Google employees are reacting with outrage to a manifesto written by a senior engineer that criticizes the company's efforts to improve workforce diversity and its "left leaning" bias.
The 10-page treatise, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," argues that women are underrepresented in tech not as a result of bias and discrimination. Instead, "the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."
The document, first reported by Motherboard, reportedly went viral inside Google after being posted on an internal network.
"We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism," reads the document reprinted by Gizmodo, which called it a "10-page anti-diversity screed."
"Women, on average, have more...Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing)," the unnamed senior engineer writes. These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing."
Several Google employees took to Twitter, starting Friday, to criticize the document, its author and assertions such as "women on average are more prone to anxiety" and therefore are less able to thrive in stressful tech and leadership roles.
The controversy comes as Silicon Valley companies grapple with how to increase workforce diversity in an industry dominated by white men and permeated with corporate cultures that seem biased against women and female engineers, . Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech companies now regularly release diversity reports, highlighting low percentages of women and minority employees, with few moving up the management chain.
Google is also being sued by the US Labor Department, which accuses the search giant of systematically paying its female employees less than it pays men. The company strongly denies that assertion.
The document also calls on the company to "stop alienating conservatives."
"In highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility," the author claims. "We should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves."
Motherboard didn't identify the document's author, but said it was written by a senior software engineer.
Danielle Brown, Google's recently hired head of diversity, integrity and governance, responded to the document in an internal memo.
"Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company," Brown wrote in the memo, published by Motherboard.
"Many of you have read an internal document shared by someone in our engineering organization, expressing views on the natural abilities and characteristics of different genders, as well as whether one can speak freely of these things at Google," Brown added. "And like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender...it's not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages."
First published Aug. 6 at 8:42 a.m. PT.
Update, Aug. 7 at 6:22 p.m. PT. Adds additional comments from 10-page memo and from Google's response.
Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about "women in tech."
Special Reports: All of CNET's most in-depth features in one easy spot.