Broadsheet: Google Diversity, Padma Lakshmi, Anita Hill’s Take on Tech

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Wall Street is beating Silicon Valley on gender diversity, Cynthia Nixon teases a possible run for governor of NY, and the Google memo—and the firing of its author—continue to spark debate. Have a lovely Wednesday.

EVERYONE’S TALKING

•  Firing under fireThe news that Google has fired James Damore, the engineer who wrote the anti-diversity memo, is prompting a flurry of responses.

This morning, Fortune published one such reaction—from Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, which is part of Google. In the deeply personal piece, Wojcicki talks about how she has had to confront the idea that there are biological factors that hold women back in tech—a concept advanced in the Damore’s memo—throughout her career.

“Time and again, I’ve faced the slights that come with that question. I’ve had my abilities and commitment to my job questioned. I’ve been left out of key industry events and social gatherings,” she writes. “I’ve had meetings with external leaders where they primarily addressed the more junior male colleagues. I’ve had my comments frequently interrupted and my ideas ignored until they were rephrased by men. No matter how often this all happened, it still hurt.”

She doesn’t explicitly address Damore’s firing, but her opinion on the subject is clear: “While people may have a right to express their beliefs in public, that does not mean companies cannot take action when women are subjected to comments that perpetuate negative stereotypes about them based on their gender.”

Meanwhile,  numerous pieces—including Fortune‘s own Geoff Smith—have argued that firing Damore does more harm than good. Geoff writes that the company’s decision creates two major problems. First, “it supports Damore’s thesis about Google not being able to stomach open debate” and second, it “created a martyr who will now be free to parade his victimhood on a much bigger stage.” (For more on how that could play out, see this Mashable piece on how the alt-right is valorizing the engineer.) Other critics of the firing have been more sympathetic to some of the writer’s actual points.

I’m sympathetic to some of those views, but I still believe Google made the right choice—and that the company had no alternative but to choose a side. Allowing Damore to stay on, or even postponing action, would not have been a neutral course; it would have been received, by Googlers and by the public at large, as a message that the company is accepting of employees who publicly reinforce stereotypes, claim women are generally biologically ill-suited to certain jobs, and insist that Google’s push to diversify the workforce “lowers the bar”—implying that at least some of their female and/or minority colleagues are inferior.

True, the decision to fire Damore outs the company as intolerant of some values and ideas, but why do we expect Google—or any company—to be value neutral? If the company chooses to value diversity, the support of its female and minority employees, and the goodwill of consumers, partners, and would-be hires who share its values, that is its prerogative.

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

•  Class-action call to action. Anita Hill weighed in on the Google memo in the New York Times, writing that “the attitudes that underlie it are nothing new in Silicon Valley.” Noting the many gaps—pay, leadership, VC—that plague women in tech, Hill urges them to take matters into their own hands and consider filing class-action discrimination cases against offending employers. New York Times

•  Parsing the woman behind the podium. This assessment of Sarah Huckabee Sanders finds the newly minted White House press secretary to be “folksy, but nimble” at the lectern and unafraid of criticizing the press—though it does note that she, like her predecessor Sean Spicer, “has drawn criticism for some dubious assertions.” New York Times

•  Bad taste. Padma Lakshmi testified in an ongoing lawsuit against four Boston Teamsters, who allegedly attempted to extort the producers of Top Chef for driving jobs. The Bravo show’s host said in court that she was “petrified” and feared for her physical safety; a video shows a group of union members surrounding her car, hurling anti-Muslim, sexist insults. Fortune

•  The Street vs. the Valley. Yesterday, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon told CNBC that he believes that Wall Street is ahead of Silicon Valley in terms of gender equality. Axios fact-checked his claim and… he’s right. According to Dan Primack’s analysis of diversity reports from a selection of the country’s largest banks and technology companies, U.S. banks have higher a higher percentages of female employees than do technology companies (48.4% to 33.2%) and a slightly larger share of women in leadership positions (25.5% to 24.8%). Axios

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

•  Governor Miranda? Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon appeared on the Today show, where she acknowledged that she is being encouraged to run for New York governor next year—and blasted current governor Andrew Cuomo for his record on education funding. Democrat and Chronicle

•  A hefty judgement. CBS has acquired the Judge Judy library from creator and star Judith Sheindlin, who, at $47 million a year, is one of the highest-paid TV stars. The network has also signed her up for another season of the series, taking it through 2021. The Hollywood Reporter

•  No première dame. It’s official: Brigitte Macron, wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, will not be given an official “first lady” title or her own budget. She will have a governmental role, but presidential aides insist it will be strictly public and not political. The Guardian

•  Justice is Swift. The suit over the ex-DJ who allegedly groped Taylor Swift is officially underway and expected to last about two weeks.  The Guardian

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ON MY RADAR

She needs a job. The economy is in great shape. It should be easy, right? Washington Post

Woman’s post about being manterrupted while reading Men Explain Things To Me goes viral Huffington Post

Three girls’ soccer players cut their hair short. Now they’re accused of being boys Washington Post

The Pakistani Taliban has launched a women’s magazine Time

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