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US LAWMAKERS ARE PRESSING GOOGLE TO IMPROVE HIRING AND MANAGEMENT IN RESPONSE TO A FIRED EMPLOYEE’S ANTI-DIVERSITY MEMO

August 10, 2017
In The News

A controversial anti-diversity memo written by a now-fired Google employee isn’t just sending shockwaves across the search giant’s Silicon Valley campus — it’s setting off alarms in the U.S. Congress, too.

In response to the screed by former engineer James Damore — which attributed a lack of women in tech to “personality differences between genders” — lawmakers on Capitol Hill are slamming Google and its peers for failing manifestly to recruit, retain and protect workers of diverse backgrounds.

Among those calling for change is Rep. Ro Khanna, the tech industry-backed Democratic lawmaker who represents a slice of Silicon Valley. In a Medium post shared early with Recode on Thursday, Khanna called the memo “appalling and sexist.”

In Khanna’s estimation, the incident “highlights how far the tech community needs to go to address gender and racial stereotypes.” To that end, he added: “As a company with an immigrant founder, an immigrant CEO, and prominent women leaders, Google should strive to set the standard for diversity in the workplace.”

Earlier on Thursday, a quartet of lawmakers — Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Pramila Jayapal, Jamie Raskin and Robin Kelly — similarly slammed Google and the whole of the tech industry for its “diversity problem.”

Writing in a letter to the tech giant, the four members of Congress said Damore’s comments “might not reflect the views of Google as a company,” but they said the “discriminatory beliefs espoused within the memo point to a problematic culture and mindset that persists within the tech industry as a whole.”

“Unfortunately, the disclosure of this manifesto and release of recent diversity numbers by a number of tech companies, serve as further reminders that the very companies that aim to lead us into a connected future, maintain work environments that mirror America’s less inclusive past,” they continued.

A spokeswoman for Google did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The renewed criticism from Capitol Hill comes as Google CEO Sundar Pichai prepares to address the company’s 60,000 employees at an all-hands meeting later this afternoon.

In his now-infamous memo, Damore pointed to “personality differences” between men and women as one reason that fewer women serve as engineers at Google. And he railed against efforts to diversify the company, while slamming the search giant’s culture as an “ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.”

Women hold approximately 20 percent of U.S. tech jobs at Google, according to data published by the company in January, and they hold 25 percent of the search giant's leadership positions. Otherwise, Google’s workforce is predominately male and white.

To that end, other U.S. lawmakers — including powerful groups like the Congressional Black Caucus — have pressed Google and its tech industry counterparts to get them to change their hiring and management practices. The political pressure led Google to add diversity and workforce issues to their lobbying agendas in Washington, D.C.