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A Google employee posted a 10-page treatise about bias, and people are outraged

  • A 10-page document reportedly written by a Google engineer criticizes the company's left-leaning culture and policies meant to increase diversity.
  • The document went "viral" within the company and drew widespread criticism.
  • Google is being investigated by the Department of Labor for gender-based pay discrimination.
Larry Page
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Larry Page

Google employees and Silicon Valley pundits are reacting with outrage to a 10-page document written by a Google engineer that criticizes the company's "left leaning" culture, taking aim at company policies meant to foster a more diverse workplace.

The document, which was first reported by Motherboard and published in full by Gizmodo, was reportedly written by a Google senior software engineer named James Damore and went "viral" inside the company on Friday.

It argues that differences in pay between men and women in the technology sector are not entirely related to bias against women, but are partly attributable to biological differences between the genders. It also called on Google to "stop alienating conservatives" and calls into question practices like "unconscious bias" training for committees that promote employees.

Several Google employees expressed their outrage about the post on Friday (some of these tweets have since been protected and are no longer visible to the general public):

Outside commentators have also criticized the company—for instance, Slack engineer Erica Joy. She called attention to alleged unequal pay for women when she worked at Google, and has been an outspoken critic of systematic bias in the tech industry.

Joy wrote that Google execs should ask themselves, "why is the environment at Google such that racists and sexists feel supported and safe in sharing these views in the company?"

Another former Googler, Yonatan Zunger, who recently left the company, wrote a scathing criticism of the post suggesting that its author didn't understand the basics of engineering -- "all of these traits which the manifesto described as 'female' are the core traits which make someone successful at engineering" -- and concluding that the person who wrote it should have been fired immediately.

Google recently hired a VP of diversity, Danielle Brown, who wrote a memo on Saturday responding to the document, Recode reports. She wrote that the document "advanced incorrect assumptions about gender" and that "it's not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages."

Google parent company Alphabet pointed to Brown's statement as its official comment on the matter.

The document comes as the company is under investigation by the Department of Labor for paying women less than men.

It also fits into a broader story unfolding in Silicon Valley tech companies this year. Company executives and investors have often claimed tech companies are "meritocracies," where hard work and skill are valued and race and gender are ignored. Yet an increasing number of workers in the industry are coming forward with concrete and specific stories of discrimination and harassment.

Uber was rocked by allegations of pervasive discrimination and harassment against women, beginning with a blog post by former engineer Susan Fowler in February. Her story culminated in the resignation or firing of many top executives, including CEO Travis Kalanick, who stepped aside in June.

More recently, several venture capitalists have left their posts after women accused them of making inappropriate advances in business scenarios.