SAN FRANCISCO - The Google engineer who wrote an anti-diversity manifesto that has roiled the company and Silicon Valley has been fired, according to reports.
Bloomberg reports James Damore confirmed he was fired over the memo in an email, saying he is "currently exploring all possible legal remedies."
Google declined to confirm the firing.
The essay by the male engineer began to circulate within the company last week. Titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," it suggests the company encourage "ideological" rather than gender diversity and contends that women don't make up 50% of the company's tech and leadership positions because of differences in their preferences and abilities, not sexism.
Fallout from the memo has been so severe that Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who had been traveling in Europe and Africa, cut short his family vacation and told employees he would be back for a town hall meeting Thursday in order to discuss the incident that's caused an uproar at the company.
"This has been a very difficult few days," a company-wide memo sent out by Pichai on Monday evening began.
The company strongly supports the right of staff to express themselves “and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it,” Pichai wrote in his memo.
However, portions of the engineer's manifesto violate the company’s code of conduct, crossing the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes, Pichai said.
“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct,” he said.
The company was between a rock and a hard place – if it fired him it created a martyr but if it didn’t, it would have a staff member whose management and potential hiring decisions would be highly suspect.
Nichole Sanchez, CEO of Vaya Consulting, which works with tech companies on diversity, said she was pleased and surprised that Google had come out so strongly in support of it code of conduct.
“The fundamental question was, did he manage anyone and did he make any hiring decisions? What if he has rejected women he was interviewing? What would they do then?” she said.
For Google, the real work of talking to staffers begins now, said Karla Monterroso, vice president for programs at Code 2040, a non-profit that helps prepare college-age African-American and Latino technical talent for careers in the tech industry.
“This is a chain of commend issue. Either a manager didn’t know about this at all, which is hard to believe, or when the comments were made they were ignored or they were tacitly agreed with and ignored. That’s the problem. You do not get to a ten-page memo publically published internally without a certain amount of affirmation.”
The issue has been so divisive throughout the tech industry that Code2040 will hold a Facebook Live chat for those dealing with it at 9:00 am San Francisco time Tuesday, she said.
The manifesto had been circulated within Google last week but only became known to a larger audience on Friday when those within the company began to tweet about it.Diversity debate divides Silicon Valley
On Saturday the full text of the essay had been published online by the tech site Gizmodo. By early Sunday, it had gone viral.
On Monday, Motherboard, which broke the news about the manifesto, published it in full, including what it said was an addition by the author:
"Despite what the public response seems to have been, I've gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired. This needs to change."
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