Google has fired an employee who authored an internal memo, which leaked online, criticizing the tech giant’s diversity policies, Bloomberg reports.
James Damore attacked Google’s “politically correct monoculture” in the memo titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” It has been published online in full by Motherboard, which first reported on the document, and by Gizmodo.
“We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company,” Danielle Brown, Google’s Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, wrote in a memo responding to Damore’s document, Motherboard reports. “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.”
The memo went “viral internally” at Google, according to Motherboard, and many current and former employees spoke out against it on social media after it was made public. But sources told Motherboard there was at least some agreement to the author’s viewpoints from some Google employees. And his memo quickly caught the attention of conservatives, especially in the alt-right, who have rallied around him, with many seeing his treatment by Google as reinforcement that their views are not accepted by Google’s leadership. In June, a shareholder asked at a meeting if conservatives would be accepted at the company.
“The company was founded under the principles of freedom of expression, diversity, inclusiveness and science-based thinking,” Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt said at the time, according to Bloomberg. “You’ll also find that all of the other companies in our industry agree with us.”
Here’s what you need to know about Damore, the memo and his firing:
1. James Damore Accused Google of Silencing Conservative Opinions & Argued Biological Differences Play a Role in the Shortage of Women in Tech
In the 10-page, 3,300-word manifesto, which can be read in full here, James Damore accuses Google of silencing Conservative opinions and argues that biological differences play a role in the shortage of women in tech, among other points.
“Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety,” he wrote in his TL;DR section of the memo. “This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed. The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.”
He added, “Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.”
In a section seemingly added after the original document was posted, Damore wrote:
I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. 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. Despite what the public response seems to have been, I’ve gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired. This needs to change.
Damore argues that the focus on race and gender bias has led to Google ignoring a diversity of ideas.
“At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases,” he wrote. “Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices.”
He wrote that neither side is 100 percent correct, but he believes Google leans too far left.
“Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies,” he wrote. “For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.”
He goes on to argue that the left-bias of Google is causing it to miss what he believes are personality differences between men and women that cause the gender gap in tech:
Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).
These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics, saying women on average have more.
Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.
This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there’s overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women’s issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support.
Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.
He also wrote that men have a “higher drive for status,” saying, “We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life. Status is the primary metric that men are judged on, pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail.”
He said in his conclusion, “I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).”
He suggested Google do the following: De-moralize diversity; stop alienating conservatives; confront its biases; stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races; have an open and honest discussion about the costs and benefits of its diversity programs; focus on psychological safety, not just race/gender diversity; de-emphasize empathy; prioritize intention; be open about the science of human nature; and reconsider making Unconscious Bias training mandatory for promo committees.
2. Damore Spoke Out for the First Time on Tuesday in an Interview With a Libertarian Author, Sayinga Diversity Program Triggered His Memo
James Damore spoke out for the first time on Tuesday, August 8, in an interview on YouTube with Libertarian author and podcaster Stefan Molyneux, who had come to Damore’s defense in a lengthy YouTube video before the Google employee was fired. In the 45-minute interview, Damore said he wrote the memo on a 12-hour flight to China after he attended a diversity program at Google.
“I heard things that I definitely disagreed with,” he told Molyneux. He said there was a lot of shaming at the program. They said “‘no you can’t say that, that’s sexist … ‘You can’t do this.’ … There’s just so much hypocrisy in a lot of the things that they’re saying.”
He told Molyneux he felt “isolated” by Google’s “liberal” culture.
“I really thought it was a problem Google itself had to fix. Hopefully they do,” he said.
Damore told Bloomberg he was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” Google has not commented about his dismissal.
Damore told the New York Times’ Daisuke Wakabayashi he will likely take legal action against Google. He said he believes the company acted illegally by firing him.
“I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does,” Damore told the New York Times. He said he wrote the memo to start an “honest discussion” about what he believes to be Google’s intolerance for ideas that don’t fit into its left-leaning biases, according to the Times.
Damore told the Times he submitted a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board before he was fired, claiming Google’s upper management was “misrepresenting and shaming me in order to silence my complaints.” He said it is “illegal to retaliate” against a complaint made to the NLRB.
A fund has been set up by the website WeSearchr to help in his legal fight as part of the alt-right’s efforts to fight back against Damore’s firing and the reaction to the memo.
“The radical Left has been whipping up hate mobs to get independents, libertarians, conservatives, and simple contrarians publicly shamed, bullied, and fired from their jobs for years,” WeSearchr wrote Monday. “Now they’re attacking a man for honestly, wisely, and politely expressing his opinions to his colleagues. And they’ve gotten him fired. We can’t let James Damore be bullied like this without a fight. When the Left gets someone fired, it’s our duty to get that person back up on their feet and stronger and more secure than ever. If we don’t, then we’re next.”
Damore also has a couple job offers to consider. One offer came from Gab, a company founded in 2016 that says it is “an ad-free social network for creators who believe in free speech, individual liberty, and the free flow of information online.” It has become popular among those in the alt right, including some who have been banned from Twitter.
