Former Google engineer James Damore’s memo on diversity generated lots of controversy.
So too, as it turns out, has the web giant’s subsequent decision to fire him.
Employees across Silicon Valley are deeply divided about Google’s move, according to a survey conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday by Blind, an anonymous corporate chat app. When Blind asked its users if they thought Google should have fired Damore, over 4,000 from different companies weighed in.
Perhaps most pertinently, 441 Google employees responded. Of them, more than half — 56% to be precise — said they didn’t think it was right for the company to fire Damore.
The former engineer actually had significant support among all the corporations represented in the survey. But it did vary from company to company.
At Uber, 64% of employees who participated in the survey thought Google shouldn’t have fired Damore. Employees at Apple and LinkedIn were nearly evenly split in the poll but leaned slightly toward approving Google’s decision. Meanwhile, 65% of respondents from Lyft were good with the way it went down.
Damore lost his job Monday after a firestorm erupted over the weekend when his memo went viral. In it, Damore accused Google of a left-wing bias, questioned the effectiveness of its diversity programs, and suggested that biology, not just sexism, may contribute to the lack of women in tech and leadership roles.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai called the memo “not OK.”
During an interview with a far-right YouTube personality on Tuesday, Damore stood by his memo.
“I’ve gotten a ton of personal messages of support, which has been really nice,” he said. “I got that at Google before all of this leaked. Lots of upper management was shaming me.”
Damore has already filed a formal complaint with the National Labour Relations Board, claiming his rights were violated.
The divisions over Damore highlighted by Blind’s poll reflect those in the Valley at large. Some in the tech industry support the basic premises he laid out in his memo. Others don’t agree with his ideas but believe he shouldn’t have lost his job for expressing them.
The controversy over Damore’s memo and firing follows what had been a growing movement to counter sexism in the tech industry. Several high profile cases of sexual harassment have come to light recently in the Valley. Meanwhile, Google is facing a lawsuit by the Department of Labour that alleges it underpaid female employees.
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