Google Engineer's 'Manifesto' Fuels Gender Discrimination Controversy

A Google engineer has circulated what the authored described as a "manifesto" that asserts in part that perceived discrimination against women at the company was the outcome of biological differences.

Google Diversity

Google, which has been trying quite hard to dispel suggestions about unequal treatment for women at the company found itself smack dab in the middle of a fresh controversy after an unidentified employee published a 'manifesto' questioning the company's diversity policies.

The employee's 10-page essay, published in its entirety by Gizmodo accused Google of fostering a "politically correct monoculture" that unfairly shamed dissenters against its diversity policies into silence.

The document had reportedly gone viral inside Google and has now gone viral outside the company. It prompted rebuttal of the author's claims from Danielle Brown, the company's newly appointed vice president of diversity.

Brown herself said the document advanced incorrect assumptions about gender and diversity at Google. She defended the company's policies on diversity and inclusivity and said Google supported the right for people to express their opinion on critical issues without fear.

The document is titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber" and appears to argue that any perceived discrimination against women at Google is not the result of gender bias but simply the outcome of biological differences.

In the manifesto, the author—an engineer at the company—professes his support for inclusion and diversity in general and acknowledges that sexism is a problem. But, he argues, any gender disparities that exist at Google are the result of factors that go beyond discrimination.

"I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership," the author argued.

Women, the author contended, in general prefer jobs in social and artistic areas because they are more drawn to aesthetics and feeling rather than ideas. Women have a harder time negotiating salary, speaking up, leading and asking for raises compared to men. They also tend to be more neurotic and had higher levels of anxiety than men.

"We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs," the author of the manifesto wrote before explaining away the reason to men's "higher drive for status." The manifesto contends that men are more willing to work long hours and sacrifice their personal lives in order to achieve career success.

"Philosophically, I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women," the Google employee wrote. Instead the focus should solely be on ensuring that any social engineering that goes on Google benefits the company.

The author listed several alleged problems with Google's diversity policies not just with regard to women but also with race. Many of the employee programs, mentoring and classes at Google for instance are only for women and members of certain races. Hiring practices at the company have created lower entry barriers for diversity candidates, the author of the manifesto said.

The missive has provoked considerable discussion within Google with some employees asking for the author's termination from the company while others have supported his position.

Danielle Brown said that efforts to promote diversity and inclusion will remain a fundamental part of Google's culture. "We'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul."

"Google has taken a strong stand on this issue, by releasing its demographic data and creating a companywide (Objectives and Key Results (OKR) on diversity and inclusion," she noted. "Changing a culture is hard, and it's often uncomfortable. But I firmly believe Google is doing the right thing, and that's why I took this job."

The controversy comes at a bad for Google. The company is already in the midst of a controversy over alleged pay differences between male and female employees. The U.S. Department of Labor is currently investigating whether the company discriminates against women on salary after allegedly finding evidence of widespread gender discrimination at Google.

It's also renews the discussion about a lack of opportunities for women and minorities in the Silicon Valley tech community and in the tech world in general.

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.