And Wikileaks’ Julian Assange tweeted Tuesday, “Censorship is for losers. @WikiLeaks is offering a job to fired Google engineer James Damore.”
3. Google’s CEO Said Parts of the Memo ‘Violate Our Code of Conduct & Cross the Line by Advancing Harmful Gender Stereotypes’
On Monday, two days after the document was reported on for the first time, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to employees saying that parts of the memo “violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace,” Bloomberg reported. He did not specifically say that Google was taking action against the employee, and did not identify him, but Damore confirmed to Bloomberg that he had been fired.
ReCode first obtained Pichai’s memo, which had the subject, “Our words matter.” He wrote:
First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects ‘each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.’
He added, “The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being ‘agreeable’ rather than ‘assertive,’ showing a ‘lower stress tolerance,’ or being ‘neurotic.'”
Pichai added that Google employees who are questioning whether they can express their opinions might also fall into a minority group.
“They too feel under threat, and that’s not OK,” he wrote. “People must feel free to express dissent.”
You can read the full memo here. Pichai cut short his vacation as a result of Damore’s memo.
“I have been on work related travel in Africa and Europe the past couple of weeks and had just started my family vacation here this week. I have decided to return tomorrow as clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group—including how we create a more inclusive environment for all,” he wrote.
While Damore has been embraced by the far right, he has been demonized by the left and many at Google and in the tech world have also lashed out at his views and the reaction to them.
Susan Fowler, an ex-Uber employee who spoke out about sexism in the tech world in February, wrote on Twitter about the reaction:
According to Motherboard, one employee, software engineer Jaana Dogan, wrote on Twitter on Saturday in now-deleted tweets, “If HR does nothing in this case, I will consider leaving this company for real for the first time in five years.”
Another employee told Motherboard, “The broader context of this is that this person is perhaps bolder than most of the people at Google who share his viewpoint—of thinking women are less qualified than men—to the point he was willing to publicly argue for it. But there are sadly more people like him. … It’s not worth thinking about this as an isolated incident and instead a manifestation of what ails all of Silicon Valley.”
Yonatan Zungar, who recently left Google, wrote a lengthy Medium post responding to the memo:
What you just did was incredibly stupid and harmful. You just put out a manifesto inside the company arguing that some large fraction of your colleagues are at root not good enough to do their jobs, and that they’re only being kept in their jobs because of some political ideas. And worse than simply thinking these things or saying them in private, you’ve said them in a way that’s tried to legitimize this kind of thing across the company, causing other people to get up and say “wait, is that right?”
I need to be very clear here: not only was nearly everything you said in that document wrong, the fact that you did that has caused significant harm to people across this company, and to the company’s entire ability to function. And being aware of that kind of consequence is also part of your job, as in fact it would be at pretty much any other job. I am no longer even at the company and I’ve had to spend half of the past day talking to people and cleaning up the mess you’ve made. I can’t even imagine how much time and emotional energy has been sunk into this, not to mention reputational harm more broadly.
And as for its impact on you: Do you understand that at this point, I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you? I certainly couldn’t assign any women to deal with this, a good number of the people you might have to work with may simply punch you in the face, and even if there were a group of like-minded individuals I could put you with, nobody would be able to collaborate with them. You have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment.
A former engineering employee told the website, “I feel like there’s a lot of pushback from white dudes who genuinely feel like diversity is lowering the bar.”
Ari Balogh, Google’s VP of engineering, wrote in an internal memo obtained by Business Insider that “questioning our assumptions and sharing different perspectives,” is an important part of Google’s culture, but stereotypes and harmful assumptions are not.
“One of the aspects of the post that troubled me deeply was the bias inherent in suggesting that most women, or men, feel or act a certain way. That is stereotyping, and it is harmful,” Balogh wrote in the memo.
4. Damore, a Chess Champion as a Child, Graduated in the Top 3 Percent of His Class at the University of Illinois & Has Pursued a Ph.D. From Harvard
Damore is an Illinois native who graduated from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in 2007, according to his Facebook page. As a child, Damore was a chess champion, earning the FIDE Master title, putting him in the >99th percentile, according to his CV. He won regional tournaments in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, and finished second in the Nation Youth Action 2003 Chess Tournament. He was also the highest ranked player in the world in the video game Rise of Nations in 2004.
He then went on to the University of Illinois, where he graduated in 2010 in the top 3 percent of his class with a degree in molecular and cellular biology, according to his CV. He graduated as a James Scholar and was given the Bronze Tablet, the highest awards given to graduates, he said.
Damore also pursued his Ph.D. in systems biology from Harvard University in from 2011 to 2013, according to his Linkedin profile. He is listed in the alumni section of the Harvard Systems Biology Ph.D. program, but Harvard told Wired that Damore did not complete his Ph.D. He did complete a master’s degree in systems biology in 2013, Harvard told Wired.
