What the Google Diversity Manifesto Says About Corporate Culture

Blog Post created by katie.mehnert Champion on Aug 7, 2017

My hats off to Google.  Really.  They've built an amazing company that we all look to every day to help us find what we need.  And they were heralded for a while as the diversity leader in Silicon Valley. Recently the company has been under fire for pay gaps between its female and male staff and then this weekend an unidentified software engineer at Google (GOOG) wrote a 10 page diversity manifesto leaked by Gizmodo. 


I have to say I read and re-read this 10 pager (it was long) a few times.  And I sat and stewed, angry and at times, defensive.  Then I let myself become rational again.


I chose to try and think about it differently.  After all that's what we are all supposed to do.  Encourage difference and inclusion. Diversity helps us grow by challenging our perception of what "normal" is and this post does just that.  With difference views together, we can see everything, right?


To be honest, I give the guy credit for being courageous but I completely disagree with his manifesto and how Google's new head of diversity responded so quickly to dismiss it.


Let's be clear.  I don't agree with this engineer's assessment at all but he did express a different point of view and part of inclusion is giving people the space to share.  And we need to bring white men along, listen to them and not alienate them.


His argument is that women are underrepresented not because they face bias and discrimination in the workplace, but because of inherent psychological differences between men and women.   Biology ? Really? I disagree.  I have CRAZY ambition and drive. Ask my husband.


He then argues that the company's diversity programs are "highly politicized" and alienates "non progressives" furthering that this makes Google less competitive of a company.   We all know that diversity and inclusion drives safer, more reliable and better financial performance.   It's been proven over and over again. 


The unnamed author also indicated the need to ask why we see so many men in top leadership positions (rather than why women aren't in top positions), suggesting that they require long, stressful hours that may not be worth if if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.  He defends the need to demoralize diversity and de-emphasize empathy which I just think is a complete misunderstanding of social science.    The last time I checked both women and men want balance, need empathy and believe diversity is a good moral cause.


The fact is women and men are more alike than we are different.  Social scientist and expert, Adam Grant wrote about this today.


I saw this quote that reminded me of the opportunity Google has in front of it, should it choose to seize it. Great organizations use the necessary tension for the sake of progress.   I really hope they take the tension that's been raised to an international level and make something real happen.


But I do think what this manifesto says is we still have a long way to go.  LONG.



Update: 8:45 AM CST | August 8 2017


News agencies are reporting that Google fired James Damore, the software engineer who wrote the original memo.  He confirmed in an email to The New York Times that he had been fired. Mr. Damore had worked at Google since 2013. He said in his memo that he had written it in the hope of having an “honest discussion” about how the company had an intolerance for ideologies that do not fit into what he believed were its left-leaning biases..  Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, said portions of the memo had violated the company’s code of conduct and crossed the line “by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” 


What do you think?  Did Google make the right decision?  What about Damore's manifesto?  And what do you think this says about corporate culture?


I hope you'll join me on September 7th at the ADL Women's Initiative Leadership Council for a Breakfast and forum on gender equality.  Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker will moderate and I will join Capgemini’s North America Corporate Responsibility Director Janet Pope, Nation Waste CEOMaria Rios, and Former EEOC Regional Attorney Jim Sacher. More details can be found here.