Google Engineer’s Anti-Diversity Memo Displays Company’s Misogynist Culture

Top leaders at the company demonstrated their own worst practices by hiding behind a statement from their brand new head of diversity, who has only been on the job for a couple of weeks.

Google co-founders Sergey Brin (left) and Larry Page (right) with Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt / REUTERS

A 10-page misogynist memo penned by a Google engineer slamming diversity and suggesting women are inferior as leaders has gone viral in yet another example of Google’s failure to address its internal problems regarding sexism.

To read James Damores full memo click here.

Meanwhile, Google is still entangled in a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Labor, which accuses the tech giant of not paying its female employees equal wages to their male counterparts.

The note was not rebuked by Google’s CEO, the company’s head of human resources or the chairman of the board. Rather, Danielle Brown, the company’s brand new vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, was forced to speak out about the incident.

“We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” states the weekend memo, which was first reported by Motherboard and published in its entirety by Gizmodo.

The memo from the weekend also tries to paint the argument as one of free speech and suggested that it is conservatives who are shunned within the company: “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.”

But Google’s numbers show a clear lack of diversity in its employee ranks, which is why such programs are necessary in the first place. At Google, which has never sought to participate in the DiversityInc Top 50 competition, women make up just 25 percent of leadership throughout the company. Of the company’s tech employees, only one-fifth are women. Ethnic minorities are not well represented in tech or leadership roles, either. Google employees in tech jobs are 53 percent white, 39 percent Asian, 3 percent two or more races, 3 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Black and less than 1 percent “other.” Nearly 70 percent of Google’s leadership is white. Blacks, Hispanics and people of two or more races each make up just 2 percent of leadership roles.

Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) board of directors is about one quarter female. One of the four women on the 15-member board is Shirley Tilghman, former president of Princeton University. While working at Princeton, Tilghman hired Maria Klawe, who now serves as president of Harvey Mudd College, as a dean. When discussing salary, Klawe told Tilghman, “Just pay me what you think is right” — and then grossly underpaid her compared to the other deans.

In contrast, the DiversityInc Top 10 Companies, which consist of varying industries, ranging from accounting firm EY to AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories, paint a different picture. Among the Top 10, women comprise 43 percent of total management and make up nearly 40 percent of the top 10 percent highest paid employees. Meanwhile, among the DiversityInc Top 10, women represent nearly 47 percent of management new hires.

To invest monetarily in initiatives that could perhaps address this problem should be of no issue to the tech giant, according to its own data. Google ended the first quarter of 2017 with $24.75 billion in revenues, with Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat boasting that “revenues [are] up 22% versus the first quarter of 2016 and 24% on a constant currency basis.”

Meanwhile, in the face of the Department of Labor’s lawsuit, Google also said it would cost too much money to determine whether or not a pay gap does in fact exist in the company. (Interestingly, the company claimed in April that it had successfully closed its gender pay gap — globally — and even provided a step-by-step guide for other companies to follow to do the same.)

The Guardian reported the lawsuit back in April, and according to the publication, a regional director with the Labor Department stated in court there are “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.”

The Labor Department filed a lawsuit against Google in January after the company did not provide its pay information as part of a compliance evaluation.

Labor Department Regional Solicitor reported to The Guardian that there was “compelling evidence” against the tech giant.

“The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry,” Herold also said to the publication. Herold added that “if the findings are confirmed, this is a troubling situation.”

The company has denied any wrongdoing.

Google is required to provide information about its pay history as part of evaluations because it is a federal contractor. But according to January’s lawsuit, the company refused to produce its records even though the Labor Department “repeatedly attempted” to access them.

In another example of poor practices, in June, shareholders for Alphabet for the second year in a row rejected a proposal that would require the company to prepare a report on its gender pay data.

Leadership Accountability

When faced with accusations of sexism engrained within the company, Google made excuses as to why it couldn’t come up with the numbers pertaining to its payroll. And when one of the company’s own engineers scripted the 10-page sexist diatribe that he (and others at the company, Motherboard reported) justified under the guise of free speech, Google hid behind its brand new head of diversity, a woman, as opposed to having its CEO address the problem.

Other companies in the face of similar turmoil have reacted very differently — and have very different results to show for it.

Sodexo (No. 6 on the DiversityInc 2017 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) in 2006 settled a lawsuit brought on by several Black employees who claimed they were not promoted at the same rates as their white coworkers. The company used the lawsuit as a lesson and made changes internally rather than make excuses for why they could not attain diversity.

