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Silicon Valley

Google cancels meeting to discuss gender and diversity due to 'safety concerns'

Questions being posed internally by employees, along with some of their names, began appearing on outside websites.

shutterstock_315779180 Shutterstock / antb Shutterstock / antb / antb

GOOGLE HAS CANCELLED a meeting intended to air viewpoints on diversity, sexism and free speech, citing worker safety concerns.

“We’ll find a better way to help our employees connect and discuss these important issues further,” a Google spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry.

The employee gathering was scheduled to air viewpoints after the dismissal of a Google engineer over a memo defending the Silicon Valley gender gap.

The “manifesto” published as an internal memo by James Damore claimed “biological differences” were a key factor in the low percentage of women in technology jobs and sparked outcry from those claiming it perpetuated stereotypes and discrimination.

Then Damore was fired — according to media reports and his own email to the far-right news website Breitbart — which ignited backlash from those claiming Google was stifling free speech and politically conservative viewpoints.

News of the ‘town hall’ meeting’s cancellation was sent to employees in a memo from chief executive Sundar Pichai, who apologised to them for giving late notice.

Questions being posed internally by employees, along with some of their names, began appearing on outside websites, prompting safety concerns, according to a copy of the memo obtained by AFP.


“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai said in the memo.

Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.

He said Google intends a series of internal forums in the coming days to give people chances to speak freely without fear.

Pichai said he has met with many people at Google about the controversy, with the vast majority supporting the decision to fire the author of the manifesto.

The fresh controversy comes with Silicon Valley struggling in the face of accusations of rampant sexual harassment and discrimination affecting startups like Uber and venture capital firms investing in the sector.

Earlier this week, Pichai said employees have a right to express themselves but that the memo appeared to “cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”.

“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai said in his email to employees.

Damore’s firing made him a hero to the far right and those claiming political correctness has gone too far.

© AFP 2017

Read: Google sacks worker who said women don’t fill tech jobs due to ‘biological issues’ in internal memo

Read: At least 36 people killed in bus crash in China

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