Reports surfaced about a Google employee writing a 10-page memo criticising Google’s policies on including more diversity in its employment ranks. The memo decreed that women were biologically inept at technology and that Google should focus its efforts on expanding “intellectual diversity” rather than gender or racial diversity. The post went viral in Google internal networks and went unchecked for days before it got leaked to the public. Needless to say, the employee who penned the memo has been fired, according to a report. Who’s surprised? Not we. But should we really be celebrating these temporary ‘he-deserved-it’s?
The Silicon Valley is notorious for sexual harassment and underrepresentation of minorities in its work culture. Even in India, engineering colleges still see largely male-dominated classrooms. Gender stereotypes start early and eventually manifest in work spaces. Here’s the thing – firing the Google employee who wrote the memo is the easy way out. It’s the most common PR (Public Relations) tactic in employment history. Someone says something ignorant and insensitive, the post goes viral and companies rush to prove how they’re champions of sensitivity by firing the employee who started the ruckus.
Uber’s Travis Kalanick left a shitstorm in his wake after resigning as CEO. He reflected Uber’s toxic work culture and being one of the head honchos, was also a perpetuator of the company’s blatant sexism. So what does Uber do to fix it? Makes Kalanick resign, of course. In another case, Dave McClure, Founder of 500 Startups, resigned from his position after reports of him sending creepy messages to women in the organisation surfaced. Closer to home, our very own how-dare-she-accuse-me Arunabh Kumar had sympathy pouring in for him after he resigned as CEO of The Viral Fever. And that’s that and no harm done?
Is firing the only way to address the inherent stereotyping and harassment in corporate work culture? Sure, in leadership positions, resignations might be an evil necessity. But is a simple resignation the solution to deep rooted prejudice when it comes to including diverse voices and equal pay? No amount of firing and resignation has effectively solved how work spaces treat women and minorities. Apart from the general,internal workshops on the need for gender sensitivity, the only way to break stereotypes is by hiring more diverse employees. Another possible solution would be to have employee reviews based on behaviour and not just number-wise performance. This way, a company will know specific, behaviour-based problem areas in its work culture and will be better equipped to build a more informed, inclusive and warmer space without shaming its employees for being politically incorrect.
So, spare us the PR stunt and take a deeper look at the memo-mongering attitudes you encourage in your work culture. Ok Google?