This week, James Damore, a male software engineer at Google wrote a 10-page “manifesto” criticising his employer for pushing diversity programmes. Damore said women can’t get ahead in the tech industry because of biological differences with men. The memo went public and created a social media storm.
While Damore was fired, a huge online debate continues about gender stereotyping and free speech in the workplace. It’s highlighting the low numbers of women and minorities in technology companies while exposing attitudes encountered by women working in tech.
The latest scandal comes just months after ride-sharing giant Uber faced accusations of a toxic, sexist work culture.
The entire industry is struggling to explain why women are underrepresented in key engineering ranks and are often underpaid compared with their male peers.
“This episode with Google shows there are still many issues around sexism in the workplace and it’s been a wake-up call for those of us who are involved in technology to ensure that we are all creating working environments where this sort of behaviour is unacceptable,” explains Priya Guha, general manager of RocketSpace.
“If you look at technology as a sector, we need people from all types of diverse backgrounds to be going into technology to in fact build the society we want to see in the future. That’s hugely important to the industry,” Guha says.
“Women in the tech industry and, in fact, women in many other industries, too, still suffer from a whole range of discrimination in the workplace. Some are more serious, of course, some are more around unconscious-biased … things like making the tea at meetings or being the person to take a note. Those are still things that happen to women in the workplace.”
Guha makes the case that it’s not just about looking at discrimination and correcting it, but “we need to think about diversity as bringing value to the company – not just as the right thing to do.”
There are several policies that companies can adopt to improve workplace culture, not just for women, according to Guha.
“Companies can have ‘blind recruitment’ so ensuring that when you’re looking at CVs for recruitment positions, so you’re not judging people out just because of the name that’s put on the CV itself; making sure that you have good policies in the workplace for all types of people to be able to stay including policies like parental leave,” says Guha.
Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:
Economic impact of climate change: Could southern Spain turn to a desert by the end of the century? Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director at the Global Change Institute, offers his take.
Disney in the movie-streaming age: Walt Disney created a bit of a stir in Hollywood this week. The world’s largest entertainment company, announced it’s going to launch its own video-streaming platforms. It also says it’ll be heavily investing in original content. That means its vast library of films like Frozen will no longer be available on the streaming service Netflix from 2019. Netflix shares fell after the announcement and competition is starting to heat up. Is this the beginning of a new movie-streaming age?
Pilotless planes: A study by Swiss bank UBS has found that pilotless planes could save the airline industry $35bn a year – in wages, training and fuel costs. Those savings could be passed on to passengers with airfares up to 11 percent cheaper in the United States. But a survey of 8,000 people found that more than half of flyers would be unwilling to get on a plane without a pilot.
Spain olives: Spain has been experiencing its worst drought in decades. The lack of rain means there’s less water available for agriculture, making farmers uneasy. Monica Villamizar reports from Priego de Cordoba, in southern Spain.
Online privacy: Millions of Americans use the internet to shop, socialise and for entertainment. But there’s growing concern about online privacy under US President Donald Trump. Earlier this year, many national safeguards were scrapped by his administration. California is home to many tech companies, and it’s now trying to protect a very valuable commodity – your personal data. Jacob Ward reports from San Francisco.
Source: Al Jazeera