James Damore’s class action lawsuit claiming that Google unfairly discriminates against white men with unpopular political views is surprising, considering the overwhelming evidence of systemic sexism and underrepresentation of women and minorities in the tech industry, a Toronto lawyer says.
“If anything, in tech, the diversity issue has been well-written about and has highlighted a lack of diversity and the fact that women aren’t properly represented in the workplace,” Monica Goyal says.
Damore, a former Google engineer who was fired in August after posting a memo to an internal Google message board suggesting that biological differences between men and women “might explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership,” is joined in the suit by another former Google engineer David Gudeman.
According to the suit, both men, and others, were singled out and systematically mistreated for expressing conservative views that didn’t align with Google’s.
“It all comes down to the details. What evidence, clear evidence, does [Damore] have to show that this is what happened?” says Goyal.
According to the suit, Google “employs illegal hiring quotas to fill its desired percentages of women and favored minority candidates” and “openly shames managers of business units who fail to meet their quotas—in the process, openly denigrating male and Caucasian employees as less favored than others.”
It adds that Google staff laughed at Damore for disagreeing with Google’s “Bias Busting” training sessions that address unconscious biases.
Goyal says the workshops are evidence that Google does place a large emphasis on diversity in the workplace.
“In this case, you have to show there was some language used against multiple people that suggested there was discrimination against them on the basis of their political views. It would be surprising if that evidence was there,” says Goyal.
Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity, and governance, Danielle Brown, said the memo “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender,” in a statement shortly after Damore was fired.
San Francisco-based First Round Capital’s State of Startups 2017 survey says 17 per cent of startups claimed to have formal policies in place to promote diversity and inclusion, a three per cent increase from last year, but more than 15 per cent of respondents reported not having one and not planning on developing one.
The survey also pointed to the lack of diversity among startup business’ board of directors; More than 51 per cent of startup teams were made up of mostly men, a slight increase from last year (50 per cent). In 2015, that number was 56 per cent.
You can read the lawsuit filed by Damore and Gudeman below: