Google engineer sacked over sexism row says he has been 'betrayed' by company

James Damore says reaction to controversial remarks about women being unsuited to tech sector more interested in 'smears' than hearing his point of view

Ellen Huet,Mark Bergen,Emily Chang
Thursday 10 August 2017 09:31 BST
James Damore appears in a video interview with Bloomberg TV
James Damore appears in a video interview with Bloomberg TV

The former Google engineer, whose controversial memo has triggered a nationwide debate on gender differences and diversity efforts in technology, defended his views in an interview on Wednesday with Bloomberg Television, saying company executives are smearing him in its wake.

James Damore, who until Monday worked as an engineer on video and image search at Alphabet’s Mountain View, California, headquarters, said he initially shared the 3,300-word memo internally a month ago. But it was only after the memo went viral that company leaders banded together to make him an outcast, he said on Bloomberg TV. When he initially circulated the memo, “no one high up ever came to me and said, ‘No, don't do this,’ even though there were many people who looked at it,” Damore said. “It was only after it got viral that upper management started shaming me and eventually firing me.”

The memo, which was leaked to the public over the weekend, argues that conservative viewpoints are suppressed at Google and that biological differences between men and women explain in part why so few women work in software engineering. Even if someone in Google management had agreed with some of the arguments put forth in his piece, they wouldn’t have felt safe speaking up, he said.

“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. “It would be career suicide for any executives or directors to support me.”Damore also said that some Google employees who expressed support for him have been contacted by human resources.

“That's absolutely untrue,“ a Google spokesman said about the claim. The company declined to comment further beyond a memo that Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai wrote to employees on Monday, which said that “to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

In response to his memo, Susan Wojcicki, head of Google’s YouTube, wrote on Wednesday that she “felt pain” and asked if the argument would also stand if applied to underrepresented racial minorities in tech. Damore said that was “a false analogy” that was “trying to smear my image rather than just looking at the evidence.” Damore worked more than four years at Google, joining the company after holding research positions at Harvard University, Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor of science degree in 2010, then completed a master’s at Harvard.

Damore has been pushing back against the company before and after his firing. He said he had several meetings with human resources last week about what he described as illegal hiring practices inside Google that favour certain candidates because of their gender or race. He also filed a charge Monday with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Google threatened his “protected concerted activities,” according to a filing of the complaint. A Google spokesman disputed Damore’s claim that the company’s hiring practices are illegal.

Damore said he is planning to pursue legal action but declined to say on what grounds or whether he had hired a lawyer. He also said he had been advised not to talk to the press.

He said there are “many capable women at Google” and that he wrote the memo to help the company improve its policies and prompt conversations that weren’t happening.“I'm trying to make Google and the world in general a better place by not confining us to our ideological echo chambers,” he said.

Challenged about the message women would take from his memo, Damore maintained that his views won’t discourage young girls who are considering going into software engineering.

“There are simply fewer women that want to get into these fields,” he said. “If you're a girl and you're interested in technology, that's great.”

“If anyone is interested in technology they should just pursue it,” he added. “It's a great field.”


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