Google fires employee responsible for 10-page sexist screed

The memo caused an international uproar and reignited the debate over diversity in the tech sector.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a press conference in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a press conference in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

Days after a lengthy internal memo at Google that questioned a woman’s ability to succeed in tech jobs was leaked to the press, the tech giant announced it was firing the author, according to a Monday evening report by Recode.

The memo, a 10-page document that spread across the company’s internal communications network before it was leaked to Gizmodo, criticizes the company for its commitment—such as it is—to hiring a more diverse staff. As a whole, Silicon Valley has struggled to fill key roles, particularly in management and highly skilled jobs, with women and people of color.

The memo was written by a male engineer at Google. More than just a diatribe against Google’s hiring practices that favor diverse candidates, the memo made a case for active discrimination, laying out an argument that women are genetically incapable of the same kind of analytical thinking as male engineers.

“Women, on average, have more…neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance),” reads the memo. “This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.”

As is often the case when men criticize efforts to close the gender gap and strengthen diversity, the memo’s author tries to deny and rationalize his sexism, turning to pseudo-science and debunked theories rather than admit his own distrust of women.

“I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership,” the author writes.

On Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai finally addressed the memo and subsequent fallout in a company-wide email that was then leaked to technology site Recode.

“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” said Pichai. “It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects ‘each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.'”

Google would not comment about individual employees, but Recode’s Kara Swisher says multiple sources confirmed the firing.

Differing opinions and open conversations are often encouraged in the workplace, but Pichai made a point to note that the memo’s author wasn’t simply expressing an opinion, but veering into harassment territory. As Recode reported on Monday, the author of the memo wasn’t fired for his controversial opinions, but rather for violating the company’s Code of Conduct.

Yonatan Zunger, a former Google employee who left the company just as the memo began to circulate, penned a thorough response to the controversy on Medium over the weekend making a case for the firing.

“It would have ended with you being escorted from the building by security and told that your personal items will be mailed to you,” wrote Zunger of what would have transpired had he been involved in doling out disciplinary action.