Google Memo Draws Response from YouTube CEO and UCLA Anderson Alum Susan Wojcicki
Earlier this month, Google found itself in the midst of controversy after an internal memo from now-former employee James Damore was released to the staff. His out-of-nowhere diatribe claimed, more or less, that women are less biologically capable of being software engineers than their male counterparts. The document, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” was later released to the public, instantly bringing scrutiny upon the tech giant.
Damore argued that there are fewer women working in engineering because of scientific and biological differences between men and women—and that Google should not offer educational programs for underrepresented racial or gender minorities. He attempted to call out the tech giant for being overly inclusive and sensitive to racial and gender diversity, but not fostering an environment that promoted conflicting ideological beliefs or political ideals.
Google ultimately fired Damore, but some have come to the author’s defense, including WikiLeaks Founder and Editor Julian Assange and a laundry list of public personalities that have become increasingly associated with Trump-era conservatism. According to Wired, “Damore is now on a media tour, saying he was fired illegally for speaking truth to power. Hashtag Fired4Truth!”
One prominent member of the business community who has spoken out against Damore’s memo was YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki—a former Google employee. She was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and was called the “Most Important Person in Advertising” by Adweek.
Though initially interest in art, Wojcicki would earn a BA in mathematics and history from Harvard, an MS in economics from UCSC, and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. She went on to take a position at Google, a job she accept while four months pregnant, eventually rising to the position of senior VP of advertising and commerce.
Wojcicki helped Google acquire YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, which is now valued anywhere between $15 and $80 billion.
Following the Google memo, Wojcicki release this statement via Forbes:
“Yesterday, after reading the news, my daughter asked me a question. ‘Mom, is it true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership?'”
“That question, whether it’s been asked outright, whispered quietly, or simply lingered in the back of someone’s mind, has weighed heavily on me throughout my career in technology. Though I’ve been lucky to work at a company where I’ve received a lot of support—from leaders like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, and Jonathan Rosenberg to mentors like Bill Campbell—my experience in the tech industry has shown me just how pervasive that question is.”
Wojcicki went on to describe how her abilities and commitment to her job have been questioned and how she was left out of key industry events and social gatherings. She explained meetings with external leaders who showed her little to no respect. Wojcicki said after reading the Google memo she “once again felt that pain, and empathized with the pain it must have caused others.”
YouTube’s CEO also addressed those who have been critical of Google’s firing of the author, based on defense of the memo’s authorship as an issue of free speech:
“As a company that has long supported free expression, Google obviously stands by the right that employees have to voice, publish, or tweet their opinions. But while people may have a right to express their beliefs in public, that does not mean companies cannot take action when women are subjected to comments that perpetuate negative stereotypes about them based on their gender. Every day, companies take action against employees who make unlawful statements about co-workers, or create hostile work environments.”
She asks whether those who believe the memo is a matter of free speech, saying, “What if we replaced the word ‘women’ in the memo with another group? What if the memo said that biological differences among Black, Hispanic, or LGBTQ employees explained their under-representation in tech and leadership roles?”
Wojcicki isn’t alone in responding to the controversial memo. Danielle Brown, Google’s VP of diversity, integrity, and governance, sent a note to employees stating, “I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes, or encourages.”
Yonatan Zunger, a former distinguished engineer on privacy at Google, wrote that skills the memo’s author deems less important to engineering—cooperation, collaboration, and empathy—are actually critical.
“Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I’m very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to. Solitary work is something that only happens at the most junior levels, and even then it’s only possible because someone senior to you — most likely your manager — has been putting in long hours to build up the social structures in your group that let you focus on code.”
Google has a long track record of fostering female talent that has produced Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Despite that, women only account for 31 percent of Google’s workforce and 20 percent of its technical staff, according to the company’s latest diversity reports.
But Google isn’t alone. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, women only made up 26 percent of the U.S. computing workforce, and only 5 percent of women in this workforce are Asian, with even lower representation for Hispanic and Black women.
While there is certainly still progress to be made, Wojcicki made it clear that she believes in a world where women and men aren’t judged based on their gender or personality, but rather their ability in the workplace. Circling back to her address’ opening statement, Wojcicki wrote:
“I thought about all of this, looked at my daughter and answered simply.”
“‘No, it’s not true.'”
This post has been republished it its entirety from its original source, metromba.com.