Ex-Google engineer began memo on flight
Ex-Google engineer James Damore says problems with the company’s culture prompted him to write the memo on gender differences that ignited a social media firestorm and led to his dismissal.
Damore, who went from employee to outcast upon the memo’s circulation, said in his first public comments that he penned the document out of a love for Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Damore was a software engineer at the search giant’s Mountain View headquarters until Monday afternoon, when he said he was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” His missive — published internally to Google employees late last week — argued that conservative viewpoints are suppressed at the company and biological differences explain in part why more men work in software engineering than women.
“A lot of this came from me seeing some of the problems with our culture at Google, where a lot of people who weren’t in this group-think just felt totally isolated and alienated,” he told YouTube chat-show host Stefan Molyneux in an interview posted online. “There were many people that came to me and said, ‘yeah I’m thinking of leaving Google because this is getting so bad.”’
“I really thought this was a problem Google had to fix,” he added.
Damore had stayed largely silent, only confirming to a few news outlets why he believed he was fired and that he was currently exploring legal remedies. In the video, the software engineer revealed he created the document — started on a 12-hour flight during a work trip to China — after attending a “secretive” diversity training session that rubbed him the wrong way.
“There was a lot of just shaming: ‘no, you can’t say that. That’s sexist.’ There’s just so much hypocrisy in a lot of the things that they were saying,” he said on the video. “I decided to create the document to clarify my thoughts.”
Many in Silicon Valley denounced Damore’s arguments, including Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai, who said Monday in a memo to employees that the engineer’s manifesto violated Google’s Code of Conduct.
But others — mainly right-wing groups — agreed with his description of a “politically correct monoculture” and in particular, saw Google’s decision to fire him for voicing an unpopular opinion as proving exactly his point. Julian Assange tweeted that WikiLeaks would hire Damore, adding “Censorship is for losers.” Gab.ai, a farright social network, also offered Damore a job, calling his writing “a beautiful work of art.” Other supporters raised more than $5,000 on a crowdfunding campaign to help Damore fight his firing.