Over the weekend, an internal memo from a male Google engineer titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” went viral as a glaring example of the attitudes that companies such as Google have to contend with over longstanding issues of diversity.
In the 3,000-word, 10-page post, which was obtained by Gizmodo, the writer shared a number of his views about diversity at Google.
It included an erroneous argument that gender gaps were not due to sexism, but rather due to biological differences between men and women. Here is one passage that’s representative of the writer’s position: “Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts.”
In response, Danielle Brown, the company’s recently installed chief of diversity and inclusion, said of the incident that “it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages. … Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.”
The memo arrives as Google’s handling of inclusion and diversity has been highly scrutinized. At the end of the June, the company released its annual diversity report, which revealed that its workforce is 56 percent white and 69 percent male.
In early January, the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Google to get the company to turn over its data about how it pays its employees, accusing Google of discriminatory compensation practices. However, in July, a judge ruled that the company didn’t have to turn over all the information that the Labor Department required, after it cited concerns about the cost of collecting the data.
As Brown noted in her letter to Google staffers, “Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable.”
The fact that a Google employee felt comfortable enough to share these views with the company at large shows that however well-meaning Google’s leadership is, it will take a lot more time and effort to cure this disease plaguing Silicon Valley and other workplaces.