Google has fired the employee who wrote an internal memo suggesting men are better suited for tech jobs than women, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The employee’s firing followed an email earlier in the day from Google chief executive Sundar Pichai to the company’s employees, saying that the memo writer violated company policy. Google parent Alphabet hasn’t named the employee.
Mr Pichai is the most senior executive to respond to a growing controversy that in recent days has raised difficult questions for one of the world’s largest companies on how it would handle an employee offering opinions that were, to some, unpopular and offensive.
Last week, a Google engineer published an internal memo that criticised Google’s efforts to increase diversity at the company, arguing the program discriminated against some employees.
The employee also said that men were generally better at engineering jobs than women and that a liberal bias among executives and many employees makes it difficult to discuss the issue at Google.
“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,” Mr Pichai said in his email to staff.
“However, portions of the memo violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace,” he said.
He added that the company’s code of conduct requires “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”
The memo went viral inside the company and was publicly criticised online by Google employees. Google’s diversity chief also criticised the memo in a note to employees on Saturday night.
The employee’s firing could spark a larger debate inside and outside Google about free speech. Mr Pichai said he scheduled an employee town hall to discuss the issue on Thursday.