Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, canceled an all-hands meeting Thursday after employees expressed concerns about their safety.
Google was expected to address the controversy surrounding a divisive memo written by a Google engineer last week, in which he suggested that innate, biological factors are part of the reason for the gender gap in the tech industry and that Google should “stop alienating conservatives.” The engineer, James Damore, was subsequently fired for violating Google’s code of conduct. But his termination hardly served as a resolution.
“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai said in a memo to employees Thursday. But on external websites, some Google employees who had spoken out against Damore’s memo were being harassed.
The company’s new vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, Danielle Brown, locked down her Twitter account after receiving racist and sexist messages. On Facebook, conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos posted the Twitter biographies of eight Google employees who had criticized Damore. And on Breitbart, screen images of internal Google+ messages have been published that purport to expose “left-wing Google management employees.”
“Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall,” Pichai told employees, explaining his decision to cancel the all-hands meeting.
In a statement, a Google spokesman said Friday, “We’ll find a better way to help our employees connect and discuss these important issues further.”
Pichai’s move to cancel the meeting was first reported by Recode.
Here is Pichai’s memo to Google employees in full:
“TL;DR Sorry for the late notice but we are going to cancel today’s Town Hall.
“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally. Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.
“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. We’ll share details soon.
“Over the past two days, I have had the chance to meet with so many people here, and I have read each of your emails carefully. The vast majority of you are very supportive of our decision. A smaller percentage of you wish we would do more. And some are worried that you cannot speak out at work freely. All of your voices and opinions matter… . and I want to hear them.
“In the meantime, let’s not forget what unites us as a company – our desire to build great products for everyone that make a big difference in their lives. I have been in a few product discussions today and felt energized by the important things we are working on. We can, and will continue, to come together to do the very best for the people we serve.
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