After James Damore, the Google engineer who was fired this week, wrote a contentious memo about gender and diversity, he said he wanted to start a conversation between the left and the right. In that regard, he’s been wildly successful.
For those not following along, Damore, a senior engineer at the world’s biggest search engine, wrote a memo about a month ago entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” It went viral throughout Google and last week it leaked to the press.
In the 10-page, 3,300-word manifesto, the 28-year-old argues that a gender gap at Google exists not solely because of sexism, but in part because of “biological” differences between men and women. The memo went viral after being posted on an internal network and sparked outrage from some Google employees.
Damore has been on a media tour, giving interviews to Bloomberg and conservative YouTube host Stefan Molyneux. On Friday, he continued the blitz. In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal called “Why I was Fired by Google,” he slammed the company for its attempt to “silence open and honest discussion.”
“How did Google, the company that hires the smartest people in the world, become so ideologically driven and intolerant of scientific debate and reasoned argument?” he wrote.
The op-ed comes a day after Google CEO Sundar Pichai was supposed to hash it all out in an all-hands meeting with the company’s more than 60,000 employees. Pichai canceled the meeting, though, after some employees expressed concerns about being harassed online. Later that night, Pichai made a public appearance at an event near Google’s campus focused on young girls in tech.
“I want you to know there’s a place for you in this industry,” Pichai said to the young women in the audience. “There’s a place for you at Google. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here, and we need you.”
The controversy has fueled a national debate, at a time when Silicon Valley has had to grapple with tough questions about the diversity of its ranks. (Google’s workforce is 69 percent male. That jumps to 80 percent when you consider just technical jobs.) The backlash has also turned Damore into a conservative hero, with one right-wing group setting up a crowdfunding page that’s raised tens of thousands of dollars for the former Googler.
In the aftermath of memo-gate, everyone’s had an opinion.
On Friday, Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer who shone a spotlight on the ride-hailing giant’s workplace culture and diversity issues, weighed in after Damore’s op-ed. She said the personal essay proved his memo was “sexist” and “anti-diversity.”
David Brooks, the New York Times’ conservative columnist, called for Pichai to resign. “This episode suggests he should seek a nonleadership position,” Brooks wrote. “We are at a moment when mobs on the left and the right ignore evidence and destroy scapegoats. That’s when we need good leaders most.”
So, forthright opinions all around. And needless to say, the issue isn’t going away anytime soon.
Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”
Special Reports: All of CNET’s most in-depth features in one easy spot.