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Media Mentions

Firestorm Over Google Memo Putting ‘Diversity of Thought’ in Spotlight

August 21, 2017

In this blog post by HRHero, COO Brad Federman discusses his opinion's on Google's recent leaked internal diversity memo, which ignited controversy that led to the employee’s firing and much discussion about the effectiveness of corporate diversity efforts.

The term diversity once centered just on characteristics related to race, ethnicity, and gender, but now many are also focusing on diversity of thought as a way to benefit from the various traits different people bring to the workplace. That thinking can lead to positive change, according to Federman.

“Diversity of thought is truly important, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to sustain in many companies,” Federman says. “We have lost the art of conversation. Most people want to be right and alienate people in the process.”

Both the memo and the reaction to it show an inability to appreciate thought diversity, according to Federman. “The response to the Google engineer’s memo regarding women was presented in the news and publicly in a manner that was uniquely different than what was actually written,” he says, stressing that he in no way supports the content of the memo. “In fact I think there were personal opinions written in there as fact.”

Because of the way the topic was addressed, however, Federman says Google lost an opportunity. “It’s through conflict that we solve problems,” he says. The conflict could have been more constructive if the engineer had thought more carefully about how to share his message and if the public had been more thoughtful about reading the document “rather than listening to sensationalized headlines and pundits that come in with an agenda and editorialize what happened,” he said.

“Again, I am in no way defending that person’s memo, but the aftermath that occurred was a lost opportunity,” Federman says. “Imagine having a real conversation. What new understandings could have been garnered?” He said the engineer might have been changed because of the conversation and transformed from critic to champion of the company’s diversity program.