Google CEO to girls: You belong in this industry and we need you

August 11, 2017 by Elizabeth Weise, Usa Today

Google on Thursday abruptly canceled a town hall meeting to address the fallout from an anti-diversity memo, but CEO Sundar Pichai made his feelings on the matter known Thursday night at an event honoring girl coders from around the world.

"I want you know that that there's place for you in this industry, there's a place for you at Google. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here and we need you," he told the coding teams who were being honored at the Technovation awards ceremony at Google's campus here.

The 12 finalist teams, all made up of young women who developed apps to solve challenges in their communities, cames from Hong Kong, Kazhakstan, Cambodia, India, Armenia, Kenya, Canada and across the United States.

"I know the journey won't always be easy," he said, then continued, saying he hoped this was the beginning of long careers in tech for each of them, building things people around the world would use every day.

When he said they belonged in tech and, "don't let anyone tell you otherwise," the crowd burst into cheers, with the loudest coming from Google staffers who were helping host the outdoor event.

"At Google, we are very committed to building products for everyone in the world, and I think to do that well, we really need to have people internally who represent the world in totality. So it's really important that more women and girls have the opportunity to participate in tech to learn how to code create and innovated," he told the families in a short speech at the beginning of the festivities

The speech has been his sole public comment on the ongoing issue of former Google engineerJames Damore's memo questioning the company's efforts to bring more women into technology.

Pichai fired Damore on Monday for what he said was a violation of Google's policies, because his manifesto advanced "harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."

The meeting Thursday was to have allowed staff to ask questions about the firing and the concerns it has raised. But minutes before it was supposed to start, Pichai said in an email to Googlers it had been scotched due to concern about online harassment of employees whose names and questions were published on alt-right websites.

"Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be 'outed' publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall," Pichai wrote.

The last-minute cancellation is the latest twist in a saga that began last Friday with a few tweets about a long memo by Damore which quickly became a publicity inferno, calling into question Google's focus on increasing the number of women, African-Americans and Hispanics in its technical and leadership ranks, as well as the company's commitment to free speech and the limits of internal debate.

The issue became so toxic Pichai cut short a family vacation in Africa and Europe, returning Monday to discuss the matter with staffers and eventually making the decision to fire Damore.

The town hall meeting was scheduled to begin at 4 pm Pacific time and was to have been live-streamed to the company's 60,000 employees worldwide.

A document meant to clarify thoughts

The now infamous memo had its origins in a diversity program that Damore, 28, attended at Google. Such training programs are common at both Google and many tech companies as they have sought to increase the number of women, African-Americans and Hispanics who work in tech and leadership positions.

The "manifesto," as many have called it, listed multiple reasons why the author believed Google's efforts to increase the number of women in technical fields was unworkable, in part because he said women are more interested in people than ideas.

While Damore has not responded to attempts by USA TODAY to request an interview, he has done two lengthy interviews with hosts of right-wing YouTube channels, as well as one short interview with Bloomberg TV.

On Tuesday, he told Stefan Molyneux, host of Freedomain Radio, that the memo had its origins in his disagreement with much of what was presented at the diversity training.

"There was a lot of just shaming and 'No, you can't say that, that's sexist you can't do this'," he told Molyneux.

As he pondered the issue on a 12-hour work flight to China, he "decided to create the document to clarify my thoughts," he said

Damore shared the resulting 3,000-word essay he'd written with some staffers at Google a month ago.

"Many people looked at it but no one ever had this explosive reaction. All the responses were just rational discussions," he said.

He eventually posted it on an internal Google mailing list. By Aug. 4, staff had begun tweeting about it and by Saturday it had been posted on public sites. That ignited a blizzard of controversy and Damore was fired Monday.

Damore has since filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint against the company over his firing, claiming he had been engaging in "concerted protected activity" under the National Labor Relations Act, meaning that he was working to change poor working conditions.

He appears to have created a new Twitter account on Tuesday under the name of @fired4truth.

On Thursday the profile picture on the account was changed to an image in which Damore is wearing a t-shirt that reads Goolag in the distinctive colors and font of Google's logo, presumably likening his nearly four years at the search engine company to the Soviet camps in which as many 30 million prisoners are estimated to have been starved or worked to death between 1918 and 1956.

Explore further: Google CEO Pichai cancels 'town hall' on gender dispute

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Automated safety systems are preventing car crashes

August 23, 2017

Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or that warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released ...

