SAN FRANCISCO – After reportedly cancelling a town hall meeting to allay fears over an anti-diversity manifesto, Google’s Indian-born CEO Sundar Pichai finally addressed a coding event for girls on the sprawling campus at Mountain View, California.
“I want you to know there’s a place for you in this industry. There’s a place for you at Google. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here, and we need you,” said a report in The Verge on Friday, quoting Pichai.
The town hall meeting late on Thursday was cancelled, according to Recode, after some employees reportedly expressed the fear that they would be targets of online harassment if they speak up and ask questions in the meeting.
Pichai, however, emphasised the importance of engineers “building products for everyone in the world”.
“I think to do that well we really need to have people internally who represent the world in totality. And that’s how we think about it. So it’s really important that more women and girls have the opportunity to participate in technology, to learn how to code, create, and innovate,” Pichai told the audience.
“I was surprised to find the girls here represent more than 100 countries from around the world. I think they’ve been chosen from over 11,000 girls. I think my job sometimes is hard, but I can’t even imagine the judges who had to choose from all those wonderful, wonderful participants to get the winners here,” he added.
His views are crucial at a time when an anti-diversity manifesto, written by a Google software engineer James Damore, which claimed that “the representation gap between men and women in software engineering persists because of biological differences between the two sexes”.
Pichai cut his vacation short to deal with the crisis over the manifesto that went viral inside the company and infuriated thousands of employees.
Damore has since been fired from Google.
Pichai earlier said parts of the 3,300-word manifesto crossed the line by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” in the workplace.
“Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives,” Pichai wrote in an earlier email.
“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. Clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group, including how we create a more inclusive environment for all,” Pichai added.
Danielle Brown, Google’s new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity and Governance, also issued a statement to Google employees in response to the viral memo.
“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions,” she said.
“Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately, our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber,” Brown added.
Brown also thanked her fellow Googlers for bringing up the issue and vouched for a need to change.