A 10-page document penned by an unnamed Google engineer titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber“, that criticizes the company’s “left leaning”, “anti-conservative” culture and calls for replacing Google’s diversity initiatives with policies that encourage “ideological diversity” instead, has led to outrage among fellow Google employees and Silicon Valley pundits.
The document, first reported by Motherboard and published in full by Gizmodo, reportedly has gone “internally viral” inside the company on Friday according to CNBC. The engineer’s identity has not been revealed, but he reports to Google VP Ari Balogh, listed on Crunchbase as the company’s executive VP of storage infrastructure products.
The document’s author also wrote that employees with conservative political beliefs are discriminated against at Google and lamented about how “leftist” ideology is harmful. They argue that the company should have a more “open” culture where their viewpoint would be welcomed. The document said that improving racial and gender diversity is less important than making sure conservatives feel comfortable expressing themselves at work.
Motherboard said it had independently confirmed with multiple Google employees that the document is being widely shared among many of the company’s software engineering teams: “If I had to guess, almost every single woman in engineering has seen it,” a current employee told Motherboard. At several points on Friday night, the document was inaccessible because too many people were attempting to view it concurrently.
But what has prompted the ire of both internal and external pundits is the document’s argument that differences in pay between men and women in the technology sector are not entirely related to bias against women, but are partly attributable to biological differences between the genders. It also called on Google to “stop alienating conservatives” and calls into question practices like “unconscious bias” training for committees that promote employees.
The 10-page Google Doc document was met with furious derision from a large majority of employees but Jaana Dogan, a software engineer at Google, tweeted that some people at the company at least partially agreed with the author; one of our sources said the same. While the document itself contains the thoughts of just one Google employee, the context in which they were shared — Silicon Valley has been repeatedly exposed as a place that discriminates against women and people of color — as well as the private and public response from its workforce are important.
“The broader context of this is that this person is perhaps bolder than most of the people at Google who share his viewpoint—of thinking women are less qualified than men—to the point he was willing to publicly argue for it. But there are sadly more people like him,” the employee who described the document’s contents to me said.
Numerous Google employees expressed their outrage about the paper:
Internal article circulated at work today describing how gender rep gap in SW is due to biological differences btwn men/women.
— Sarah Adams (@sadams007) August 4, 2017
That garbage fire of a document is trash and you are wonderful coworkers who I am extremely lucky to work with.
— Andrew Bonventre (@andybons) August 4, 2017
In addition to Google workers, Matt Rosoff notes that outside commentators have also criticized the company, among them Slack engineer Erica Joy, whoe previously called attention to alleged unequal pay for women when she worked at Google, and has been an outspoken critic of systematic bias in the tech industry.
Meanwhile, spreadsheet still going, getting spread around, pointed questions being thrown at mgmt about sharing salary ranges (hahah no).
— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) July 17, 2015
Instead of arguing the contents of the paper, Joy immediately went after the messenger, and said Google execs should ask themselves, “why is the environment at Google such that racists and sexists feel supported and safe in sharing these views in the company?”
Another former Googler, Yonatan Zunger, who recently left the company, wrote a scathing criticism of the post suggesting that its author didn’t understand the basics of engineering – “all of these traits which the manifesto described as ‘female’ are the core traits which make someone successful at engineering” – and concluding that the person who wrote it should have been fired immediately.
According to Recode, Google recently hired a VP of diversity, Danielle Brown, who wrote a memo on Saturday responding to the document. She wrote that the document “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender” and that “it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”
Google parent company Alphabet pointed to Brown’s statement as its official comment on the matter.
The treatise comes at an awkward time, with Google under investigation by the Department of Labor for paying women less than men.
It also fits into a broader story unfolding in Silicon Valley tech companies this year. Company executives and investors have often claimed tech companies are “meritocracies,” where hard work and skill are valued and race and gender are ignored. Yet an increasing number of workers in the industry are coming forward with concrete and specific stories of discrimination and harassment.
And while one can’t speak for the ideological leanings of Google’s huge employee base, recall that as part of the Podesta email hacks in 2016, Wikileaks unveiled Google’s “strategic plan” to help Hillary Clinton and the Demcorats win the election, while at the same time tracking voters.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 31, 2016
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