Two Google executives criticized a memo that circulated late last week at the company from an unnamed engineer suggesting that there were "biological causes" for underrepresentation of women in technology and leadership.
Among the views in the employee's roughly 3,000-word memo was that "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."
Technology news site Motherboard, which first reported the employee's memo, also reported that a Google employee said the memo had gone "internally viral." Gizmodo published a copy of the memo.
The memo stoked a heated debate over treatment of women in the male-dominated Silicon Valley that has boiled for months following sexual harassment scandals at Uber Technologies Inc and several venture capital firms. Google, the world's largest search engine and a unit of Alphabet Inc, recently hired a new vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, Danielle Brown.
Brown sent a memo in response to the engineer's, saying that it "advanced incorrect assumptions about gender."
"Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions," Brown wrote.
"But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws," she added.
Google vice president Aristotle Balogh also wrote an internal post criticizing the employee's memo, saying "stereotyping and harmful assumptions" could not be allowed to play any part in the company's culture.
A Google spokesperson told Reuters that the statements from Brown and Balogh were official responses from Google.