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Ex-Google Engineer Says Gender Memo Began on 12-Hour Flight

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 09-08-2017 Ellen Huet
BC-GOOGLE-DIVERSITY-MEMO © Ellen Huet BC-GOOGLE-DIVERSITY-MEMO BC-GOOGLE-DIVERSITY-MEMO © Ellen Huet BC-GOOGLE-DIVERSITY-MEMO

(Bloomberg) -- Ex-Google engineer James Damore says problems with the company’s culture prompted him to write the memo on gender differences that ignited a social media firestorm and led to his dismissal.

Damore, who went from employee to outcast upon the memo’s circulation, said in his first public comments that he penned the document out of a love for Google. Damore was a software engineer at the search giant’s Mountain View headquarters until Monday afternoon, when he said he was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” His missive -- published internally to Google employees late last week -- argued that conservative viewpoints are suppressed at the company and biological differences explain in part why more men work in software engineering than women.

READ: Google fires employee who wrote memo questioning women in tech industry

“A lot of this came from me seeing some of the problems with our culture at Google, where a lot of people who weren’t in this group-think just felt totally isolated and alienated,” he told YouTube chat-show host Stefan Molyneux in an interview posted online. “There were many people that came to me and said, ‘yeah I’m thinking of leaving Google because this is getting so bad.”’

“I really thought this was a problem Google had to fix,” he added.

Damore Went From Intern to Pariah in Google Tenure Ended by Memo

Damore had stayed largely silent since the weekend, only confirming to a few news outlets including Bloomberg why he believed he was fired and that he was currently exploring legal remedies. In the video, the software engineer revealed he created the document -- started on a 12-hour flight during a work trip to China -- after attending a “secretive” diversity training session that rubbed him the wrong way.

“There was a lot of just shaming: ‘no, you can’t say that. That’s sexist.’ There’s just so much hypocrisy in a lot of the things that they were saying,” he said on the video. “I decided to create the document to clarify my thoughts.”

Damore, who landed his job at Google by doing well in a coding competition, didn’t go into his future plans apart from acknowledging a number of job offers. He did admit the scale of the social media backlash had taken him by surprise, conceding it was a “blind spot” of his and that he was still struggling to understand the severity of the public reaction. 

“It still hasn’t truly hit me, the enormity of it all,” he said.

He reflected on how Silicon Valley culture discourages the airing of right-leaning sentiments.

“Definitely those who aren’t on the left feel like they need to stay in the closet and not really reveal themselves,” Damore said in his interview. Those people “actually mask and say things they don’t believe.”

(Updates with details and more comments from fifth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Huet in San Francisco at ehuet4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robert Fenner at rfenner@bloomberg.net, Edwin Chan, Peter Elstrom

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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