It wasn't just the Google rank and file who were outraged by a recent attempt to pin underrepresentation of women in technology on biological differences. Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of Google-owned YouTube and one of the most powerful women in tech, says she took it personally.

On the Recode Decode podcast, Wojcicki condemned the so-called "Google memo" written by engineer James Damore.

In case you didn't spend all of late summer and early autumn glued to Twitter: It was an internal document that criticized aspects of Google's efforts to diversify its workforce, especially in terms of gender. Damore suggested that differences between men and women might account for the demographic split. He was fired after protests broke out across the company. 

Shortly after the protests broke out, Wojcicki released an open letter saying it caused her "pain" and made her daughter ask whether women are less suited to jobs in tech. On the podcast, she elaborated. 

"I've spent so much time, so much of my career, to try to overcome stereotypes, and then here was this letter that was somehow convincing my kids and many other women in the industry, and men in the industry, convincing them that they were less capable," she told Recode executive editor Kara Swisher. "That really upset me." However, Wojcicki is optimistic about the next generation of programmers, and advocates for computer science to be taught in schools.

Meanwhile, Damore contends that his firing was politically motivated, pointing the finger at Silicon Valley's liberal groupthink. He's engaged Harmeet Dhillon, a high-profile Republican lawyer who focuses on labor and civil rights law, but also has experience assisting political campaigns. Damore told Wired, "What I was trying to complain about was the history of political discrimination at Google," and said that his firing was part of a pattern. Damore said he chose Dhillon because "I wouldn't want someone that was against me and was only doing it to get the most money or something." The end results will emerge in court.

Published on: Oct 17, 2017