By Ryan Velez
The ongoing debate on how Silicon Valley companies can be more inclusive gained new fire in recent weeks after a memo sent by a Google employee went viral. Written by a white male engineer and suggesting that women in tech were biologically inferior to men, the memo would ultimately cost him his job, and give Google a massive PR hit as it is already struggling to be more diverse. Adding fuel to the flame is Google's CEO Sundar Pichai canceling a company wide town hall meeting a few days after the memo made its rounds, reports Black Enterprise.
In a statement regarding the engineer’s firing, Pichai said that he was fired for views that contrasted with the company’s mission. “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai wrote in a memo that was sent to the Google staff. Ironically, Google is currently under federal investigation for alleged discrimination against female employees. While canceling a diversity-themed meeting shortly afterward may appear like bad optics, Pichai said that the company climate in the face of the event played a role.
“We had hoped to have a frank open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai said in an email that was sent shortly before the town-hall was supposed to begin Thursday afternoon, reports Variety. But some employees were “concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.” He added that there are still plans to put together a safe space to allow employees to express themselves in the future.
With this said, even as the company’s stance on diversity is looking weak, Pichai himself tried to quell things in a speech he delivered for finalists in an app-building competition on Google’s campus.
“I want you to know there’s a place for you in this industry,” Pichai told the young women. “There’s a place for you at Google. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here, and we need you.”
He added, “It’s really important that more women and girls have the opportunity to participate in technology, to learn how to code, create, and innovate.” How Google handles this latest hurdle will likely be something that many Silicon Valley companies in the same boat will be watching.