Fired Google engineer’s memo adds fuel to Silicon Valley diversity debate

The 10-page message by engineer James Damore has enraged advocates of greater diversity in tech while serving as a rallying cry for conservatives and the alt-right who view Google — and Silicon Valley — as a bastion of groupthink.

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…

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