Google chief executive Sundar Pichai has been forced to cut short his summer holiday in order to address employees directly as he seeks to defuse a "difficult" diversity row which has engulfed his company since the weekend.
The affair was sparked by an unattributed company memo circulated on Sunday which claimed, among other things, that "biological differences" were amongst the reasons for a paucity of women working at Google. Pichai responded directly to the memo, saying it "crossed the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."
In a memo to employees, Pichai wrote: “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”
In light of this Pinchai took the decision to sack the software engineer behind the offensive memo after it sparked widespread unease amongst female employees.
At the same time however Pichai was careful to couch this criticism by conceding that many of the issues raised by the engineer were valid; including sections critical of Google’s training programmes, the role of ideology in the workplace, and questioning of whether programs directed at women and minorities are sufficiently open. He said he will now work to build a more inclusive environment at the tech giant.
Pichaie added: “At the same time, 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.”
Admitting that the past few days had been "very difficult’ Pichai has set himself the task of establishing a route to debate issues but doing so from within the bounds of the Code of Conduct.
Google has long suffered from equality related issues amidst allegations it failed to pay female staff on par with their male colleagues.