James Damore, formerly of Google, gave his first interview since the controversy around his internal memo erupted to “men’s rights activist” and alt-right ideologue Stefan Molyneux. In the interview on Tuesday, he said that he had written the memo—which argues that women are underrepresented at Google due to biological differences—after an upsetting experience at a “diversity program at Google.”
“It was ... not recorded, totally secretive,” he said. “I heard things that I definitely disagreed with in some of our programs. I had some discussions there. There was lots of just shaming and, 'No, you can't say that, that's sexist,' and, 'You can't do this.' There's just so much hypocrisy in the things they are saying. I decided to create the document to clarify my thoughts."
So what was the program that set off Damore? A person familiar with the matter tells The Verge that Damore attended a voluntary one-day summit around diversity and inclusion. The program was free for Googlers to attend, but they had to sign up for spaces in advance. Far from being secretive, some sessions were recorded and materials were sent out to participants after the summit.
While we do not have the materials from that specific summit, the training that was offered was very standard, and may have overlapped with these slides and materials for Google’s Bias Busting @ Work, a workshop to help address bias in the workplace. The workshop’s resources are available publicly as part of re:Work, an open platform of HR materials used by Google.
Damore wrote in his memo that “[a]t Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership.” There are two presentations on re:Work that have to do with unbiasing. One is called Unconscious Bias @ Work, and the other is Bias Busting @ Work. The first has been filmed and publicly posted on YouTube with over a hundred thousand views.
The second—Bias Busting @ Work—is more of a small workshop that takes place in a safe space, where participants are “supposed to make mistakes.” A slide in the deck reminds participants not to repeat what others say in the room.
The following slide explains that debating whether or not bias exists at Google is “off-topic” for the session.
The re:Work website only hosts a basic, customizable deck with an accompanying facilitator guide, so it’s possible that the actual contents of the presentation vary in practice. The Bias Busting workshop doesn’t appear to be a mandatory program for Google employees.
Update, 8:21PM ET: This story has been updated with additional information regarding the program that former Google engineer James Damore attended.