Stereotyping gender roles is an age old debate that seems to rear its ugly head every now and then. Even in this age of technological advancements and a seemingly open minded society, gender differences are discussed in relation to the work place in a rather conservative manner.
Recently a Google employee wrote a controversial memo regarding the company’s gender diversity and how women are unsuitable for certain roles in the tech industry just because of their biological makeup. Among these and other things, the memo also suggested that the company does not allow voicing conservative views.
Among many top executives, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai slammed the memo stating it violated the company’s Code of Conduct. According to the company’s vice president for diversity, integrity, and governance, Danielle Brown, Google as a company is what it is because of its diverse work force. “Like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender,” wrote Brown in an internal response to the memo.
Sundar Pichai and other executives believe freedom of expression is important and having a different point of view is acceptable as long as it doesn’t alienate a certain group of people and offend them based on stereotypes. Pichai said “our words matter” and the content of the memo was completely against Google’s core values and Code of Conduct.
Pichai wrote in his response to the controversial memo, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”
According to unconfirmed reports, the employee in question has been terminated. The memo caused a social media storm and also gave rise to strong reactions from inside the company and in the tech world in general. Many think the decision to fire the employee is right as after voicing such opinions, it becomes rather difficult for colleagues to work in a team with such an employee. The employee’s memo had all the components to give rise to a hostile environment in the company for women to work in.
On the other hand, firing the employee can also be considered synonymous with lack of freedom of expression at the company which is equally bad for its reputation. Such an environment can easily be considered stifling for employees to work in.
All this controversy comes at a time when Google is already in murky waters. It is in trouble with the Labor Department for allegations regarding pay scale gaps based on gender. Although the company claims otherwise, it hasn’t publicly revealed its pay packages for employees which put the company’s image in a compromising position.
The company has taken plenty of initiatives lately to promote gender diversity and to promote women in tech, but there are still concerns among many quarters regarding the efficacy of these initiatives and whether they have far reaching effects in the organization. Google has also entered into partnerships with many black colleges and universities in order to increase the number of black engineers in the company.
The memo and Google’s response to it have sparked a debate both for and against the whole issue from within and outside the company. Google’s response and action in this situation clearly send out a message that any sexist behavior is not acceptable in the company. The memo though and those who support the views voiced in it expose that this very mindset still lingers on in the work place particularly in the tech world.