Saturday 21 July 2018

The Google engineer fired over his ‘diversity memo’ hosted a Reddit AMA – and he wasn’t backing down

James Damore’s internal document criticised the search engine’s “ideological echo chamber” and sparked outrage.

(Alan Diaz/AP)
(Alan Diaz/AP)

By Isabel Togoh

James Damore, the former Google employee who was fired for claiming that women are less biologically fit to become leaders in the tech industry, has said it is “hard to regret” sharing his views.

The 28-year-old Ivy League graduate provoked widespread anger – in Silicon Valley and beyond – over his now-viral 10-page internal document, which criticised Google’s “ideological echo chamber”, claiming the company shamed political “dissenters”.

The detailed memo stated that “discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive and bad for business”, suggesting that biological differences between women and men, not discrimination, explain why there is a lack of equal representation “in tech and leadership”.

Damore was fired after chief executive Sundar Pichai said the memo violated the search engine’s code of conduct and enhanced “harmful stereotypes in our workplace”.

A week after being let go, he took to Reddit to host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread, in which he was met with considerable support from Redditors, including several claiming to be women.

Redditor Dasignint asked Damore whether he was “a little naive” to talk about biological differences “in such a context”, to which he responded: “I assumed that Google engineers would be more data/science-driven than they apparently are.

“I also underestimated the power of shaming (i.e. it was politically impossible for many people, especially upper management, to support me).”

He added: “I think/hope that my document will have positive effects on Google for the future, so it’s hard to regret doing it.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai (Eric Risberg/AP)

The Harvard graduate also told the discussion website that he did not expect to be fired, and said he received a milder reaction when he canvassed his views weeks earlier to “diversity programs and individual Googlers” at the firm.

The software engineer, who worked at Google’s Global HQ in Mountain View, California, said several colleagues had come forward with support for his document, but feared being open about their views for fear of reprisals.

He took aim at the media, saying he believed mainstream outlets had distorted his views and depicted him as a misogynist. In the same thread, he also criticised the Girls Who Code initiative, claiming it “continued the ‘women are victims’ narrative”.

He also confirmed that he is pursuing legal action, and has been advised he “can win it”, although he has been told not to discuss the proceedings “too much”.

Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Damore, who had worked at Google since 2013, admitted that on the day the memo was reported on, he resorted to working from home after receiving “personal threats”, and said he felt too awkward to work at his own desk at the Google campus.

A crowdfunding page on WeSearchr has raised more than $47,000 (£36,000) of a $60,000 total to help Damore “fight Google”. The financing website has been known to champion causes of the alt-right and was set up by far-right journalist Charles Johnson.

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