Google execs tackle ‘unfounded bias’ against women, answering anti-diversity rant

Google execs Wojcicki and Pichai

Google, and indeed YouTube, have been under the microscope this week as the company embarks on some soul searching after an engineer was fired for arguing against gender diversity in a very public memo.

James Dimore, who was fired for his comments on Monday, wrote among other things that women are more likely to be suffer from neuroticism, and “also have a stronger interest in people rather than things”, which he argued made them more suitable for social roles rather than the coding roles at the company.

The 10-page document went on, questioning the ability of women to handle leadership roles. He urged the supposedly left-leaning company to ‘stop alienating conservatives’.

YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki wrote a response to the letter in Fortune. In it she said her daughter asked (in response to the memo): “Mom, is it true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership?”

To this she wrote: “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 described this an “unfounded bias” that was “being exposed to a new generation.”

Wojcicki added: For instance, what if we replaced the word “women” in the memo with another group? What if the memo said that biological differences amongst Black, Hispanic, or LGBTQ employees explained their underrepresentation in tech and leadership roles? 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?”

And with a finality, she concluded that there was no truth in the claim that there is a biological reason there are fewer women in tech leadership.”

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai addressed the memo a day earlier. He looked to weigh Damore’s right to free speech against the company’s code of conduct.

Pichai added: “Portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives.

“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.”

He concluded: “The past few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree — while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct.”

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