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Google diversity memo: Web giant repudiates staffer's screed for 'incorrect assumptions about gender'

Engineer's 10-page doc dumps on diversity

By Simon Sharwood, 7 Aug 2017

A Google engineer's 10-page argument for winding back diversity programs inside the ad giant has gone viral and sparked debate about whether Google really is an ideological echo chamber in which it's forbidden to ask whether efforts to promote diversity by denying biology are harming the business.

Google execs have repudiated the document, which has made its way to Gizmodo. The document is long, but its author thoughtfully provided the following summary of his arguments.

  • Google's political bias has equated the freedom from offence with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
  • 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: Extreme – all disparities in representation are due to oppression; Authoritarian – we should discriminate to correct for this oppression.
  • Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don't have 50 per cent representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

It's safe to say that the document is a little out of step with Google's stated culture, as the company's diversity page opens with a quote from CEO Sundar Pichai to the effect that “A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.”

But perhaps it is not out of step with Google's actual culture, as the company has declined to compile data that would reveal if it has a gender pay gap in response to a lawsuit from the United States Department of Labor.

The stuff that counts, for now, comes from Google's recently appointed head of diversity Danielle Brown, whose memo on the document has also leaked. Brown says the staffer's document “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender”.

But she says Google's commitment to diversity means it values the author's contribution, because “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,” Brown wrote.

Except when those views contravene company policy, as she points out by writing “But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

The Register understands that other Google execs have also penned negative responses to the document.

Various posts suggest the document’s author may find his credentials don't let him into the building on Monday morning. Others say that if the author can make his way to his desk, plenty of other Googlers will head the other way in protest.

Only one thing is sure: any social media outlet of which you're a member is going to carry commentary on this document ad nauseam for days. ®

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