Contentious Memo Strikes Nerve Inside Google and Out
SAN FRANCISCO — After leaving Harvard’s doctorate program in systems biology to join Google as a software engineer in 2013, James Damore joked on his Facebook page that he knew he had made the right move as he enjoyed a morning smoothie with oats. It was the type of workplace perk that is standard for Google employees.
That initial assessment of Google seemed far removed from the contentious memo written by the 28-year-old Damore last week that has enraged advocates of greater diversity in the technology industry. The memo has also served as a rallying cry for conservatives and the alt-right who view Google — and Silicon Valley — as a bastion of groupthink where people with different opinions are shamed into silence.
His 10-page memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” argued that “personality differences” between men and women — like a woman’s having a lower tolerance for stress — help explain why there were fewer women in engineering and leadership roles at the company。 He said efforts by the company to reach equal representation of women in technology and leadership were “unfair, divisive, and bad for business。”
The memo was originally posted on an internal mailing list and was shared widely inside the company and throughout Silicon Valley. It struck a nerve and was harshly criticized inside a company and an entire industry struggling to explain why women are underrepresented in key engineering ranks and are often underpaid when compared with their male peers.
Google fired Damore on Monday and said that he had violated the company’s rules by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes.”
In a short email exchange Monday after his firing, Damore, who was a senior software engineer in Google’s search division, said he had not expected this type of reaction when he shared his missive last week。
“As far as I know, I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does,” he said。 Damore said he would probably take legal action against the company。
Like many new hires at Google, Damore boasted an impressive academic background. A competitive player of chess and computer strategy video games, he studied molecular and cellular biology at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, according to an online résumé. He conducted research in computational biology at Harvard, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining a Ph.D. program at Harvard. He completed a master’s degree but dropped out before receiving his doctorate.
像谷歌的很多新雇员一样，达莫尔有着令人赞颂的学术背景。一份线上简历显示，身为颇具实力的国际象棋和策略类电子游戏玩家的他，曾在伊利诺伊大学香槟分校(University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)研读分子与细胞生物学。来哈佛读博前，他在哈佛、普林斯顿(Princeton)和麻省理工(Massachusetts Institute of Technology)做过运算生物学方面的研究。他获得了硕士学位，但在拿来博士学位前辍了学。
In a footnote for his memo, Damore said he considered himself a “classic liberal,” an ideology associated with advocacy of free market economics and libertarianism。
Damore’s memo was rebuked by a number of his fellow employees. Few Google employees came out publicly in defense of him but some surreptitiously showed their support by leaking screenshots from internal Google posts of employees saying they planned to create blacklists of people who did not support the company’s diversity efforts. The screenshots appeared on Breitbart News, which has championed Damore’s memo.
“Despite what the public response seems to have been, I’ve gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up those very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend because of our shaming culture and the possibility of getting fired,” Damore wrote in an addendum to his original memo. “This needs to change.”
Others outside the company came to Damore’s defense. Eric Weinstein, a managing director at Thiel Capital, an investment firm run by Peter Thiel, a billionaire and supporter of President Donald Trump, said Google was sending the wrong message to women.
该公司外部的一些人对达莫尔表示了支持。泰尔资本(Thiel Capital)董事总经理艾瑞克·韦恩斯坦(Eric Weinstein)说,谷歌正向女性传递错误的讯息。泰尔资本是由唐纳德·特朗普总统的支持者、亿万富翁彼得·泰尔(Peter Thiel)运营的一家投资公司。
Separately, a group started a crowdfunding page to raise money on Damore’s behalf. And Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, offered him a job.
Women only account for 31 percent of Google’s workforce and 20 percent of its technical staff, according to the company’s latest diversity reports. But the company does have a rich history of fostering top technology talent like Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer; Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s former chief executive; and Susan Wojcicki, who runs YouTube. Megan Smith, a former vice president at Google who recently served as the chief technology officer for the United States under President Barack Obama, said the views promoted by Damore were common in Silicon Valley.
谷歌最近发布的员工多样性报告显示，女性在该公司全体员工中的占比仅为31%，在技术人员中的占比仅为20%。但谷歌的确培养出了很多顶尖的科技人才，比如Facebook首席运营官谢莉尔·桑德伯格(Sheryl Sandberg)，雅虎(Yahoo)前首席执行官玛丽莎‧梅耶尔(Marissa Mayer)，以及执掌YouTube的苏珊·沃西基(Susan Wojcicki)。曾任Google副总裁、不久前还给贝拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)总统当过白宫首席技术官的梅甜·史密斯(Megan Smith)说，在硅谷，达莫尔宣扬的观点并非多么不同觅常。
“It’s insidious and it’s all around the culture,” Smith said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
The flap over Damore’s criticism of Google’s diversity efforts comes as the company has tangled with the Labor Department over its pay practices. The department has not charged Google with any wrongdoing, but a department official said there was evidence that the company systematically paid women less than men. Google denies this is the case.
Wesley Chan, a venture capitalist at Felicis Ventures and an early Google employee who left the company in 2014, said Google had no choice but to fire Damore。
目前供职于法利思创投(Felicis Ventures)的风险投资人卫斯理·陈(Wesley Chan)曾是谷歌的早期雇员,于2014年离职,他说谷歌除了解雇达莫尔别无挑选。
“It’s not about free discourse,” said Chan. “It’s about advancing a fringe viewpoint which is hurtful to a large population of the company.”
The legal argument for Damore’s dismissal is more complicated. On one hand, there may be a way to argue that the memo and its recommendations — such as “stop alienating conservatives” — constitute a “concerted activity” to aid and protect his fellow workers, which may be protected under federal labor law. However, Google can argue that his memo created a hostile workplace for women.
“There’s no free speech in the private sector workplace,” said Katherine Stone, a labor and employment law professor at University of California, Los Angeles. “Clearly, the company was concerned that he was making the environment difficult for people to do their jobs.”
“在私营部门的工作场合没有言论自由一说，”加州大学洛杉矶分校(University of California, Los Angeles)劳工及就业法教授凯瑟琳·斯通(Katherine Stone)说。“显然，该公司担心的是他正在制造让人们难以安心工作的氛围。”