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Anti-diversity memo by Google engineer sparks gender row

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Google executives have spoken out against an internal memo written by a Google engineer which criticises the company’s progressive ethos and drive for diversity, arguing that women engineers are not as biologically capable as their male colleagues.

The 10-page memo, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, was written by an anonymous engineer based at Google’s Mountain View campus in California. It was leaked to the public by Motherboard, Vice Magazine’s online tech news area.

“Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence,” the engineer wrote. “This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.”

The author argues in the memo that many of the differences between men and women – such as levels of neuroticism and ability to perform logical tasks such as coding – are biological, rather than socially constructed.

“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,” the author wrote.

According to a diversity report recently released by Google, just 20 per cent of its technical staff are women.

The author suggests that to break down this “echo chamber” Google must “de-moralise diversity” and “de-emphasise empathy”, among other actions.

In response to the memo, Danielle Brown, Google’s recently appointed vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, issued a statement criticising the author’s statements about gender differences and welcoming the expression of different opinions.

“I found that [the memo] advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages […] we are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.”

“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 wrote.

“But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment.”

Aristotle Balogh, the company’s vice president for engineering, wrote an internal post which stated that “stereotyping and harmful assumptions” were not welcome in the company’s culture.

Alongside the criticism for its lazy stereotyping of male and female characteristics, the memo has also provoked some debate about the limits of free speech in the workplace. According to Motherboard, Blind - an app which allows employees to anonymously discuss corporate issues with other employees - hosted many messages of support for the memo’s author.

One Google employee described the reaction to the memo as “actually terrifying”, writing that “if someone is not ideologically aligned with the majority then he’s labelled as a ‘poor cultural fit’ and would not be hired/promoted”. Another comment wrote that the author was “extremely brave” and “we need more people standing up against the insanity” to prevent the “ruin” of Google.

Other commentators, however, supported Ms Brown and Mr Balogh in their criticism of the memo, with one writing that “the author is an idiot, grasping at pseudoscience to justify sexism”.

The memo and its fallout comprises another episode in the long-running debate over the treatment of women in Silicon Valley, where claims of systematic discrimination, macho work culture and sexual harassment are frequent and widespread.

Google is currently being investigated by the US Department of Labor [sic], which has found that the company routinely pays women less than male colleagues in similar roles. Google denies these charges.

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