Google makes strong statement by firing engineer behind anti-diversity memo

However, the company is bracing for an ensuing free speech controversy as a result of the termination.

Google made a strong statement on Monday by firing an employee who penned a manifesto criticizing the technology giant’s diversity initiatives, say technology PR veterans.

Ryan Brack, founder of Future Forward Partners and a former Google comms employee, called the memo "toxic and downright destructive."

"While Google is known for its culture of ideas and openness, they did the right thing by firing the author of this pseudo-intellectual and discriminatory rant," he said, via email.

Written by James Damore, who was dismissed by Google on Monday, the memo entitled "Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber" argued that the company should design policies allowing for greater "ideological diversity" instead of gender and racial diversity. "We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism," he contended in the memo, much of which is focused on gender issues.

The memo caused an uproar within Google’s 61,000-strong workforce, with the note going "internally viral," according to Motherboard.

Many Silicon Valley employees also spoke out against the memo on social media.

Danielle Brown, VP of diversity, integrity, and governance at Google, responded with an internal statement, saying the company stands by its principles and supports alternative points of view and discourse that aligns with its "principles of equal employment."

Google fired Damore on Monday, and Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive, sent a note to all employees saying Damore’s comments "violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."

The uproar caused by Damore’s memo is only the latest criticism Google and other U.S. technology companies have faced over a lack of gender diversity and the treatment of women in the workplace. Brack noted that Labor Department investigators have also accused Google of paying women less than men across its workforce. Facebook posted its own statement about building a more diverse workforce at the start of August.

"If [Google is] serious about taking a principled stand, they’ll need to be more forceful in the future," he said.

Morgan McLintic, founder of Firebrand Communications, noted that Google’s actions show it is taking the manifesto very seriously.

"They had to walk the line between freedom of speech and creating a safe, diverse work environment," he said, via email. "The fact the CEO stepped in, having cut short his vacation and quickly followed up with town hall debate shows how seriously Google is taking this."

However, Google is facing a resulting controversy, with critics accusing it of stifling unpopular opinion and free speech by firing Damore.

"Expect Google to be firm about gender diversity and proactive in providing an appropriate forum for discussion as a result," McLintic predicts.

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