Google 'cancels memo meeting amid abuse fears'

CEO says workers fear they could face online abuse for speaking up - report

Google reportedly called-off a company-wide meeting planned for yesterday to discuss a former employee's controversial gender-diversity memo, due to employees fearing that they'd face online harassment.

CEO Sundar Pichai cancelled the meeting at the eleventh hour after hearing concerns from workers that speaking up at the meeting would make them targets of online abuse, according to the Financial Times (paywalled).

The meeting was scheduled to take place at Google's Silicon Valley campus, with a recording of it being made available to the search giant's 60,000 workers, aimed at addressing the furore caused by ex-staffer James Damore's memo and his subsequent dismissal for propagating gender stereotypes that Google does not agree with.

However, ahead of the planned meeting, the names and pictures of a number of Google workers were posted online by alt-right agent Milo Yiannopoulos, which prompted concerns by workers that they will become targets of public abuse if they ask a question in the meeting.

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"Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be outed' publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall," siad Pichai in an email to Google staff, according to the FT, explaining the cancellation of the meeting.

Damore is reported to have a cohort of fellow Google workers who support his view that women are not genetically predisposed to careers in technology. But these workers also allegedly expressed concerns that they will face harassment should the make they speak out in favour of Damore's views and against his sacking.

To address the issue, Pichai and Google will explore other methods to discuss the topic of diversity and Damore's dismissal with workers, the publication reported.

08/08/2017: Google fires engineer for his anti-diversity memo

Google yesterday dismissed an employee responsible for writing a 10-page anti-workplace diversity memo, which claimed that women are not biologically suited to tech roles.

James Damore, an engineer at Google who authored the report that criticised the tech giant's efforts to create a diverse workplace, saying its efforts are "misguided", was fired by the search giant on the ground that he was "perpetrating gender stereotypes" according to an email he sent to Bloomberg.

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After the manifesto found its way into the public eye, Damore faced a hefty amount of criticism from many people due to his anti-diversity stance, yet he also garnered support from alt-right groups who have been heralding him as a voice that flies in the face of political correctness.

Google itself did not support Damore's lengthy memo, with chief executive Sundar Pichai saying it violated Google's Code of Conduct and contributed to the advancing of gender stereotypes, though he stopped short of saying whether Google would dismiss Damore.

"The line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace," Pichai wrote in an email circulated around Google in response to Damore's pseudo-manifesto. "To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK."

Danielle Brown, Google's vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, further highlighted that Google did not condone or harbour Damore's diversity views, distancing itself from the memo as the furore around it grew.

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"We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company," said Brown. "We'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul."

The lack of gender and racial diversity within the technology industry is a long-term issue, with the sector traditionally viewed as a bastion of educated caucasian men, something that Google and other have been attempting to turn around, but the search company had been handed a double-edged sword with Damore.

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Google often champions itself as a company that embraces alternative views and thinking, with Brown noting the company is open to hosting "difficult political views".

However, as the discourse around Damore's memo grew, Google appeared to find itself in a challenging position whereby it had to show some action against Damore's polarising opinion.

"Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws," said Brown before Damore was dismissed, signalling that the engineer had perhaps stepped beyond the bounds of discourse and into the realms of disruption.

The firing occurred while Google is embroiled in a legal dispute with the US Department of Labor over whether it pays female staff a fair wage.

07/08/17: Google employee's internal memo rails against diversity

A male Google employee's 10-page document objecting to his company's diversity policies has been published in full online, somewhat thwarting the company's efforts to become a completely diverse and welcoming organisation to everyone, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, faith, race or any other factor.

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Motherboard first reported on the existence of the document last week, but now Gizmodo has managed to access the entire contents of the file, which is reportedly a male Google employee's thoughts about the tech giant's policies on recruiting and treatment of female employees.

Titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," the employee claims that women are under-represented in the tech industry because they are biologically different to men. He also said people question the idea that pay inequality is directly related to sexism and efforts by Google to enroll female members of staff in education programmes are "misguided".

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"I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don't endorse using stereotypes," the memo states. "When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can't have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.

"Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber."

Motherboard has now received a response from Danielle Brown, Google's vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, who was brought onboard to manage investigations that the company isn't paying female employees a fair wage.

"Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws," she said in response to the memo. 

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She also made it clear that Google does not agree with the views of this particular employee, and that his opinions are not supported, nor encouraged.

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