He has often shared his thoughts and philosophies about life on Facebook, with a seemingly sarcastic tone.
In November 2013 he wrote a Facebook post titled the “Efficient Guide to Effciency,” saying:
This guide is written under the premise that if you’re not brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, answering emails, and doing yoga all at the same time every morning, you’re wasting your life. And that “proper” paragraphs are inefficient.
Don’t think that just because you’re sprinting you can’t be eating breakfast.
Oats. The epitome of efficiency.
Also, the extra fiber will help shave your bowel movements to seconds
I fulfill my daily sleeping requirements by entering a deep REM state for a tenth of a second every time I blink. Alternatively, memorize your surroundings and sleep while sprinting everywhere.
Start all phone conversations with “Talk to me.” End all real life conversations by sprinting away without time-wasting pleasantries like “bye,” or the vapid waste of another precious syllable in “goodbye.”
I try not to interact with other people, but when I do I keep to a minimum of three conversations at once: two spoken languages and sign language. I am tempted to recommend quadrupling up by learning sign language with your feet, but most conversations will be held right before or while you’re sprinting so that’s out.
Be constantly sprinting
Find it hard to concentrate on more than one thing at a time? Tired of being constantly distracted by things you hear or see on your left and right? Cut your corpus callosum and become two people, doubling your efficiency!
Sometimes it surprises me how traditional people are. Times are changing, this is the 21st century for God’s sake. Get your cranial implants already! As soon as they were tested on mice, I got myself five and haven’t wasted any more of my life without a wireless connection in my brain.
I can’t even remember what it was like before my cranial implants. I’m serious, I can’t remember. I think something went wrong during the operation in my garage. My first memory is waking up (I had apparently just blinked) in the middle of a six way conversation in four languages, sprinting to nowhere. I was halfway through downloading the internet into my brain and my need for gratuitous multitasking was insatiable. My life is a blur. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m the left half or right half of this brain that I share…
Don’t waste your time with real conclusions to your posts.
Also that month he wrote about getting your money worth at a buffet:
The mere existence of all you can eat buffets proves that people don’t know how to get their money’s worth. As someone who has eaten way more than he should have on more occasions than his stubby sausage fingers can count, I’ll elaborate on my system:
The 12 Stages of Getting Your Money’s Worth at a Buffet:
1. You “feel” full
2. You “feel” sick
3. Food loses its taste
4. It becomes harder to breathe
5. Your heartbeat and breathing slow down
6. You begin to enter a stage of general numbness
7. Temporary blindness and paralysis set in
8. You lose the ability to think or make any meaningful sounds
9. You pass out
10. Your esophagus fills, making it nearly impossible to feed you while you sleep
11. Your assistant must get you upright (the hard part) and push food down your throat using a pressurized device
12. Your assistant drags you out the back to avoid paying
1. Ordering a drink. Why pay a buck extra for something that will lose its taste a fourth of the way through?
2. Deciding to leave. As mentioned above, if you have the mental (much less physical) ability to decide to leave, it’s way too early.
3. Going with a group of friends. Friends just slow you down; all they want to do is talk and then leave after a couple hours. Plus, who needs friends when you can have all you can eat?!
Some Tips and Tricks:Getting your money’s worth is fun!Getting your money’s worth is fun!
1. Bring a date to a buffet. One of the best ways to find out if you’ve found the right girl is to bring her to a buffet. If she gets a bowl of salad, eats half of it and then starts complaining, you have a dud. If however, she teases you, the hopeful master, for not getting your money’s worth, then you got yourself a keeper.
2. Consciously eat the most expensive food possible. Don’t waste your time and money on undercooked bread that will just expand in your stomach!
3. If I feel like I’m about to pass out, I start pre-chewing a couple plates of food, and then when I do lose consciousness, it’ll be that much easier for whoever’s with me to feed me.
4. Once you’ve accumulated enough street rep, you should really look into getting sponsored. You can get paid for just wearing a company’s logo—who wouldn’t trust the food opinion of a man that could (and occasionally does) eat a horse in one sitting? The best part is that the more you eat, the more ads that you can fit on your body!
He is also an artist, drawing numerous charcoal sketches that he has posted to his Facebook page.
5. He Started Working at Google in 2013 After Time Spent as a Researcher at Princeton, Harvard & MIT
Damore started at Google as software engineering intern from May 2013 to August 2013, according to his Linkedin profile. He then was hired by the company full time in December 2013, working in the company’s Mountain View office.
“Flying home tonight and starting at Google in two weeks, so excited,” he wrote on Facebook. Damore worked on infrastructure for Google’s search product, according to the New York Times.
He published two research papers while working at Jeff Gore’s biophysics laboratory at MIT in 2011 and 2012: “Understanding microbial cooperation” and “A slowly evolving host moves first in symbiotic interactions.”
He says that he has “Senior or graduate level knowledge of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, game theory, and computer programming.”