Gordon Smith

Google it: How outrage culture is changing the corporate world

Media

The Google anti-diversity memo that went viral this week highlights an interesting issue, not one of inclusion, but rather our organic push toward transparency. More of it, I say.

 

 

 

Google is no stranger to headlines, not least of which because of its news service supplying them. But the former ‘do no evil’ giant has found itself making the news for all the wrong reasons, and this time not for its questionable data farming practices.

The company has fired an engineer, who penned a now viral ‘anti-diversity’ manifesto, sending the online world into a frenzy about freedoms of speech and ‘ideological diversity’ in the workplace. The so-called manifesto is littered with last century misogyny about men being better biologically disposed to work in software engineering than women.

The ten-page document, titled ‘Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber’, is said to have circulated across the corporations, to the extent that some employees (anonymously) theorise that ‘almost every single woman in engineering has seen it.’ So widely read was the document that it reportedly was inaccessible on Friday evening, due to server overload.

Google‘s push for diversity, the for internal eyes only memo opines, is a part of its harmful ‘leftist’ ideology and should be given much less effort than making sure its more conservative employees feel safe to express themselves.

Some insiders feel that the document is not a symptom of a problem unique to Google – who is currently embroiled in a dispute with the Department of Labor due to ‘systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce’ – but rather a part of an industry wide issue.

‘It’s not worth thinking about this as an isolated incident and instead of a manifestation of what ails all of Silicon Valley,’ said an anonymous employee to Vice.

It would be easy to see this fiasco as a chance to talk about gender inequality in the workforce, or indeed, where the fine line between ‘ideological diversity’ and bullying lies – particularly in the face of Google’s Vice President of Diversity, Integrity and Governance, Danielle Brown, releasing a statement on the company’s commitment to ‘building an open, inclusive environment,’ in which ‘those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions.’

But to do so would be as ham-fisted as it has been covered to death and back.

No, this is an opportunity to talk about one of the great revolutions of the 21st century: increased transparency.

 

In response, Google was forced to make a choice: pretend things aren’t as bad as they really are, and continue to draw unwanted media attention in the process; or take what some may see as an excessively authoritarian approach.

 

There was a time that employees could feel quite content to spew the type of puerile garbage this ‘manifesto’ is bathed in, their borderline abusive commentary hidden within in the confines of their company’s walls. Instead, it found its way into the hands of internet dwellers across the web.

In response, Google was forced to make a choice: pretend things aren’t as bad as they really are, and continue to draw unwanted media attention in the process; or take what some may see as an excessively authoritarian approach, and nip the problem in the bud.

Much as we may decry outrage culture, and the way social media and the wider online community has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, the fact of the matter is that hyper exposure is the only reason otherwise closed off environments need to and will make any change.

Where once women may have found themselves trapped in an unwelcoming environment; the butt of office-wide jokes and poorly worded memos; they now have the ability to shine a light on the harassment they deal with.

Their formerly small circles of support – entirely trapped within the confines of hostile workplaces – are suddenly much wider: worldwide in fact, as readers around the ‘net click in to see just what’s gone wrong for Google.

In the process, a company which previously could have continued as if nothing had ever happened, is forced to act, no longer protected by a veil of secrecy.

For the thousands of essays and articles littered across the internet bemoaning how social media has encroached on our every move, and how the world has lost all privacy in the face of internet connectivity, this is one of those times where it’s hard to fault the web.

Is Google’s response to the need to protect ‘ideological diversity’ as cheesy as it is meaningless? Well, yes.

But that’s not what matters here.

What matters it that internet-wide exposure is changing toxic workplaces, in some of the world’s most faceless and most powerful businesses.

That’s something you can hardly argue is a negative.

Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the big wigs in government to account.

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