A Google Engineer Got Fired For A Sexist Memo, And Conservatives Are Pissed

by John Haltiwanger
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Monday, Aug. 8, Google fired James Damore, an engineer who wrote a 10-page anti-diversity memo. The controversial memo, dubbed the "Google Manifesto" by people online and published in full by Gizmodo, criticized the company's efforts to increase diversity and its "politically correct monoculture." Damore called for Google to "stop alienating conservatives" and described its move toward racial and gender equality as "unfair, divisive, and bad for business."

Damore's memo also attempted to explain why there aren't more female engineers and pointed to biological differences between men and women. Primarily, Damore contended women don't handle stress or work-related anxiety as well as men.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email about Damore's firing to employees that said Damore violated the company's code of conduct and crossed "the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." Many people were furious about what Damore wrote.

This situation has sparked a fierce debate online.

While many have described Damore's memo as inherently sexist, a number of conservatives have rushed to his defense.

Many on the right are standing up for Damore, arguing his dismissal is a sign of the left's intolerance.

Long story short, people on the right seem to feel Damore pointed out valid issues within Google's culture and was ultimately fired because of it. They've now turned this situation into an issue of free speech, but is it?

Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences.

While it's true the U.S. Constitution grants Damore the right to express himself, the First Amendment protects citizens' free speech rights from being restricted by the government, not employers.

Even still, Damore told The New York Times he believes what happened to him was illegal, adding, "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."

According to The Times, Damore submitted a charge to the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) prior to being fired, which accused Google's upper management of attempting to shame him into silence. The NLRB guarantees workers the right to engage in "concerted activities" for "mutual aid or protection," according to CNBC. But, given Damore's manifesto was arguably just a 10-page rant produced by one person, it will be hard to prove workers' rights were violated in this regard.

In short, while you might not agree with the circumstances of Damore's firing, it would be hard to prove Google did anything illegal.

People supporting Damore are ignoring evidence Google has a major culture problem.

While many of Google's employees were infuriated by Damore's memo, there were also some who applauded his viewpoints, according to Motherboard. But perhaps that has more to do with the current makeup of Google than the strength of Damore's ideas.

At the moment, 69 percent of Google's employees are men, 75 percent of its leaders are men, and 56 percent of all its employees are white, according to a report released by the company in June. Moreover, the company is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor over allegations it did not fairly pay female employees.

Simply put, there's strong evidence Google has a diversity problem. So, it's not that surprising some within the company might agree with Damore, given they're likely actively perpetuating the bro culture that's permeating the tech industry.

Moreover, the conservatives expressing outrage over Damore's firing are arguably less upset about the notion of free speech being violated, and more outraged someone they strongly agree with got kicked to the curb. The right isn't exactly a champion of diversity these days, and many conservatives continue to argue the gender pay gap is a myth.

Research shows companies with women in leadership roles perform better, contrary to Damore's beliefs.

A February 2016 study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY showed companies with more women leaders are more profitable. The groups surveyed 21,980 publicly traded companies in 91 countries and found an increase in the share of women in corporate leadership positions from zero to 30 percent would lead to a rise in profitability by 15 percent.

It seems there are not only ethical reasons to increase diversity in companies like Google, but also financial ones. Perhaps Damore, and those supporting him, should've done more research.