Fired Google employee says his gender memo was a reaction to diversity training

Former Google engineer James Damore wrote his memo — suggesting that fewer women than men land tech jobs due to biological differences — as a reaction to his experience in diversity training, he said in one of his first public interviews since Google fired him this week.

"I went to a diversity program at Google and … I heard things that I definitely disagreed with,” he told Stefan Molyneux, a libertarian podcaster and author. Damore said he had some conversations at the program, but “there was a lot of, just, shaming — ‘No, you can’t say that, that’s sexist’; ‘You can’t do this.’… There’s just so much hypocrisy in a lot of the things that they’re saying."

He said that after the training, he wrote the memo to clarify his thoughts.

In the 10-page memo, which he sent to colleagues and which later went public, Damore accused Google of resorting to discriminatory practices in its quest to diversify its workforce. He argued, among other things, that creating programs and mentoring opportunities for women or people of certain ethnic groups creates a “high priority queue” for “diversity candidates,” and that the company shows more scrutiny toward “any set of people if it’s not ‘diverse’ enough,” but doesn’t show “that same scrutiny in the reverse direction.”

He also accused the company of alienating people with conservative views.

Damore has granted interviews to Molyneux and to University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson, who have sizable followings on YouTube and track records of criticizing attitudes they describe as politically correct. (Damore has not responded to requests for comment from the Los Angeles Times).

Molyneux’s previous videos have titles such as "Why Feminists Hate Men: What They Won't Tell You!" Peterson attracted attention last year with his vocal opposition to a Canadian hate-speech bill that he feared would require him to use gender-neutral pronouns for transgender people.

Damore told Peterson that he was fired by his human resources representative and his director at Google “for perpetuating gender stereotypes” and described himself as a victim of “PC silencing.”

“This was a huge PR move,” Damore said of his termination. “They would have needed approval from higher-ups.”

Damore told the Associated Press that he filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board before he was fired and that he is exploring his legal options. A Google spokesperson told the AP that the firing could not have been retaliatory because Google did not learn of the complaint until afterward.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has denounced Damore’s memo for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” and said he was cutting short a vacation and would meet with employees Thursday.

Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, also pushed back against assertions in the memo. “We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul,” she said in a statement.

The public outcry surrounding the memo has triggered yet another crisis in an industry already struggling to address its underrepresentation of women and minorities.

It also comes at a time when high-profile start-ups such as Uber and venture firms such as Binary Capital have come under fire for sexual harassment scandals.

ethan.varian@latimes.com

Times staff writer Tracey Lien contributed to this report.

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