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Google employee fired over diversity row considers legal action

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The computer engineer fired by Google for suggesting women are less suited to certain roles in tech and leadership is considering taking legal action against the company.

James Damore, a chess master who studied at Harvard, Princeton and MIT and worked at the search engine’s Mountain View HQ in California, caused outrage when he circulated a manifesto at the weekend complaining about Google’s “ideological echo chamber” and claiming women have lower tolerance of stress and that conservatives are more conscientious.

He was fired on Monday after the search giant’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, said portions of Damore’s 10-page memo “violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes”.

Damore has now said he would “likely be pursuing legal action”.

“I have a right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behaviour, which is what my document does,” he said in an email reported by the New York Times.

In a further email to the rightwing website Breitbart, he reportedly said: “They just fired me for ‘perpetuating gender stereotypes’.”

Damore had argued in a document circulated internally and then leaked that “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct mono-culture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence”.

He said: “The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes, and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

The senior software engineer had worked at Google since 2013 and had previously studied computational biology at Princeton, Harvard and the University of Illinois where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2010 in the top 3% of his class, according to his CV posted online.

In his memo, subtitled “How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion”, he said he wanted to increase women’s representation in tech without resorting to discrimination.

He complained that “discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons and school dropouts”.

His suggestions included the company making tech and leadership less stressful because “women are on average more prone to anxiety”.

His dismissal followed outrage in Silicon Valley because Damore sought to explain the gender imbalance in the tech industry as a function of biological difference.

But it has also sparked a conservative backlash, with Breitbart and other rightwing websites rushing to Damore’s defence.

Breitbart quoted an anonymous employee who claimed that “the diversity gospel has been woven into nearly everything the company does, to the point where senior leaders focus on diversity first and technology second.

“For conservative employees, this is obviously demoralising, but it is also dangerous. Several have been driven out of the company or fired outright for sharing a dissenting view.”

Eric Weinstein, managing director of Trump advocate Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm, wrote an open missive to Google asking it to “stop teaching my girl that her path to financial freedom lies not in coding but in complaining to HR”.

While many condemned his note, some Google staff defended Damore, taking to anonymous message boards such as the workplace gossip app Blind to share their views.

“Can we go back to the time when Silicon Valley [was] about nerds and geeks, that’s why I applied [to] Google and came to the US. I mean this industry used to be a safe place for people like us,” wrote one on the app, which requires users to prove they are from the company they claim to be part of when signing up.

Public comments, however, were much more critical, with Google employees tweeting that “the internal response to the doc ranges from anger and disgust, to sadness”, and “it went viral because 99% of people wanted to comment about how unsupported/wrong/hurtful the doc was”.

Google is in a difficult position because it accepted that “much of what was in the memo is fair to debate”.

Pichai said in a note to colleagues on Monday: “People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo – such as the portions criticising Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace and debating whether programmes for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all – are important topics.”

Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, Danielle Brown, said Google was right to take a stand on building an open inclusive environment, but recognised “strong stands elicit strong reactions”.

She said part of being open was “fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions”. But she said that needed to work alongside principles of equal employment and anti-discrimination laws.

Some legal observers have questioned whether Google has broken employment law by firing Damore.

Dan Eaton, an employment lawyer, in San Diego wrote on CNBC: “Federal labour law bars even non-union employers like Google from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions … California law prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”

He also said” “It is unlawful for an employer to discipline an employee for challenging conduct that the employee reasonably believed to be discriminatory, even when a court later determines the conduct was not actually prohibited by the discrimination laws.”

source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/08/google-employee-fired-diversity-row-considers-legal-action-james-damore

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Business

ONEPLUS IS GOING TO START MAKING TVS

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OnePlus is is getting into a new line of business: making TVs. Best known for its phones, China’s OnePlus also has a small catalog of really good accessories like wireless earphonesand surprisingly awesome backpacks, though nothing as complex or expensive as a television set. In announcing the news on the OnePlus online forums, company chief Pete Lau describes it as “the first step in building a connected human experience.”

Every hardware manufacturer is now looking intently at ways to monetize the smart home space. Samsung and Huawei recently announced smart speakers, Apple and Google already have the HomePod and Google Home, respectively, and Microsoft and Sony are old incumbents with their Xbox and PlayStation consoles. OnePlus has decided to make its entry point into this market the TV itself, which has always been at the center of home entertainment, though often with the help of other connected devices. Reading Lau’s teaser announcement, the OnePlus TV — which so far only has a project name, no timeline or specs have been revealed — will serve as the connectivity hub for OnePlus’ future vision of the smart home.

The OnePlus smart TV will be developed by a new division within OnePlus, led by Pete Lau himself. Still at the earliest stages of development, OnePlus is currently seeking input from its fans, as it often does, about what their priorities with a future smart TV will be.

