Google’s Memo Fumbles Speak To Larger Struggles With Openness

By Wendy Lee and Marissa Lang
San Francisco Chronicle

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Google has been in the the hot seat for the past week after a widely circulated memo by former Google software engineer James Damore claimed there are more men than women in tech because they have innate, biological attributes that naturally predispose them to careers in coding, while women do not.

San Francisco Chronicle

Google has long sought to symbolize the free flow of information in the technology age, but this week, the company struck many as opaque and disorganized in its handling of a controversy over speech by employees.

The series of missteps were capped by the cancellation of a staff meeting meant to foster an open discussion of race, gender and political ideology.

That, critics said, only stands to make matters worse for Google, which for a week has been on the defensive over a widely circulated memo by former Google software engineer James Damore.

The company had scheduled a meeting for Thursday afternoon to discuss the document, in which Damore argued that there are more men than women in tech because they have innate, biological attributes that naturally predispose them to careers in coding, while women do not.

Employees who planned to ask questions about the memo feared their identities would be exposed, opening them up to harassment, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a staff memo, so he canceled the talk.

“In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion,” Pichai wrote in the memo.

It is unclear what those conditions might be. A Google spokesman declined to comment on the structure of any forums, or whether there would be larger community discussions about Damore’s memo. Pichai wrote that Google would seek to create forums “where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.”

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