Recently, a memo written by an engineer at Google was leaked to the public. In the memo, he stated his view on why women are biologically incompetent to work in technology environments.
The author of the memo, James Damore, who is a Harvard PhD graduate, was fired by Google on Monday evening. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said the memo violated the company’s code of conduct. The official letter of termination stated Damore had been terminated for perpetuating gender stereotypes.
Firing an employee who made it clear he felt many of his co-workers were inferior was seen as the right move by many tech leaders and analysts, as it spoke volumes about what Google wants to become as a company. The fact that someone felt comfortable disseminating the memo in the first place, however, spoke more about what the company currently is.
A Silicon Valley culture war pitting many reputed and self-proclaimed ‘liberal’ tech firms against a small conservative cohort took on new intensity on Tuesday after Damore’s termination. Many of Silicon Valley’s leaders found his views arguing that men in general may be biologically more suited to coding jobs than women to be offensive and destructive. The manifesto was embraced by some, particularly on the political right, who saw him as a brave truth-teller.
The 28-year-old Damore received jeers, cheers, and a couple of job offers as the memo gained popularity. The debate raged on on social media as a number of tech firms said they were taking steps to prevent a similar situation from developing in their companies.
“Firing Damore was too extreme and Google should have put him through training instead,” said Aaron Ginn, co-founder of the Lincoln Network, a group of libertarian-leaning tech workers and investors.
In a company-wide email, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told his employees that “much of what was in that memo is fair to debate… however, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”