Updated 11.30a.m. 9th August: Google has been accused of alleged sexism and a gender pay gap, and now more than 60 current and former employees are considering a class-action lawsuit, according to the Guardian.
The attorney working on potential legal action told the Guardian that they "contend to have earned less than men at Google despite equal qualifications and comparable positions" and spoke of a culture that is "hostile to women". It comes after an employee was fired at the weekend for penning a controversial memo about diversity.
Original story published 11a.m. 8th August: Google Has Fired The Employee Behind The Controversial "Anti-Diversity" Memo
Motherboard first reported on Damore's memo, entitled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," early on Saturday morning, after multiple Google employees took to Twitter to voice their concerns. The document has since been published in its entirety on Gizmodo. The memo has a ranting nature, and claims the gender gap within tech exists because women are biologically different from men in ways that make them less suited to engineering roles. Furthermore, Damore goes on to say that efforts to increase diversity by focusing on specific genders and races is discriminatory in itself. The memo came at a time when concerns about sexism in Silicon Valley are at an all time high.
Yesterday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai penned a note to employees that has since been posted on The Keyword, a blog about goings-on at the company and product updates. Pichai's letter echoes some of the messaging previously sent by Danielle Brown, Google's VP of Diversity, Integrity, and Governance, by beginning with a reference to the right to free speech.
"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," Pichai wrote.
Though Pichai continues to emphasise the importance of finding ways for employees to freely express themselves, he makes clear the memo violates Google's "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.'"
Others have come out in support of Google's firing, saying that Damore's actions harmed his coworkers and fostered a hostile workplace. There's legitimacy to these claims. In his 2015 book Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, Laszlo Bock, Google's former SVP of People Operations details the company's overhaul of its performance review system. One element Bock notes is Google's peer review system, which operates on the "wisdom of crowds" theory: Your manager doesn't see everything, but your peers see the real you. Damore's memo presents the possibility that it affected his judgement of some of his colleagues, namely women and minorities, in his peer reviews — which has very real consequences under Google's performance review system and could impact salaries.
Google is already under fire for its salary practices. In April, the Department of Labor accused Google of gender pay discrimination, which the company denied.
The "anti-diversity" memo saga is likely far from over for Google, but the wider discussion it has sparked about diversity initiatives, free speech within companies, and how Silicon Valley handles dissent in corporate environments are ones that the entire tech industry has to grapple with.