Google, the dominant force in global search and internet advertising, has recently found itself embroiled in a heated debate over the firing of engineer James Damore, who raised concerns that the company was beginning to take on cult-like characteristics in its zeal to promote diversity and equality.
Damore, 29, authored a memo in which he questioned the company’s hiring practices. In particular, he wondered why the company had expended so much effort, often at the expense of genuinely qualified programmers, to artificially prop up the number of women that work at the firm. In a well reasoned paper, with links to respected scientific journals, Damore noted the disconnect between the progressive dogma common at the company and the state of actual science, which has increasingly verified the view that women and men tend to have different areas of strength.
Damore concluded that it was foolish at best and detrimental at worst to continue attempting to artificially inflate the number of female employees at Google, in the face of so much evidence that their biological strengths don’t naturally predispose them to being great programmers.
However, this kicked off an epic firestorm, with many of Google’s social-justice-minded employees calling for Domare’s ouster. In the end, Google CEO Sundar Pichai capitulated to the growing chorus to dismiss Damore. He was fired earlier in the week, even though it is likely that his dismissal was a gross violation of multiple California employment laws.
The events have created an internet firestorm, with one meme picturing the great Steve Jobs with Apple’s famous motto “think different”, juxtaposed with Pichai’s face, accompanied by the caption “not so much”. Even the New York Times editorial page is now calling for Pichai to step down, citing his bungling of a simple personnel situation that never should have been news outside the corporation’s Mountain View campus.
The brouhaha has also raised serious concerns among investors. Damore was a highly qualified engineer, working on Google’s ultra-profitable search products, the lifeblood of the business. The apparent willingness of Google to dismiss a key employee at the drop of a hat when pushed by groups within the company of questionable value to the firm’s bottom line reeks of a serious crisis of leadership. The company’s stock is down multiple percentage points since news of the incident broke.
Google now faces near certain legal action from Damore. But the real question for the firm, going forward, is if they can retain the talent that drives their most profitable product: search.