Google CEO Pichai cancels 'town hall' on gender dispute

Saturday, 12 Aug, 2017

In an email to his staff, Sundar Pichai explained that questions from employees had been leaked and that in some cases the identities of some employees were revealed, exposing them to harassment and threats.

Sundar Pichai the CEO of Google has been forced to cancel an internal town hall meeting over a gender dispute rocking the tech company.

Mr. Pichai said a "vast majority" of the emails he had received supported the decision to fire Mr. Damore but he noted that some employees had raised concerns about being unable to speak freely.

The CEO said that the employees had expressed concerns about their safety as they anxious about being "outed", if they publicly raised questions in the meeting hall.

"Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and anxious they may be "outed" publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall", Pichai wrote in an internal email. Conservative commentators such as former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos - critical of Google's diversity efforts - have also circulated a graphic singling out several Google employees who are gay, lesbian or transgender.

Damore's position paper is now being hailed as a "manifesto" of the biologically-based differences between men and women.

Though one might argue for a right to free speech, however unpopular, such protections are generally limited to government and other public employees - and to unionized workers with rights to disciplinary hearings before any firing.

In an April blog post, Eileen Naughton, vice president of people operations at Google, wrote the company was "quite surprised" at the allegations and that they came "without any supporting data or methodology". The first step taken by the Google CEO against James Damore, who initiated the letter, was to terminate him for this controversy. But in a companywide email sent less than 45 minutes before the meeting was to start, Pichai said he had cancelled it because proposed questions submitted by Google employees had "appeared externally" and some employees feared for their safety if they were " "outed publicly" for asking a question". He had planned to address Google employees around the world over a global live-stream.

"In our interview, it's all individual right now and it's only how well you work by yourself and we never really measure how good someone is on a team".

"At Google, we're regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership", Damore said. Google, on the other hand, has denied all the allegations made against the company and commented that a sample of 60 employees can not make strong allegations against the company which is employing thousands of employees in different locations.

Damore is now speaking out about being fired from Google.

Women who work in the industry are increasingly choosing to speak out about their experiences in this male-dominated domain, and to challenge the statistics that demonstrate that they remain a minority, despite high-profile campaigns and initiatives aimed at redressing the balance.