Sodexo made it on to the DiversityInc Top 50 list for the first time in 2007 and has been a mainstay every year since.

In a 2010 interview with NPR, Sodexo’s SVP Corporate Responsibility & Global Chief Diversity Officer Rohini Anand explained that the incident forced the company to shift its perspective.

“It was a very painful thing for the company,” said Anand, who has served in her current position since 2006 but previously worked in other diversity roles at Sodexo. “I think it made us introspective. You never want to feel that there’s even one person in the company who feels they don’t have an opportunity to succeed.”

Related Story

Ask the White Guy: What Drove Novartis to Become No. 1

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is a case where successful diversity management grew dramatically because of the support and personal involvement of President André Wyss.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation found itself in a similar situation when in 2004 a group of women brought a lawsuit against the company claiming sex discrimination in one of its sales departments. The company lost the case in 2010.

According to Luke Visconti, CEO of DiversityInc, both Sodexo and Novartis used these teachable moments as “the impetus” for positive change. Visconti was invited to speak at Novartis not long after the suit was settled — a move that initially surprised him, he said at the time. Shortly, though, he learned this is not unusual for André Wyss, President of Novartis Operations and Country President for Switzerland.

“I gave a general diversity presentation, but at the end I said, ‘Let’s address the elephant in the room,’ and talked about how badly everyone must feel, but that what they do — develop one breakthrough pharmaceutical after another — is important to all human kind, and that they needed to pick themselves up and get back to work for everyone’s benefit,” Visconti recalled.

The company amped up its diversity efforts under Wyss’ leadership. And in 2014, Novartis attained the No. 1 spot on the Top 50 list — and did it again in 2015.

Diversity Is Profitable for the Bottom Line, Data Shows

In the recent Google engineer’s sexist memo, the employee also writes, “We’re told by senior leadership that what we’re doing is both the morally and economically correct thing to do, but without evidence this is just veiled left ideology that can irreparably harm Google.”

And, according to the engineer, diversity programs are not a good idea and are by nature discriminatory: “Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.”

But data indicates that diversity is in fact profitable.

The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, when expressed as a stock index, outperforms the rest of the market, suggesting that good judgment in one area permeates throughout an organization.

And according to a study from EY (No. 1 on the list) and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, having more female leaders in business can significantly increase profitability.

The report, “Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence from a Global Study,” released last year, reveals that an organization with 30 percent female leaders could add up to 6 percentage points to its net margin.

The in-depth study analyzes results from approximately 21,980 global publicly traded companies in 91 countries from a variety of industries and sectors.

“The impact of having more women in senior leadership on net margin, when a third of companies studied do not, begs the question of what would be the global economic impact if more women rose in the ranks?” said Stephen R. Howe Jr., EY’s US Chairman and Americas Managing Partner. “The research demonstrates that while increasing the number of women directors and CEOs is important, growing the percentage of female leaders in the C-suite would likely benefit the bottom line even more.”

Responses: ‘There are many people at Google who share this guy’s views’

Meanwhile, women who currently work and formerly worked for Google responded on Twitter.

A Google employee who spoke to Motherboard said that the author of the document is not alone internally in holding that viewpoint — perhaps just more publicly outspoken.

“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 said to the publication.

A former employee told Motherhood there is “a lot of pushback from white dudes who genuinely feel like diversity is lowering the bar” at Google.

DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti appeared on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” to discuss the memo.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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  • Ah, yes, “biology is destiny.” Why the hell not? It worked for the Ku Klux Klan, Hitler, etc.; why not for Google?

    Reply
  • “Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.”

    True. Especially if you supposedly live by “Don’t be evil”, or if you’re a pro sports team. Does Serena Williams want, get, or deserve wider sidelines when she serves ’cause there’re few black women in pro tennis?

    Duh!

    Reply
    • Let’s be real. Serena doesn’t need wider sidelines and that’s not what the ethnic and female employees at Google are asking for, wider sidelines and privileges that the white men don’t get. They have the talent. Just want to be hired and paid for it. It was NON-discrimination against minorities, not discrimination against white players that led to desegregating pro sports teams when they recognized that it was a good BUSINESS move not to discriminate and recruit black as well as white players who made not only sports teams but college teams profitable. They certainly didn’t adjust their standards, but saw that a group of people exceeded their standards and stop letting that little ol’ racist thing hold them back.
      Folks throw “affirmative action” around as such a bad thing when we have not reached just plain old not discriminating. There are people, other than white males who can be successful at Google, but Google feels that it doesn’t have to since it owns the world (or at least the world wide web). They are missing out on talent and paying their women talent less and that’s not good business. . .

