Online harassment, trolling and stalking are major forms of online abuse, and recently, even Google got a taste of it. The company scheduled an employee town hall meeting on Thursday to discuss its diversity efforts and the controversy surrounding the anti-diversity memo written by former employee James Damore, who was fired for writing that memo. However, fear of harassment led the company to cancel it.
Why Google canceled the meeting
In a memo to staff on Thursday a half-hour before the meeting was to start, CEO Sundar Pichai announced that they had canceled it, saying, “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall. In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion.”
Damore’s anti-diversity memo led many employees to raise questions, and those questions were leaked outside the company, further raising concerns about online harassment. Since the names of some of those employees have also been publicly disclosed on social media and websites, Google decided to cancel the meeting.
At the company-wide town hall meeting, executives planned to field employees’ questions. According to ZeroHedge, one popular question was how the company plans to protect female employees who face online harassment for criticizing the memo, while another seeks to learn if Google lowers the bar for diverse candidates. Other questions revolved around how the company plans to stop leaks to the press.
Pichai on Damore’s anti-diversity memo
Pichai also briefly addressed the issue at an awards function on Thursday evening. At the event, Pichai was honoring teams of girls and young women who participated in the Technovation challenge and created apps that seek to address issues like healthcare and poverty. At the event, he tried to pacify people who believed the company has been too late in addressing diversity issues.
“I want you to know there is a place for you in this industry,” Pichai said. “There is a place for you at Google. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here and we need you.”
He said it is extremely important for companies to have a diverse workforce and that Google is committed to building products useful to everyone in the world without any sort of discrimination. He also said the company’s staff should reflect its beliefs.
Diversity is what most tech companies are aiming at these days, and hence, they are trying to hire more blacks, Latinos and women in technical jobs. Damore, however, raised serious doubts about Google’s hiring practices and even said that the company should readily accept different types of ideologies.
Damore, who worked as a software engineer at Google until he was fired on Monday, claimed in his controversial memo that biological differences between men and women are to be blamed for the diversity gap. Damore stated that women experience higher levels of anxiety and have a lower tolerance to stress.
This was regarded as unacceptable by the company, which said the employee belonging to its search division had crossed a line and that his memo has led to the advancement of gender stereotypes. Damore is now taking legal action against the company.