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Social impact in the news: the Google diversity memo and what you need to know

“Overheard on the internet”

“You belong here, and we need you.” – Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, to girls at coding event at Google, last week.

 What’s the social impact story? 

Last week a Google engineer was fired for a memo he wrote outlining why Google’s diversity initiatives are problematic- saying that men are biologically more suited to jobs in tech compared to women.

Of course he should be fired… oh wait, people don’t agree?  

The fired engineer claimed he had the legal right to voice his opinion and filed a complaint that some legal experts believe he has a case for. Also far right groups support him, citing ‘censorship’, ‘free speech’ and ‘political correctness’. Julian Assange offered him a job.

So is it free speech?

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai had this to say about it- “we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

Is it true? I heard women were bad at math. 

Umm no. Before the industry was dominated by men, the first computer programmers were women. There is no evidence that women aren’t equally capable as men in computer science (and any doubters check out thesepeople, watch this TED talk by Stephanie Shirley or the movie Hidden Figures).

So what’s going on with women in tech?

The percentage of women in computer science jobs is really low ~ 25%. There’s been a lot of discussion recently about why there’s a lack of women in tech and the challenges (sexism in tech is pervasive to name one). But it appears there’s two issues: girls are less inclined to go into computer science (reinforced by gender stereotypes) and for those that do- many don’t stay. And can you blame them for wanting to leave hearing stories like this at Uber.

As a leader, manager & impact pro, what does this mean for me?

Diversity is needed in all organizations. Beyond the right thing to do, data shows that the most diverse and inclusive businesses outperform their peers- look at your teams, do you need to improve your diversity practices? A systemic effort is needed to change the negative stereotypes towards women and encourage more girls to enter STEM careers and stay. The other issue to consider is organizational practices. How are issues brought forward and discussed at your organization? Internal issues are public today. Are you ready?

The bottom line:
Diversity in the workplace is an issue that needs to be addressed and worked on. We need to support organizations that encourage girls to go into STEM careers and support women in tech like these.

And if you love sharing your opinion- be prepared that actions and words have consequences and as a company you need to be ready to act and react.

SHARE THIS STORY:  Tweet: All you #SocialImpact pros: here's what you need to know about the Google diversity memo.



When people in the office are talking about Charlottesville…

Did you know AirBnB took a stand banning neo-Nazi’s from booking listings and GoDaddy shut the white supremacists off their hosting site setting examples how companies can fight hate. Merck and UnderArmour CEO’s resigned yesterday from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council due to his response to crisis.

When a colleague talks about Elon Musk thinking AI is more dangerous than North Korea, mention…
AI was used in a really cool way to help another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, figure out the best way to spend his fortune for good (the winner- access to clean water).

When anyone quips about Millennials say… 
oh ya I heard Millennials are driving the nearly $9 trillion growth in impact investing.


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