August 12, 2017

THE ATLANTIC: A Question for Google’s CEO.

When CEO Sundar Pichai addressed a controversial memo about diversity that circulated inside Google, culminating in the termination of its author, James Damore, he began by telling the company’s 72,053 employees that “we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it.”

“However,” he added, “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not okay. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct.”

I have a question for the CEO.

Given that the full text of the memo is public, that it is the subject of a national debate on an important subject, that many educated people disagree with one another about what claims it made, and that clarity can only help Google employees adhere to the company’s rules going forward, would you be willing to highlight the memo using green to indicate the “much” that you identified as “fair to debate” and red to flag the “portions” that you deemed Code-of-Conduct violations?

Absent that, it seems to me that Google employees will remain as uncertain as ever about what they can and cannot say at the company. As an illustration, consider Alan Jacobs, an English professor at Baylor University who declares himself confused about your meaning:

How badly has Pichai screwed the pooch? So badly that David Brooks is calling for his scalp.