Google might be in trouble

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Google, starting from nothing in the mid-1990s, has become one of the most valuable companies in the world.  On the way up, their unofficial slogan was “Don’t be evil.” Considering what they just did to James Damore, it looks like they failed.

Damore was a Google software engineer. “Was,” because yesterday, they fired him.

In July, he sent out a ten-page internal memo suggesting there are significant differences between men and women which help explain gender inequality in the tech sector. Over last weekend, the memo spread like wildfire across the internet. (In the post-Google world, that happens.)

Once the memo leaked, reaction was swift. Damore was out. (That’ll help deal with the gender balance at Google.)

Entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” the memo states that though Damore “value[s] diversity and inclusion,” and doesn’t deny “sexism exists,” he thinks “non-bias causes of the gender gap” should be considered.

He goes on to discuss ways to “reduce the gender gap” while taking “personality differences” between the sexes into account.

He believes that Google’s biases and close-minded attitude has created an authoritarian atmosphere that prevents open discussion of the situation, and hampers the company from properly dealing with the issue of gender diversity.

Once the memo leaked, reaction was swift.  Damore was out. (That’ll help deal with the gender balance at Google.)

According to the statement of Danielle Brown, Google’s Vice President of Diversity: "Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

So there you have it.  They want openness and inclusion--unless you go against their orthodoxy.  It’s not just actions--anyone who merely speaks out against what the company believes will be cashiered.

This shouldn’t be about whether or not anyone agrees with Damore.  He may be all wet.  Looking at his memo, I question a lot of what he says.  But a corporation—especially one that prides itself on innovation—shouldn’t be frightened if one employee has different ideas.

They should say that while they respect that Damore has his own opinions—who doesn’t?—they nevertheless reject them and that’s that. (Or maybe they should even consider his arguments before dismissing them outright.)

They say they’re concerned how it will make other employees feel, but why should workers worry if a fellow employee has different ideas?  (Note he’ll have these ideas even if he’s not allowed to say them publicly). Companies who crush any opposition to what they believe are a lot scarier

Let’s be clear. This is not about freedom of speech. Corporations, in general, can do what they want, and demand what they want from employees.

But then, consumers can do what they want, too. Google better hope their customers are more open than Google is.  If they start trying to punish companies that do things they don’t like, Google might be in trouble.