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Finance

LAGOS TO HOST BIANNUAL AFRICA FINTECH SUMMIT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN NOVEMBER

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The Summit, organized by Dedalus Global, gathers innovators, investors, policy makers and other key stakeholders in the Fintech sector to discuss technologies transforming finance on the continent, debate regulatory policies, compare best practices, and forge new ventures
LAGOS, Nigeria, September 17, 2018/ — Africa’s premier fintech event, the Africa Fintech Summit, (www.AfricaFintechSummit.com) will be held for the first time in Lagos, Nigeria, onNovember 8-9, 2018. This event comes on the heels of the earlier edition in Washington D.C. which featured leading policy makers, c-suite business executives, start-ups, and investors.

The Summit, organized by Dedalus Global, gathers innovators, investors, policy makers and other key stakeholders in the Fintech sector to discuss technologies transforming finance on the continent, debate regulatory policies, compare best practices, and forge new ventures.

Speaking on the decision to bring the Summit to Lagos, the Chairman of the Summit, Leland Rice, said, “Lagos is an ideal host city; it’s an epicenter of Africa’s fintech revolution and the driving force behind the continent’s entrepreneurial spirit. The successes of companies such as Paga, Flutterwave, Mines.io, and Paystack have strategically positioned Lagos as the destination of choice for investors.”

“The first edition of the Summit in D.C. was a launch pad for several milestone fintech deals struck among its delegates in the months after the event. We plan to build on these successes in Lagos, with a focus on bringing innovators and policy makers together to move the needle on fintech regulation and bringing founders and investors together to facilitate further capital raises,” added Leland.

The two-day event will feature investor missions from the US, UK, and UAE, an Alpha Expo featuring the most exciting startups and entrepreneurs in Nigeria, a half-day blockchain masterclass, and an awards ceremony.

Reacting to the decision to host the Summit in Lagos, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Technology, Lanre Osibona, stated, “This reflects the progress Nigeria is making in the areas of technology and financial services. The event is very important as it comes at the heels of the Vice President Osinbajo’s trip to Silicon Valley to promote Nigeria’s tech sector. We look forward to collaborating with the organizing committee and to a successful event in Lagos.”

In similar vein, Tayo Oviosu, the founder of Paga—a payment company that recently raised $10 million in Series B2 funding—said that “the Africa Fintech Summit in Washington D.C. provided valuable insights into the fintech space and connected me with key players in the industry. I look forward to the Lagos edition.”

Speakers lined up for the event include Chief Economist of PwC Nigeria, Dr. Andrew S. Nevin; Managing General Partner of EchoVC, Eghosa Omoigui; CEO of Diamond Bank, Uzoma Dozie; Founder of Flutterwave, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji; and CEO of PayStack, Shola Akinlade, whose company recently raised $8 million Series A funding

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Dedalus Global.

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For more information, please contact:
Ridwan Sorunke
Directory of Communications, AFTS
Ridwan@AfricaFintechSummit.com
+234 (0) 8037885760
+1 2023166726

About Dedalus Global

Dedalus Global (https://VC4A.com/dedalus-global/) is an investment and strategy advisory firm focusing on emerging markets and emerging technologies. With networks throughout Africa and the Middle East, we leverage granular market knowledge to drive innovation, accelerate capital deployment, and create value for our clients and the economies where they operate.

About Africa Fintech Summit (AFTS)

The Africa Fintech Summit (www.AfricaFintechSummit.com) is a biannual event that brings together leading disruptors, tech and finance professionals, regulators, and investors from around the globe to debate policies, compare best practices, and forge Africa-focused ventures. AFTS leverages the growth of the fintech sector in Africa to bring key stakeholders to discuss the technologies transforming finance on the continent.

To learn more about AFTS, please visit www.AfricaFintechSummit.com

View a recap from the AFTS Washington: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIdDS-u0rXE

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Dedalus Global

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Business

AMAZON IS REPORTEDLY BUILDING A FREE STREAMING VIDEO SERVICE FOR FIRE TV OWNERS

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Amazon is said to be prepping an ad-supported streaming video service; it’ll be available to folks who own any of the company’s Fire TV streaming dongles and set-top boxes, reports The Information.

It’ll be separate from Prime Video, which offers a range of licensed shows and movies, as well original content produced by Amazon, to people who are subscribed to Prime.

Amazon's latest streaming device is the Fire TV Cube
Credit: Amazon
Amazon’s latest streaming device is the Fire TV Cube

Do you like good gadgets?

Those sweet cool gadgets?

Oh, yeah

The idea behind this upcoming service, which is dubbed Free Dive, is to help Amazon bring in more revenue through advertising. Ads presently account for a small fraction – about $2 billion out of more than $200 billion – of its annual revenue, but they offer higher margins than retail, and are one of Amazon’s fastest growing earners company-wide.

To that end, the company’s been selling ad space on its site, and is slated to run ads during live sporting events on Prime Video. It also turned off ad-free viewing on Twitch – its game video streaming service – for Prime subscribers earlier this month.

Free Dive could give Amazon a chance to rival Roku, which offers a similar ad-supported streaming service for owners of its devices and is expected to reach 59 million users by the end of 2018. Roku also made its ‘Channel’ service available via the web earlier this month to folks in the US, so you don’t need the company’s hardware to access it. It’ll be interesting to see if Amazon follows suit – and how it plays its cards with customers across the globe, especially in cost-conscious markets like India, where it’s expanding its media offerings.

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