Expressing Opinions….At a Cost?
James Damore, a recently fired computer engineer working at Google, couldn’t keep his opinions to himself. Outrage was widespread after he was let go over a ten-page memo that he spread around criticizing the work environment at Google. The memo reportedly contained content that violated Google’s code of conduct because it perpetuated “harmful gender stereotypes”. In his wide-ranging complaint, it is possible that the tech giant found the most issue with his comment that stated, “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct mono-culture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence”. That probably did burn. No wonder they figured they should get rid of him before he revealed more of their practices. Unfortunately, they may have just gotten themselves into more trouble.
The computer engineer that studied at Harvard, Yale, and MIT was smart enough to declare he would pursue legal action. He argues that he should be allowed to express his opinions about the work environment at the company’s Mountain View HQ in California and the harmful policies he sees that are in place. Aside from mentioning how they trample those that disagree, he discussed the role of women in the tech industry and how biological differences are the reason that there are not more women in tech leadership positions. Specifically, he discussed the differences in the characteristics of men and women, including how women are more social and artistic, making them more prone to anxiety, thus affecting how they deal with high-pressure jobs. Accusations of sexism reigned down upon his head after that statement. He was just claiming that maybe the tech company was too focused on hiring based on diversity goals rather than actual ability.
The response from Google was varied. Some workers expressed disgust with Damore’s comments, telling how they were hurtful and inaccurate. The head of diversity, Danielle Brown, predictably defended the practices of the corporation going on about how change can be uncomfortable and that an inclusive work environment is worth fighting for. Just another way of announcing that their policies and practices will not change and Damore’s comments will be ignored. It seems like Brown may not even be doing her job that well as a diversity report study found that only 31% of the employees are women. Of those employees, only 25% have leadership positions and only 20% have technical positions. To add to the problem, they are even dealing with a US Department of Labor investigation into their “extreme” pay inequality. Surprising for a tech firm that is located in one of the most liberal states in the country. Hard to practice what you preach isn’t it?
Right wing Youtube bloggers have shown interest in talking to him and Wikileaks apparently offered a position to him, but will his comments lead others to come out and try to express their opinions? Well probably not. Google supports freedom of expression as long as it does not expose the true nature of the work environment that silences dissenting opinions by labeling them controversial. Maybe the ACLU should step in to defend Damore…