Com­pany’s top-rank­ing fe­male em­ployee of­fers re­sponse – to daugh­ter’s ques­tion

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Jena McGre­gor

Like many Google lead­ers, Su­san Wo­j­ci­cki prob­a­bly faced some dif­fi­cult ques­tions from em­ploy­ees this week about the con­tro­ver­sial em­ployee memo that ex­ploded on so­cial me­dia. But the most per­sonal ques­tion may have come from her daugh­ter.

In an es­say pub­lished by For­tune on Wed­nes­day, the CEO of YouTube, which is owned by Google, wrote that her daugh­ter asked her about the memo, which raised ques­tions about Google’s di­ver­sity ef­forts and in­cluded state­ments about gen­der dif­fer­ences. It was writ­ten by a com­pany en­gi­neer who was fired ear­lier this week in its af­ter­math. “Mom,” her daugh­ter asked her, “is it true that there are bi­o­log­i­cal rea­sons why there are fewer women in tech and lead­er­ship?”

Be­fore re­veal­ing how she an­swered her daugh­ter, Wo­j­ci­cki said the ques­tion has been “per­va­sive,” based on her ex­pe­ri­ence. “That ques­tion, whether it’s been asked out­right, whis­pered qui­etly or sim­ply lin­gered in the back of some­one’s mind, has weighed heav­ily on me through­out my ca­reer in tech­nol­ogy.”

She wrote that she has had her abil­i­ties and job com­mit­ment ques­tioned, been left out of in­dus­try events and so­cial gather-

ings, watched as out­side lead­ers ad­dress her more ju­nior col­leagues in meet­ings and been in­ter­rupted and ig­nored. “No mat­ter how of­ten this all hap­pened, it still hurt,” she wrote.

As a re­sult, “I thought about the women at Google who are now fac­ing a very pub­lic dis­cus­sion about their abil­i­ties, sparked by one of their own co-work­ers,” she wrote. “And as my child asked me the ques­tion I’d long sought to over­come in my own life, I thought about how tragic it was that this un­founded bias was now be­ing ex­posed to a new gen­er­a­tion.”

Wo­j­ci­cki also di­rectly ad­dressed the en­gi­neer’s dis­missal. “As a com­pany that has long sup­ported free ex­pres­sion, Google ob­vi­ously stands by the right that em­ploy­ees have to voice, pub­lish or tweet their opin­ions,” she wrote. “But while peo­ple may have a right to ex­press their be­liefs in pub­lic, that does not mean com­pa­nies can­not take ac­tion when women are sub­jected to com­ments that per­pet­u­ate neg­a­tive stereo­types about them based on their gen­der.”

She also raised the ques­tion of “what if we re­placed the word ‘women’ in the memo with an­other group?” such as black, His­panic, LGBTQ em­ploy­ees. “Would some peo­ple still be dis­cussing the merit of the memo’s ar­gu­ments or would there be a uni­ver­sal call for swift ac­tion against its au­thor?”

In writ­ing the es­say, Wo­j­ci­cki be­comes the high­est-rank­ing woman at Google to have ad­dressed the mat­ter pub­licly, adding a key fe­male ex­ec­u­tive’s voice to the com­pany lead­er­ship’s re­sponse. While Danielle Brown, Google’s vice pres­i­dent of di­ver­sity, in­tegrity and gov­er­nance re­leased a state­ment ear­lier this week, say­ing that “like many of you, I found that it ad­vanced incorrect as­sump­tions about gen­der,” Wo­j­ci­cki’s was much more per­sonal. Af­ter think­ing about all these is­sues, she wrote, “I looked at my daugh­ter and an­swered sim­ply. ‘No, it’s not true.’ ”

For­tune placed her at No. 16 on its last Most Pow­er­ful Women rank­ing. Wo­j­ci­cki was also Google’s 16th em­ployee.


YouTube CEO Su­san Wo­j­ci­cki was asked by her daugh­ter about the con­tro­ver­sial Google memo. Wo­j­ci­cki is the high­est-rank­ing fe­male Google em­ployee to re­spond to the memo. Google owns YouTube.

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