­tyr and rail­ing against Google for pun­ish­ing him for ex­press­ing a view that went against Sil­i­con Val­ley’s ef­forts to pro­mote di­ver­sity at tech com­pa­nies. The leaked in­ter­nal doc­u­ment that trig­gered the con­tro­versy claimed “bi­o­log­i­cal causes” ex­plained the lack of women in tech in­dus­try lead­er­ship roles. The screed­dubbed “sex­ist” by US me­dia-went vi­ral, re­viv­ing the sim­mer­ing de­bate over a culture of sex­ism and lack of di­ver­sity in tech sec­tors.

“I’m sim­ply stat­ing that the dis­tri­bu­tion of pref­er­ences and abil­i­ties of men and women dif­fer in part due to bi­o­log­i­cal causes and that th­ese dif­fer­ences may ex­plain why we don’t see equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in tech and lead­er­ship,” read the 3,000-word ful­mi­na­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the au­thor, nat­u­ral ap­ti­tudes of men al­low them to be­come bet­ter com­puter pro­gram­mers, while women have more “open­ness di­rected to­wards feel­ings and aes­thet­ics rather than ideas”-mean­ing they “pre­fer jobs in so­cial or artis­tic ar­eas.”

In re­sponse to the leaked memo, Danielle Brown, Goole’s new vice pres­i­dent of di­ver­sity, told em­ploy­ees in an email that “it’s not a view­point that I or this com­pany en­dorses, pro­motes or en­cour­ages.”“I found that it ad­vanced in­cor­rect as­sump­tions about gen­der.” she said. The con­tro­versy comes as in­creas­ing num­bers of women are go­ing pub­lic with com­plaints of gen­der-based dis­crim­i­na­tion in Sil­i­con Val­ley. Cur­rently some 69 per­cent of Google’s em­ploy­ees are men, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s lat­est fig­ures, a pro­por­tion that rises to 80 per­cent when it comes to tech­nol­ogy jobs. In 2016 at Face­book just 27 per­cent of se­nior ex­ec­u­tives were women. At Ap­ple, around 30 per­cent of total em­ploy­ees are women.—AFP

CAL­I­FOR­NIA: This file photo shows Google’s head­quar­ters in Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia.—AP

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