Shockwaves continue to rattle Google after the company fired an engineer who posted a lengthy screed suggesting that women are genetically less capable than men of working in high-tech.
On Thursday afternoon, Google CEO Sundar Pichai informed staffers in a companywide email that a town-hall meeting to discuss diversity issues was canceled after individual employees were singled out online — and several had expressed fears for their personal safety.
“We had hoped to have a frank open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai wrote in the memo, sent shortly before the meeting’s scheduled 4 p.m. PT start time. But questions submitted by staffers beforehand “appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” he wrote, and some employees were “concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”
Google’s firing of the engineer, James Damore, has rallied conservative agitators who are angry about what they perceive as the internet giant’s suppression of free speech and persecution of the male employee.
On Wednesday, right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos posted the Twitter bios of eight Google employees — who apparently had criticized Damore’s memo — on his Facebook page, with the comment, “Looking at who works for Google, it all makes sense now…”
Pichai in his memo Thursday wrote, “In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion. So in the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.”
Damore has spoken out since his firing, airing his grievances against Google. In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, he accused Google execs of “trying to smear my image rather than just looking at the evidence” and said he felt “betrayed.”
Google on Monday released a memo from Pichai to employees, in which the chief executive said that while the company values critical discussion of its diversity programs, parts of Damore’s essay crossed 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 wrote.