Google canceled a planned company-wide meeting to discuss a memo questioning the company’s diversity efforts after employees said they feared being exposed to online harassment. The town hall meeting between company higher ups and their employees had been scheduled for Thursday, but Google CEO Sundar Pichai canceled the meeting a half-hour before it was scheduled to start.
The search giant is dealing with the fallout from the 10-page memo written and posted on the company’s internal network by Google software engineer James Damore arguing that women are biologically less suited to be engineers. The company responded by firing Damore on Monday.
“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai said in an email sent to Google staff on Thursday. “But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites, Googlers are now being named personally. Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”
Dory is Google’s internal online moderator tool that organizes question and answers among company employees. Employees had posted hundreds of questions on Dory before the meeting was canceled. The New York Times reported that the most popular questions centered on Google employees facing harassment for speaking out against Damore’s memo.
Employees expressed their concern after the right-wing media site Breitbart News published screenshots from Dory accusing “Google’s social justice warriors” of blacklisting company employees “with different political beliefs.” Other right-leaning sites, including the Federalist, have rallied support for Damore by accusing the mainstream media of distorting his comments made in the memo titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” Some of Damore’s fans have called to expose the identities of Google employees who criticized his views.
Damore argues in his memo that women are underrepresented in the tech industry because of their biological differences that make them more prone to “neuroticism” and “higher levels of anxiety.” He criticized Google’s diversity initiatives and said the company should “stop alienating conservatives” and to “be open about the science of human nature.”
“Damore wasn’t fired for his political views; he was fired for how (and where) he applied them,” San Francisco-based writer Anna Wiener said in a piece published in the New Yorker on Thursday. Damore’s memo, she added, “was a reminder that plenty of tech workers and executives still consider hiring women and people of color ‘lowering the bar.’”
Pichai says most of the emails he had received from company employees expressed support for Damore’s firing.