A Google engineer was fired yesterday after he wrote a memo arguing that women are biologically less suited for software engineering jobs compared to men and that Google’s diversity efforts are misguided. The engineer’s memo was circulated widely inside the company on Google+ and on an internal meme generator, Memegen, before Gizmodo published it on Sunday.
Shortly after Gizmodo published the memo, a new Memegen post threatened physical violence against Googlers who leak to the press. The meme remained live for three days and received hundreds of upvotes before Google removed it, Gizmodo has learned.
The meme remixed a popular cartoon by Steve Napierski that shows a Mac user and a PC user — normally opponents — setting aside their differences to beat a Linux user with a baseball bat.
The first two dialogue balloons in the internal Google meme said “I agree” and “I disagree”, in apparent reference to the contents of the memo. The third dialogue balloon, associated with the character being beaten, said, “I leaked.”
A Google spokesperson did not respond to a phone call or an email requesting comment on the threat and the company’s policies regarding violent threats in the workplace. In a statement before the memo’s author was fired, Google’s Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance Danielle Brown said the company aims to support diverse opinions, so long as they are expressed in ways that fall within the company’s code of conduct.
“The description of this meme sounds quite disturbing, and it’s sad to see some at Google are against more transparency on vital issues of public interest. Though it’s also heartening to see that many at Google were brave enough to go to media organisations with this story in the first place. As we’ve seen from recent leaks from Uber and Facebook, accountability at tech companies can benefit from more transparency in the press, not less,” Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told Gizmodo.
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai is expected to address the memo and the issues it raised at an all-hands meeting this week.