Google Engineer's Firing Sparks Heated Political Debate on Diversity - Page 2

In an interview with CNBC, 24-year old Google software engineer Amelia Brunne confessed to not being surprised by the contents of Damore's memo as much as the outcry against it. She said the views in Damore's memo are examples the attitudes that women in tech have to constantly contend with and noted how male engineers often tended to ignore the competencies of female engineer and dismiss them as "diversity hires."

The debate that erupted over the firing doesn't help any company that is trying promote employee diversity, said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research.

"I have little doubt that the value of Google’s brand will diminish somewhat among the fans of this sort of manifesto," who believe they are being discriminated against because of political correctness, Gottheil said.

The controversy at Google highlights the challenges that companies, especially those dominated by knowledge workers, face in the current highly polarized political and social environment, he said. "This is exactly why companies like Google institute programs to increase diversity, awareness, and yes, empathy," Gottheil noted.

All such programs will likely seem to be coercive to some. Still companies need to do what it takes to ameliorate conditions that make some employees and candidates uncomfortable or worse, he said.

"One of the most difficult tasks is to create and maintain a company culture that helps employs know what ideas or beliefs are appropriate or inappropriate to voice" in certain contexts, he noted. "What can be said one-to-one may not be OK in a group, or in a communication that is likely to be shared," Gottheil said.

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT said it is too early in the news cycle to determine what kind of long-term impact this will have on public perceptions of Google. But he said there's little that company management could have done differently.

"The fact that the memo was posted on a company discussion board and disseminated widely before it was publicly released made it an issue Google had to address publicly," King said.

"Since actions tend to reflect belief, if the company had not responded as it did, many would have believed Google supported the author's conclusions. That would have triggered other problems and a different sort of PR nightmare," King said.

The fundamental takeaway here is that companies need to always follow a course of action that reflects the firm's professed core values. "The second is to ignore the noise and look for the essence," King said.

"In this case, the wrangling over the rightness or wrongness of the Google memo obscures the essential, serious problems the tech industry has with gender issues. Google appears to be willing to face and, hopefully, correct those larger problems," King said.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.