As It Happens

Fired Google software engineer James Damore likens company to 'communist' regime

Former Google engineer James Damore is unrepentant about the backlash that has ensued over his memo, which claimed biological gender differences helped explain why women are underrepresented at the company.
James Damore posted a photo of himself on Twitter with the word 'Goolag' written in Google's signature font. (Peter Duke/Twitter)

Former Google engineer James Damore is unrepentant about the backlash that has ensued over his memo, which claimed biological gender differences helped explain why women are underrepresented at the company.

Speaking with As It Happens guest host Mike Finnerty, Damore brushed away criticisms of his memo — including one from a psychologist who authored a study cited in the memo — and accused the tech company of pushing a politically leftist ideology, likening its leaders to communists.

He also claimed that "discrimination against women is not happening at all," but that "conservative thought" is being quashed — even as Google itself is under investigation for an alleged "systemic" pay gap between its male and female employees.

Mr. Damore, you say you were "fired for telling the truth." What does that mean?

I was trying to actually use science to help address the diversity problem. But that was considered forbidden truth, and I was fired for it.

So do you still see the ten-page memo as "the truth?"

Yeah, I haven't seen anything that actually disputes the validity of it.

What was the point (of the memo)?

I saw a lot of problems in Google's culture and problems in our policy that were really hurting our culture and increasing inter-group tension.

A 28-year-old former Google engineer who was fired over a memo he wrote about gender differences said he's exploring all his legal options and has already filed a labour complaint in the U.S. over his treatment. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Hurting the business? Hurting what culture specifically? What's the problem you were trying to address?

Google has a very strong dogma that is intolerant to differing opinions, and even evidence, in this case. So that alienates anyone who doesn't hold to the progressive party line. 

But do you have any evidence that anyone's actually being harmed by the diversity policies that you were critical of?

We've seen this in academia, it hasn't been studied at Google in particular, but there have been studies in academia where these programs that really emphasize group identity increases inter-group tension, and causes one to think of themselves as a victim, and contribute to these zero-sum type conflicts between different groups.

But there's no evidence at Google that it's harmed the company. You're in the realm of supposition.

I mean, it hasn't been proven one way or the other. This was an internal document that I was sending to the diversity programs to help improve things.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an email to employees that the memo crossed the line of the company's code of conduct 'by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.' (Manu Fernandez/Associated Press)

One of the conclusions in your memo reads like this: "Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women's representation among the homeless, in work-related or violent deaths, prison and school dropouts."

I have to confess, I just don't understand what you're trying to get at there. Why is discriminating to have more women in tech equivalent to having women living homeless or dropping out of school?

Because many of the same forces that are causing those disparities — the same forces are causing these disparities that we see in tech. And if we're not willing to address one disparity, then I don't know why we're focusing so much on this one disparity.

Well, how about because women are more than half the population, and that it's probably good that there are females well represented in the tech force?

There are females in the tech force.

Properly represented?

Discrimination against women is not happening at all. There is open and encouraged discrimination against conservative thought, though.

So there's no discrimination against women, but there is discrimination against conservatives at Google?

Yes, there likely is.

But no discrimination whatsoever against women?

I mean it hasn't been shown, no.

And has it been shown against conservatives?

I mean, there are many cases of this within Silicon Valley. And there are lawsuits against multiple companies about this.

And there is also a lawsuit against Google right now about the pay gap between men and women.

Yes, and their official, internal response is that once you control for all the factors including performance, there is no gender pay gap.

And you believe that part of what they say, and not the other parts of what they say? You're totally opposed to the idea that there might be any discrimination against women at Google?

I'm not closed to it, but you need to show it.

Your photo for your Twitter account has "Goolag" in the kind of Google style. Do you really see it as a gulag?

I think that if people are going to call me a Nazi, where I've been expressing completely centrist views, then calling a corporation that holds a leftist dogma, and is completely intolerant of anyone who holds a differing opinion, I don't think that it's that large of a stretch to make analogies to communism.

Well, it's not just an analogy to communism. It's an analogy for camps where people were tortured to death.

I mean, we need to be honest with ourselves about the dangers that communism had. There are still many professors that profess how great communism is, and we have this huge negative connotation with Nazis — which I agree with — but we don't have that huge negative connotation with communists.

CBC's senior technology reporter Matthew Braga shares his findings, plus perspective from Melissa Nightingale, founding partner at Raw Signal Group 8:55

Do you see Google as communist?

I mean, authoritarian left-wing ideology — and there are many people at Google — and their comments on my document were basically communist. They wanted no way to differentiate between people. Equal outcome of everyone.

This is one of the most profitable companies in the world. Communist?

They are tolerant of that ideology, yes.

You retweeted a tweet with a picture of yourself with the caption, "Not all heroes wear capes." Do you see yourself as a hero?

Uh, yeah, I retweeted someone else's tweet. I mean, I liked that tweet, and it had my picture on it.

I don't necessarily see myself as a hero. I'm just someone that's courageous enough to stand for something.

With files from the Associated Press.