Newest solar cells underperform in cloudy countries

August 22, 2017

To determine how efficient new solar cells convert sunlight into electricity, small sample cells are tested under ideal conditions. However, the reported efficiency is not very representative of the actual annual yield when ...

Google to serve next version of Android as 'Oreo"

August 22, 2017

An upcoming update to Google's Android software finally has a delectable name. The next version will be known as Oreo, extending Google's tradition of naming each version after a sweet treat.

Forget oil, Russia goes crazy for cryptocurrency

August 16, 2017

Standing in a warehouse in a Moscow suburb, Dmitry Marinichev tries to speak over the deafening hum of hundreds of computers stacked on shelves hard at work mining for crypto money.

Researchers clarify mystery about proposed battery material

August 15, 2017

Battery researchers agree that one of the most promising possibilities for future battery technology is the lithium-air (or lithium-oxygen) battery, which could provide three times as much power for a given weight as today's ...

9 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

aksdad
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
Google, like many companies trying to appear sensitive and sympathetic to the latest fashion in identity politics, is implementing policies that stifle rather than nurture healthy and open discussion of those ideas and policies. Contrary to Sunder Pichai's fatuous claim, there was nothing in James Damore's memo that "promoted gender stereotypes." He simply questioned policies that ignore the real, common, and obvious differences in gender, while admitting that not everyone who is male or female exhibits those differences.

Damore acknowledges the differences and the wide range of variation in those differences. Pichai pretends that differences don't exist. Seems that Damore's view is grounded in reality while Pichai's is not.
ThomasQuinn
5 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2017
" there was nothing in James Damore's memo that "promoted gender stereotypes." "? I beg your pardon?

https://thenextwe...s0mtAG3c

https://www.recod...s-damore

https://www.vox.c...y-sexism

http://www.bbc.co...ot-wrong

Do you believe in science, aksdad? If you do, you will find that scientists with experience in the relevant disciplines (which Damore DOESN'T HAVE) tear his 'arguments' to pieces with SOLID arguments.

If, on the other hand, you are a right-wing ideologue, you will love his little paper. Because it is, from start to finish, a POLITICAL manifesto, NOT a scientific paper OR a starting point for discussion.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
tear his 'arguments' to pieces with SOLID arguments


From a cursory look at those arguments, they seem to be strawmen, like "the brains of males and females are so different that they should be educated in single-sex classrooms" which was not asserted in the memo.

It seems a great deal of what these people are debunking are their own insertions and distortions of the point, which as far as I understood it, was that women and men do have differences such that there will always be some disparity within the workplace, and trying to bully one and favor the other to reach a politically correct 50:50 ratio is counterproductive to the bottom line of the company, and morally dubious at best.

It doesn't mean that women are inherently incapable of X - it means that out of the populations of men and women, more men meet the requirements and so an unbiased fair pick of the applicants would automatically result in more men than women being hired for the task.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
Or as one author put it - the argument for diversity is self-contradictory.

On one hand it argues that people are the same, they have the same skills, intelligences, motivations, same interests etc. so that anyone can in principle do the job just as well regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation... you name it. Therefore any disparity in representation must be due to oppression and must be met with countermeasures of positive discrimination.

On the other hand, it argues that diversity in the workplace is desirable because it brings in more viewpoints and different skillsets, motivations, ideas... you name it. You need the woman's perspective, and the minority perspective... etc. to keep relevant in the marketplace.

One contradicts the other. If there are no differences, then diversity is just political, not practical. If there are differences, then naturally some people are more suited for a task, and diversity for the sake of diversity is counterproductive.
Da Schneib
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
@Eikka's job got taken over by a woman who's better than he ever was and he's bent on revenge.

Damore, on the other hand, is a typical misogynistic Valley programmer who wanted to be famous and found a way.

Get over it, dudes.
RichManJoe
3 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
Yes, Sundar Pichai welcomes women to high technology, but he pays them less than men. What a sleaze ball.
Da Schneib
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
@Joe, can we have some evidence that Pichai is in charge of salaries? Just askin'.
ugosugo
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
the fact that he needed to say that kind of imply they hire women just to comply/support an affirmative action and not because they consider them skilled/valuable workforce
Da Schneib
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
As a worker in that sector, I have to say the best women are as good at coding and design as the best men. And any man who can't handle that needs to find a new career. See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.