By Diane Cooke
The engineer in the Google anti-diversity memo controversy has been fired.
James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the note, confirmed his dismissal in an email, saying that he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” He said he’s “currently exploring all possible legal remedies.”
Although Google’s new VP of Diversity, Integrity, and Governance, Danielle Brown, had responded to the engineer’s memo by defending his right to speak out, writing: “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.”
She also created an opening for his termination by stating that “[employee] discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”
It's easy to see why Google would have a knee-jerk reaction to such a memo, since the company is under investigation for "extreme gender pay discrimination" by the US Labour Department.
The government has collected information that suggests the internet search giant is violating federal employment laws with its salaries for women, agency officials have said.
“We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” Janette Wipper, a DoL regional director, testified in court in San Francisco in April.
However, the investigation hit a stumbling block last month when a court judge decided that the Labour Department will not get access to the full details it has requested on 21,000 Google employees, saying that the agency's demand for data is too broad and could violate workers' privacy.
The provisional ruling blocks efforts by officials to prove what they have called a “systemic” pay gap at the online search giant between men and women, allegedly uncovered during a routine contracting audit. The decision, which must still be finalised, could mark a victory for Google, which denies having paid women less than their male counterparts.
Critics of Silicon Valley have drawn fierce attention to its lack of diversity and tendency to marginalise minorities and women, at times highlighting cases of unwanted sexual advances from male co-workers or refusals by management to address toxic workplace culture problems.
Susan Fowler, a former engineer at Uber, helped renew the scrutiny facing tech companies after writing a blog post alleging that Uber ignored chronic complaints about her boss.
Uber has since undergone a rapid transformation with the departure of key executives including its chief executive, Travis Kalanick.
But many argue that Uber's problems are reflected in the rest of the technology industry and the Google anti-diversity memo would seem to provide the evidence.