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Can The Fired Google Engineer Show Us The Political Affiliations of Tech Companies?

By now, you've likely heard about the Google engineer who got fired for writing a diversity manifesto.  If not, here's what happened:

"Google employees are up in arms after a senior engineer at the company penned an anti-diversity manifesto that has spread through the Google-row-diversity-1company like wildfire. 

The manifesto criticizes company initiatives aimed at increasing gender and racial diversity and argues that Google should instead focus on "ideological diversity," according to a report by Vice's Motherboard, which first reported the news late on Friday. The 10-page treatise also claims that biological difference between men and women are responsible for the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry.

"We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism," reads the document, a copy of which was obtained by Gizmodo."

As you might expect, that type of manifesto was greeted with much criticism.  So much so, it created the following events this week:

  1. Google fired the engineer.
  2. There was a backlash related to the decision to fire the engineer.
  3. The Google CEO sent an email telling everyone it was all going to be OK.
  4. The email didn't tamper down the storm.
  5. Google's CEO understood the storm was so bad inside his company that he came back from a vacation in Africa with his family to be present for an all-hands meeting.

As I've said before in this space, freedom of speech is alive and well in the American workplace.  The problem is that employees believe that freedom of speech means they can't be fired.  As Google demonstrated in firing the engineer, a company's code of conduct and professional conduct policies generally give them the right to move people out if they are communicating ideas that aren't embraced by the majority of the company.

And there, my friends, is the rub.

Google fired the engineer because they thought the employee base dramatically would support that move.  As it turns out, a lot of people at Google thought his macro point was right - female engineers are hard to find because there's some genetic wiring in females that make careers in engineering less attractive to them.

So the sh*t show builds after the firing, and the CEO is coming back from halfway across the globe - because he knows he's ultimately responsible for calming this thing down.  

There's some macro points in the manifesto that many of you, if not most, would agree with.

But the guy is an engineer.  Of course, he takes it way too far.  That's what engineers who know no shades of gray do.

The most interesting thing I've seen about this case is polling on whether the engineer should have been fired across the major tech companies in America. Blind, an anonymous corporate chat app,  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.

Here's how the poll worked out across the major tech companies - enable images or click through if you don't see the chart below.

Blind

Notable is that 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.  That kind of follows what we know at Uber and Lyft related to how they view the world.

The chart feels like most presidential elections, and tells you that even in the tech bubble, what seems obvious is not obvious.

Which is why the CEO of Google had to cut his vacation short to come back and try and hose down the situation.

Good times - and a reminder that employee sentiment isn't always (hell, ever) as simple as we think it is.

 

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