Q: Was Google right to fire the employee who wrote a memo against diversity initiatives at the company?
YES – Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party.
The reductive, sexist and damaging ideas set out in the “Google manifesto” are familiar to us at the Women’s Equality Party. They surface with predictable regularity whenever new data is published which proves – again – the scope and scale of gender inequalities of all kinds. Google’s manifesto writer was sufficiently confident of his superiority and privilege within a company and an industry so dominated by men that he could “simply state” his belief that biology is women’s destiny. He is wrong. His dismissal is a small step towards countering this tired narrative – a small step towards addressing the appalling truth that just one in five tech jobs at Google are held by women. It is a sign that Google seeks to send a positive message – both to its employees and to the wider tech industry – that women are welcome. Google has a long way to go, but it’s good to see it make a start.
NO – Elena Shalneva, communications consultant and non-executive director.
Did the Google employee’s memo constitute a sackable offence? Resolutely not. The memo didn’t say that men are better engineers than women or that Google should restrict the number of female engineers that it employs. All it said was that there were inherent differences between men and women – something to do with the neurological wiring of the brain – which meant that men and women may choose to pursue different types of careers. Not every point of view has a right to be expressed, and some opinions are indeed sackable. But do read the Google’s engineer’s memo. Semi-literate alt-right ranting it is not. It’s intelligent and thoroughly argued. By contrast, all that Google could muster in response were tired cliches of the “inclusive environment is core to who we are” variety. By firing the engineer, rather than making his memo the centre of a company-wide debate, Google breeds hypocrisy. The questions that the memo raises will continue to be discussed: just behind closed doors.