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Fired Google employee claims ‘lack of ideological diversity has hurt our products’

  • The Google employee fired by the tech giant over a viral memo has said the company's products have been hurt by a "lack of ideological diversity".
  • James Damore said that assumptions among "left-leaning circles" about conservative employees at Google had "hurt" his former employer.
  • Mr Damore's firing triggered widespread debate on gender differences and efforts to make the technology sector more diverse.

The Google employee who was fired by the tech giant earlier this week over a viral memo has said that the company's products have been hurt by a "lack of ideological diversity".

James Damore, the 28-year-old former Google engineer who was sacked by the corporation for allegedly "perpetuating gender stereotypes", made the claim in his first televised interview with a news media outlet.

"I support diversity and inclusion, and I think that also our lack of ideological diversity has hurt our products," he told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday.

Damore said that assumptions among "left-leaning circles" about conservative employees at Google had "hurt" his former employer in the interview. "It makes us alienate large portions of the population," he claimed.

Mr Damore's firing triggered widespread debate on gender differences and efforts to make the technology sector more diverse.

Women hold 26 percent of professional computing occupations in the U.S., and only 20 percent of Fortune 100 chief information officer positions being held by women in 2016, according to research by the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

Companies like Uber have been hit by allegations of pervasive discrimination and harassment against women.

In the wake of Damore's memo, more than 60 female employees are considering bringing class-action lawsuits against the company over alleged sexism and pay inequality, according to The Guardian.

Sundar Pichai
Bloomberg | Getty Images
Sundar Pichai

In Damore's memo, he wrote that: "Women, on average, have more openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing)."

He also argued that "neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance)" could be a factor in "the lower number of women in high stress jobs."

Danielle Browne, Google's vice president of diversity, wrote a memo in response, alleging the document "advanced incorrect assumptions about gender" and that "it's not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages."

Damore defended himself over the backlash against his memo, claiming that there was consensus among psychologists that biological differences accounted for different "personality traits" between men and women.

"I'm not saying that all men are different than all women, just that there's a distribution of these personality traits, and that distribution differs between men and women. So, there a lot of capable men and women at Google and I'm not trying to say that any of them are any worse than an average male engineer at Google."

Damore's interview with Bloomberg marked his first televised appearance on a "mainstream media" news outlet. He had previously spoken with right-wing YouTube personalities.

Damore felt 'betrayed' 

"I'm definitely hurt, I love Google and I've always been a fan of Google even before I joined, and so it really feels like they betrayed me in some way," Damore said in the interview.

"Because the whole point of my memo was actually to improve Google, and improve Google's culture. And they just punished me and shamed me for doing it."

Damore has since faced both scathing criticism and praise since his sacking.

In a memo written on Tuesday, Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said employees at the firm have right to express themselves, but that Damore's comments breached its code of conduct with regard to discrimination.

Pichai explained that the decision to fire the engineer related to "portions of the memo (that) violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."

Damore said he is planning to pursue legal action, but hasn't yet mentioned what this would entail.