memo

Karen: Hey, did you guys see this memo that Dwight sent out? [reads memo] “Women will be sent home if they wear makeup or heels exceeding 1/4 inch. Females are not allowed to speak to strangers unless given written authorization by Dwight Schrute.” This is ridiculous.

Dwight: Attention. I am removing all bananas from the kitchen.

Karen: Dwight, this memo that you distributed is insulting.

Dwight: Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The American adaptation of Ricky Gervais’ comedy TV show The Office has always been known for its hilarious insight into the corporate office life. In the instance above, office goof Dwight Schrute sends out a memo to the branch informing them of new restrictions he is placing on women. The women, understandably, are upset. As expected though, the conflict is resolved and everyone goes back to work as normal–well, as normal as possible for Dunder Mifflin employees.

What remains to be seen is how the memo released by a Google employee over the weekend will play out. The memo started fires all over the place as soon as it was sent, soliciting accusations of sexism in the workplace, something that Google isn’t unfamiliar with. Many labeled it as an “anti-diversity” memo, arguing that it promotes the widening of the gender gap in the corporate tech worksphere.

It’s All Biological, I Promise

The memo essentially “attributes gender inequality within the male-dominated tech industry to biological differences between the sexes,” as one report put it. The author comments, “Distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and … these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.” The original discussion of Google’s lack of diversity is undoubtedly rooted in the fact that a majority of the tech giant’s employees are white and Asian men. Google has received some negative publicity for this fact, apparently prompting some employees to defend Google’s lack of diversity–hence the memo. The timing of the memo is also less than ideal, as it comes on the heels of an accusation made by the U.S. Department of Labor that Google doesn’t pay its female employees as well as it pays its male employees.

Google Challenges Memo’s Premise

Newly appointed vice president for diversity and inclusion, Danielle Brown, responded to the memo by stating, “Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate… we are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.” Brown made it clear that the company does not share the views of the memo’s author, who believed that Google is becoming a left-leaning “Ideological Echo Chamber.” It still isn’t clear what will happen to this employee, or how Google’s response will fare in the public eye, but one thing is clear–the issue is still as pressing as ever.

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Regardless of one’s personal views on the gender gap, the wage gap, and Google’s apparent lack of diversity, the goal of all of this should be implementing what is just and fair. Employees’ performance should not be judged based upon their gender, the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation. Performance should be judged on performance itself–what a novel idea. Pay should be determined solely on the basis of merit and productivity–regardless of what type of person the worker is. What is painful to see is how hard it is to dialogue peacefully about hot button issues in the current climate. Blame it on political correctness, the Trump administration, or anything else, but American culture needs to rediscover how to have intelligent, humble conversations where people are able to discuss conflicting ideas openly. As the biblical writer puts it, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” But if society doesn’t allow iron to touch iron because feelings will be hurt, no genuine, lasting progress will be made. Agree or disagree with the content of the now infamous memo, at the very least this will (hopefully) pave the way for insightful and productive discussions.

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