A culture of openness

Google did fire Mr Memo.

In a companywide email, Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, said portions of the memo had violated the company’s code of conduct and crossed the line “by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

The memo put the company in a bind. On one hand, Google has long promoted a culture of openness, with employees allowed to question senior executives and even mock its strategy in internal forums. However, Google, like many other technology firms, is dealing with criticism that it has not done enough to hire and promote women and minorities.

Of course, questioning senior executives is one thing and announcing that women are inherently, as a matter of “biology,” not good enough to work at Google is another.

In an email titled “Our Words Matter,” Mr. Pichai said that he supported the right of employees to express themselves but that the memo had gone too far.

“The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender,” Mr. Pichai wrote. “Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being ‘agreeable’ rather than ‘assertive,’ showing a ‘lower stress tolerance,’ or being ‘neurotic.’”

Especially since having to worry about that uses up brain space that they could be using for work.

James Damore, the software engineer who wrote the original memo, confirmed in an email to The New York Times that he had been fired. Mr. Damore had worked at Google since 2013. He said in his memo that he had written it in the hope of having an “honest discussion” about how the company had an intolerance for ideologies that do not fit into what he believed were its left-leaning biases.

What ideologies are those? The ones that hold that “group X is ON AVERAGE [emphasis theirs] bad at the skills this job requires” and that therefore “the fact that fewer Xs work here is not something that needs to be corrected.”

In other words, the same old shit, dressed up in pseudo-intellectual language. There are more men in this company because men are better. There are more white people in this company because white people are better. We are better than you. Go away.

In other words, as Yonatan Zunger put it, a textbook hostile work environment.

Sure, Google could say we think a hostile work environment is worth it for the sake of open discussion. There’s certainly a lot of value in open discussion, and a work environment that encourages it. But…there’s also a lot of value in a work environment comparatively free of that particular brand of contempt.

Mr. Damore, who worked on infrastructure for Google’s search product, said he believed that the company’s actions were illegal and that he would “likely be pursuing legal action.”

“I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does,” Mr. Damore said.

Hmm. I’m not a lawyer, to put it mildly, but I doubt that. It sounds far too sweeping to be true. I doubt that anyone has a “legal right” to circulate, for instance, a bluntly racist or sexist memo full of epithets and memes and Pepe the frogs. Mr. Damore didn’t do that, but he didn’t just circulate a memo about his oncerns about the terms and conditions of his working environment, either. He circulated a memo that expatiated at great length on what is is about women that makes Google fail to hire them. Does he have a legal right to do that? I don’t know, but I have my doubts.

Before being fired, Mr. Damore said, he had submitted a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Google’s upper management was “misrepresenting and shaming me in order to silence my complaints.” He added that it was “illegal to retaliate” against an N.L.R.B. charge.

And another martyr for men’s rights takes the stage.

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