A 10-page “manifesto” lambasting efforts to boost gender diversity at Google, Inc. has revealed the sexist and racist undercurrent of the flagship company and the tech industry in general, angering workers and setting off a fierce debate over sexual harassment and discrimination in Silicon Valley.
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Google executives over the weekend rushed to denounce the memo, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber" and written by a male software engineer.
The unnamed engineer asserted in the document that circulated inside the company last week that "Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture" which prevented honest discussion of the issue, and that the company is engaged in social engineering and a “discriminatory” bias that he alleged victimizes white males to the benefit of women and oppressed nationalities.
The essay also claimed that women tend to show more interest in people rather than things — “empathizing vs. systemizing,” as the author puts it — while men crave status and thus have the drive to end up in a leadership role. He also accused women of being guilty of “neuroticism.”
The memo has stoked the heated debate over the treatment of women in the male-dominated Silicon Valley that has boiled for months following sexual harassment scandals at Uber Technologies Inc. and several venture capital firms.
According to the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll, one-tenth of all women in the tech industry experience unwanted sexual attention while a quarter of people of color face stereotyping. The poll surveyed over 2,000 people who left their tech jobs in the last three years. The results depicted a hostile work environment for women and men of color. LGBTQ employees were the most likely to cite bullying and hostile behavior.
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The controversy arising from the memo erupted as the Department of Justice continues to press an investigation of alleged gender-based pay discrimination at Google, a unit of flagship tech multinational Alphabet Inc. The company has denied the charges.
There were also expressions of support for the anonymous engineer. He said in a comment on his original posting that he had received "many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues," according to a copy of the memo posted by technology news site Gizmodo.
Motherboard, the online news outlet that first reported the employee's memo, reported Sunday that many messages on the anonymous corporate messaging app Blind backed the view that Google's culture was too politically correct.
The tech industry has been criticized for fostering a white nationalist, sexist and far-right subculture. So-called “alt-right” figures from the far right ranging from white supremacist Richard Spencer to neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin have cited the IT milieu as a major base of donations and support for the neo-fascist current.
In March, Manhattan-based software engineer Mike Peinovich and a number of other so-called “alt-techies” listed similar grievances to the unnamed Google employee in interviews with Mother Jones magazine, blasting the “corporate feminist and diversity agenda” of tech firms.
While Ayn Rand-style libertarianism has traditionally been among the most popular ideologies in the tech world, radically anti-egalitarian worldviews such as “Neoreaction” and the “Dark Enlightenment” have also held appeal among techies — including billionaire venture capitalist, Facebook board member and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who donated US$1.25 million to Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
In 1995, Thiel — a former libertarian — argued that the definition of date rape had been expanded to include “seductions that are later regretted.” In 2016, a former Stanford University dorm-mate of Thiel alleged that the South African startup engineer Thiel had been a defender of the apartheid system, which he considered “a sound economic system working efficiently, and moral issues were irrelevant.”
Last year, Oculus VR founder and near-billionaire Palmer Luckey — also a Facebook board member — was discovered by The Daily Beast to be the principal funder of “alt-right” non-profit Nimble America, which proliferated racist pro-Trump memes. Luckey, a friend of notorious former tech journalist and white nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos, later stepped down from Facebook.