Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) - Get Report Google cancelled a companywide town hall meeting to address diversity issues raised by a now-former employee at the last minute Thursday, citing the safety of its staff.
The company had planned the assembly to address James Damore's 'manifesto' that claimed women were biologically unsuited for jobs in tech and his subsequent firing. The meeting was due to take place at 4pm in San Francisco, but was cancelled shortly before.
CEO Sundar Pichai emailed staff before the 4pm start, saying employees had raised concerns about their safety if they asked questions, after the names of some Google employees ended up on right-wing blogs.
"In recognition of Googlers' concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion," Pichai wrote to staff, the Wall Street Journal reported. "So in the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely."
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The names of some of employees that had proposed to ask questions during the meeting had been leaked outside the company, a spokesperson confirmed to the Wall Street Journal, though they had not been posted online.
Google fired Damore on Monday, saying his memo broke the company's code of conduct.
The 10-page memo, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber" went viral within Google last week and was first reported externally by the tech blog Motherboard. In it, the author says that women are underrepresented in tech because of inherent psychological differences between men and women.
The memo also criticized the company's diversity programs and questioned whether differing views could be said freely within Google, pointing to a liberal bias within the organization.
"Many points raised in the memo-such as the portions criticizing Google's trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all-are important topics," Pichai wrote in a Sunday email to staff. "The author had a right to express their views on those topics-we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions."
The firing has proved controversial within the company. Pichai wrote Thursday that he had heard from many employees. "The vast majority of you are very supportive of our decision. A smaller percentage of you wish we would do more. And some are worried that you cannot speak out at work freely," he wrote.
Alphabet shares fell 0.13% in after hours trading. It closed 1.75% down Thursday at $923.59
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