      Reply
  • As an African American female lawyer, who worked in corporate law firms in San Francisco, racism is more prevalent than sexism. Racism in hiring is hidden in the hypocritical “liberal” West coast, including northwest cities in Washington [Seattle] and Oregon.

    White and Asian racist women aid and abet race and pay discrimination in hiring. My first Equal Pay Act lawsuit was in San Francisco. One racist white lesbian paid me less than seven white male law students who had less education [I had a J.D.] and experience!!

    Whites prefer hiring Asians rather than more competent and educated Blacks because they share the same rabidly racist views.

    Whites also prefer hiring half-breed Uncle Tom’s like O’Bama because they’ve been indoctrinated by their racist white parent to self-hate and view Blacks and blackness as inferior.

    White women need to QUIT WHINING; they’ve been raising and infecting these white racist and sexist tRumps, neo-Nazis, and KKKlansmen for generations! If they hadn’t been weak whiners and accomplices with evil, rapist, sexist white men, these issues could have been resolved during slavery. Blacks still don’t have pay equity and reparations won’t happen in racist AmeriKKKa.

    Reply
  • In the late 80s, while working as a contract auditor for an agency, several of us were sent to different locations in Chicago. The group was all woman – different races. When a new auditor joined the group, we found out over lunch that the individual we were training was being compensated at a higher rate than the rest of us. I threatened to quit and they increased our salary to match the white male.

    The more things change, the more they remain the same.

    Reply
  • This is a ridiculous situation that really shouldn’t even be a story in this day and age, If Google weren’t so pervasive in our lives, I would say that we need to boycott Google products until they start feeling the sting and change their discriminatory ways. Unfortunately they seem to be everywhere and are hard to disengage from. Why would the CEO not take a stand on this anonymous letter, or on the need for diversity in their organization? Seems short-sighted and it’s certainly wrong.

    ‘m an African-American woman in technology, and there aren’t many of us within individual corporations, but our numbers are growing. And there are more of us coming. At some point, Google is going to have to change or suffer losing their financial standing. It will take us making decisions on how we can make them feel the hit in the bottom line.

    Reply
    • They have been unsuccessful diversifying their revenue past ad sales. Maybe some women would help them innovate.

      Time Inc was the master of the universe from the 1930s until the 1970s. Henry Luce invented national advertising and was responsible for the rise of national ad agencies. His publications were responsible for forcing FDR into Lend-Lease, probably saving Great Britain from total destruction before we entered WW2. Now they’re a damaged, debt-laden, used-to-be-relevant zombie desperately selling assets while hanging on for a white knight. They missed the entire internet revolution.

      100 years ago, Detroit was Silicon Valley. People flocked there from all over. It peaked in 1950 with 1.8 million people, currently it has 677,000 and the signs in the Detroit airport are bi-lingual, Chinese and English. The Big-3 were out-innovated.

      That was the past. Things work much more quickly these days. Yahoo lately?

      Reply
  • Good thing Trump is in power so the non-liberal white men can finally express their opinion without fearing the backlash from so-called social justice warriors. This isn’t mysoginsm, it is pure “freedom of expression”. With Clintons in the WH, the white male genocide devised by red-hot feminist academicians in the 60s and 70s would have accelerated at high speed under the innocent-looking slogan of “Stronger Together”.

    Reply
    • Trump isn’t going to be in power for long. Especially after sounding more crazy than Kim Jong-il with his “fire and fury” nutcase babble.

      And expressing your opinion at work, if it hurts the productivity of those around you (or embarrasses your company, like the sexist diatribe written by the dude formerly employed at Google), will get you fired. Period.

      Reply
  • Privacy is every Americans right. Freedom of speech and freedom of the internet,. The more we use them the more powerful they become. So stop using the spying search engine google, us the unbiased no tracking search engine that owns its own search results Lookseek.com try it have a nice day

    Reply
  • Kaitlyn, I’m a fellow woman. Your assement of the memo and analysis of this debacle are so pitifully misguided and misinformed, I feel totally embarrassed for you. Ignorant, militant SJW women like you do not speak dor women like me.

    Reply
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