Google’s firing of memo writer strikes nerve in Silicon Valley
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A Silicon Valley culture war pitting liberal-leaning tech firms against a small conservative cohort took on new intensity on Tuesday after Google fired a male engineer for a memo that decried the company’s commitment to hiring women.
Memo author James Damore, 28, received jeers, cheers and a couple of job offers, while the debate raged on social media and some tech firms took steps to prevent similar episodes from embroiling their companies.
Damore confirmed his dismissal from Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday, after he wrote a 10-page memo that said the company was hostile to conservative viewpoints and that women on average have more neuroticism.
Many in Silicon Valley found his views, which argued that men in general may be biologically more suited to coding jobs than women, offensive and destructive. The manifesto was embraced by some, particularly on the political right, who branded him a brave truth-teller.
The episode recalled past examples of the wide gulf between U.S. conservative activists and the tech sector.
In 2014, Brendan Eich was forced out as Mozilla’s chief executive after his opposition to gay marriage became public. Most technology executives held the opposite view, and tech companies often gave benefits to same-sex couples well before gay marriage was legalized.
“Anyone who deviates from the talking points of the liberal left is shunned, shamed and forced out,” Andrew Torba, chief executive of the social network Gab, said in an interview.
Torba, whose company is popular among conservatives, said Damore could work for him.
WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, whose group released hacked emails that helped the campaign of Republican U.S. President Donald Trump, also offered Damore a job, writing on Twitter that “censorship is for losers.”
Firing Damore was too extreme and Google should have put him through training instead, said Aaron Ginn, co-founder of the Lincoln Network, a group of libertarian-leaning tech workers and investors.
“You’re going to make him a martyr. In this hyper-tribal political day we are in, I think you’d want to try to avoid making him a martyr,” Ginn said.
Intense political feelings recently divided two board members of Facebook Inc, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. Last August, Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix Inc, warned investor Peter Thiel in an email that Thiel’s support for Trump showed “catastrophically bad judgment,” the newspaper reported.
The outcome of that dispute is not known. Hastings and Thiel remain on Facebook’s board. Facebook declined to comment.
More generally, Silicon Valley tech companies have been under mounting criticism for not doing enough to promote gender equality and stamp out sexual harassment.