For those not paying attention, Damore posted a 10-page, 3,000 word thesis in which he began simply enough:
“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.”
But then, in what is pretty much the main premise, Damore went on in detail: “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.”
What followed was a list of those differences, including a claim that women were more social and artistic and could not take the stress of high-pressure jobs. Hence, “neuroticism,” or higher anxiety and lower stress tolerance, which he claimed was backed up by studies.
Perhaps most disingenuously, Damore also claimed that he had no voice, even after penning a long memo that he was able to send companywide and also was read by millions more.
In fact, Damore posted the essay earlier in one of Google’s smaller discussion platforms — not one like its massive “eng-misc” one — before it finally bubbled up this past weekend and was finally noticed by top execs.
Alerted to it, sources said Pichai then started off gathering opinions from his direct reports — such as Wojcicki, HR head Eileen Naughton, top lawyer Kent Walker, cloud leader Diane Greene, communications head Jessica Powell and business head Philipp Schindler. Not all were physically present at Google’s Silicon Valley HQ, where the group debated the issue, and were at first split.
“It was a cordial discussion, considering the topic, and you could see how you could argue both sides on the face of it,” said one source. “But I think Damore’s focus on biology really made it clear that he had crossed the line.”
What turned the tide, said sources, was when it was noted that if Damore’s dubious contentions about women’s skills were replaced by those about race or religion, there would be no debate.
In fact, Wojcicki said has much in her essay:
“For instance, what if we replaced the word ‘women’ in the memo with another group? What if the memo said that biological differences amongst Black, Hispanic, or LGBTQ employees explained their underrepresentation in tech and leadership roles? Would some people still be discussing the merit of the memo’s arguments or would there be a universal call for swift action against its author? I don’t ask this to compare one group to another, but rather to point out that the language of discrimination can take many different forms and none are acceptable or productive.”
Damore has insisted he was “smeared” by top execs after the post went viral. “There was a concerted effort among upper management to have a very clear signal that what I did was harmful and wrong and didn’t stand for Google,” Damore said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It would be career suicide for any executives or directors to support me.”
Numerous Google execs and employees I spoke to scoff at that notion, who gave his first interviews to an alt-right site, which has lessened support of him inside Google. Said one flatly: “He cannot spew his dubious biology arguments — you can find any study to justify any crazy notion — and not pay a price for it.”
Pichai wrote to employees on Monday and said as much, but much more politely: “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”
In other words, the CEO of Google has spoken. And now, Googlers will get their chance.