Former Google engineer: Company shut down pro-diversity discussions

On the same week Google was sued by a couple of former employees who accuse it of quashing conservative viewpoints, another former Google engineer is claiming company executives shut down his pro-diversity discussions at work.

“I appreciate your commitment to diversity, but I believe your frequent posts about potentially divisive topics aren’t appropriate in the workplace,” Senior VP Urs Holzle wrote in an email to Cory Altheide, according to a memo Altheide has just made public.

Altheide notes that he wanted to release this memo when he left the company in January 2016 but “did not do so at the time for various cowardly and selfish reasons.” He worked at Google in the Seattle area from 2010 to 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.

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When he worked for the tech giant, Altheide says he tried, among other things, to discuss a Googler’s external blog post that said “blacks are not equal to whites.”

He also mentioned in the memo that another Google executive, Senior VP Sridhar Ramaswamy, once put an end to a discussion about women in tech that had become contentious.

“Google is not a debate club or a philosophy class,” Ramaswamy said, according to Altheide. “We are a workplace and we have an obligation to make sure our discussions remain respectful.”

Google employed more than 78,000 people worldwide as of September 2017, according to its most recent quarterly earnings filing. Its global workforce is 69 percent male and 31 percent female, its most recent diversity report shows. In the United States, its workforce is 56 percent white and 35 percent Asian.

Altheide also posted in internal forums “articles of relevance to our industry about bias, discrimination, and social justice, as I believed (and continue to believe) these are important topics to address if any improvements are to be made.”

He said he was called to meet with HR but was surprised when Holzle — who is also an early Google employee and an esteemed Google Fellow — appeared in the video-conference instead.

Holzle told Altheide he was there to talk about “the worrying pattern of posting topics that are divisive going back to 2013,” Altheide says. He added that he remembers Holzle saying, “if the majority of your coworkers are Nazis, it is better if you don’t know about it.”

Later, Holzle emailed Altheide: “From now on I request that you avoid posting on controversial topics. I believe your intention is to make Google better; nevertheless I ask you to refrain from such posts since they are prone to inciting others to comment in a way which violates our policies.”

In the memo, which appears to have been written to explain his departure, Altheide said he left Google because “I’m afraid of Urs. He inserted himself into what should have been a conversation with my direct manager, and ‘requested’ I stop talking about things he doesn’t want me to talk about.”

Google has not yet returned our request for comment.

Altheide’s claims come after James Damore and David Gudeman sued Google Monday, seeking class-action status for a lawsuit that accuses the company of discriminating against men, conservatives and white people.

Damore was fired last year after he wrote a controversial memo that criticized Google’s diversity push and attributed the tech gender gap to biological differences between men and women.

Gudeman wrote in a blog post this week that “I wouldn’t want this suit to give people a bad opinion of Googlers, but, honestly, they brought this on themselves for tolerating the hatred, racism and misandry of a small but vocal and organized subgroup who want to use Google as a vehicle of social change.”

The men’s lawsuit contends Gudeman was fired from Google after a co-worker said he accused a Muslim co-worker of terrorism.


Photo: Employees outside a Google building in Mountain View. (Bay Area News Group archives)


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  • simonts

    Google is a company, a place of work. As a shareholder, I expect Google to hire the best person for every job, independent of race, color, gender, religion, etc. If someone does not like the company’s culture, whether because it is too diverse, or because of the perceived opposite, he or she should leave instead of trying to foment divisions among people who should work together to achieve shared goals. Anyone who worked for Google for 6 years, and was any good, is lucky to be financially independent and can easily move to anywhere and work somewhere else, or start his/her own company, or not work at all. If someone, like Damore, prefers to be a political activist instead of working as an engineer, he should be honest enough to make a carrier change and go into politics, or become a right wing blogger at Breitbart/Stormfront/etc., instead of trying to play politics at Google.

    • Obo Agboghidi

      right, the one conservative has to leave, but the liberals can stay and use the company infrastructure to push their politics. Typical double standard

      • simonts

        He could have still worked there if he actually worked instead of having engaged in political propaganda. There is a single standard in most companies: you are paid to do a job, and keep your politics at home.

        • Obo Agboghidi

          standards are only relevant if they are applied equally. If the standard is work only, and no politics, than why are the people who push liberal politics promoted, while the opposite are fired? Again, double standard.

          Also, I have seen no proof that James Damore refused do his job.