This week, one of the world's biggest tech companies was rocked by the leaking of a manifesto being circulated among employees arguing that women are underrepresented at Google due to fundamental differences between women and men, rather than external circumstances like sexism or discrimination. And although it's been reported that the document represents the views of just one male employee ― James Damore, who was ultimately fired ― the Google "anti-diversity" memo reportedly has supporters within the company, too.
Damore was subsequently fired on Monday, and is talking as though he might pursue legal action. And according to one source, at least, there are more people at Google sympathetic to Damore's regressive takes on gender diversity than are necessarily being public about it. The anonymous source made the following comments to Motherboard, who reported the existence of the memo on Saturday, prior to Gizmodo leaking the entire document:
Honestly, more people have been agreeing with it than I would like. ... From what I've seen it's been a mix of women saying, "This is terrible and it's been distracting me from my work and it shouldn't be allowed"; Men and women saying "this is horrible but we need to let him have a voice"; and men saying "This is so brave, I agree."
The Motherboard report also cites comments by Google employees posted to Blind, an app for private communications among tech company employees. In a thread created to discuss the controversy ― which reportedly requires an active Google.com email account to access ― some employees were framing Damore's dismissal as an issue of political correctness infringing on free speech.
Although, it must be noted, constitutional free speech protections relate to the actions of the federal government, and legally speaking have not typically been seen as preventing companies from firing at-will employees over incendiary political statements. Here's one such comment from the Blind thread, as quoted by Motherboard:
This is actually terrifying: if someone is not ideologically aligned with the majority then he's labeled as a "poor cultural fit" and would not be hired/promoted. ... Eric [possibly referring to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google] somewhere said that Google has the lowest percentage of conservatives and I think this post underlines the institutionalized discrimination that led to this extreme lack of intellectual diversity.
If you're looking for a reason the offensive memo may have caught on with many of the company's employees, the fact that women are a clear minority in the Google workforce is tough to overlook. According to the company's own public diversity statistics, its overall workforce is 69 percent men and 31 percent women, and when the job field is narrowed to tech vs. non-tech, the divide becomes even more stark ― just 20 percent of the company's tech staff are women, while 48 percent of it's non-tech staff are women.
When it comes to corporate leadership, women are also badly out-represented by men at Google ― just 25 percent of the company's leadership are women, by its own estimates.