Lessons from the Google Memo on Employee Diversity

August 11, 2017 | Thought Pieces

by Cindy Burdette


An employee-initiated memo recently went circulating on the web, and Google has released its response memo to the public through their official blog. Essentially, the employee memo raised that biological differences between males and females actually impact their ability to handle and accomplish certain roles in the organization. The piece seemed to note that females are generally more agreeable and less assertive, neurotic, etc. You get the drift.

Image sourced from Bloomberg: Diversity Memo Drama Poses Biggest Public Test for Google CEO

There a number of things we can learn from Google’s experience here:


  1. A culture of free expression is a double-edged sword but one that is preferred, if not necessary.

Yes, empowering your employees to send that hate email to the CEO or a disgruntled email to the entire population is risky. In fact, it can be sometimes debilitating. But not having a culture where employees feel free to think against, speak up and argue their beliefs and positions, is a sure way to business nightmare. When employees feel they’re free to discuss and engage, even disagree, it creates a pathway for innovation, new ideas, loyalty and even productivity. It might sound contradictory but letting our employees thrash out certain matters and come up with a decision that they can rally behind allows for concerted contributions and lessens the resentment, blame game and unproductive chatter surrounding those major decisions.

In STORM, every person can raise a question regarding a decision. Every member of every team can raise an objection, put up a suggestion, propose changes and improvements and our Management welcomes every input on the table. It has helped us become tighter, stronger together — marching forward into territories with everybody committed to the cause.

  1. Equal opportunity environment is not a fad. It’s now the standard and expectation.

In many organizations, one will find in their Core Values or perhaps employee manual, or any similar document in some unvisited corner in the office, a clause sounding similar to ‘equal opportunity.’ The truth is, however, most companies do not put enough energy into this provision. For Google, as we are learning through related news, they rally behind this cause so much that they let go employees who have strongly violated this value. But what does equal opportunity and cultural diversity really mean? Particularly, how should Filipino companies interpret and practice such a seemingly overwhelming mission? Simple. Being utterly unbiased and sticking to it.

I remember when I was still in my former stint in a telecomms company, I asked why most of our guys in the field hooking up landline cables in phone cabinets were men, and of a certain age. The answer? Guys were fit to do the job and younger men were more physically able to the task. Looking back, I don’t see any difference between that answer and the discriminating memo that Google employee released.

The bottomline is simple enough — we cannot select, recruit or even hire based on gender, cultural background or any discriminatory factor unless absolutely and definitively required for the job. Case in point, you need a sales manager for the Japan market and the job requires fluency in speaking Japanese. Obviously, you will have leanings towards either a Japanese native or a foreign national who can speak the language. But whether that post should be male or female, American, Indian, African or whatever race, we must stick to the rule that everybody deserves an equal opportunity. I would tend to say ‘if the glove fits, then that’s it.’

  1. Sundar’s (CEO) strong involvement with People Operations

How many CEOs have we seen be absolutely involved about financials, revenues, share price and other quantitative dilemmas and disengage in anything HR-related, relegating all decision to the VP of HR or HR director, without truly weighing in on the issues at hand? Quite a number.

But Sundar shows us how it should be. One would think that as a CEO of a 72,053-man firm, they will have enough People Operations (what they call HR) executives to deal with this small rut, right? No. Google is so committed to creating a people-first culture that Sundar himself attends to the matter, cuts his much deserved vacation, to ensure that this is dealt with the maximum attention as possible. Not that he doesn’t have enough executives focusing on the issue, but championing a mission such as promoting a strong people culture is not something just written on paper, cascaded to line managers and hoped to be implemented and evaluated through yearly surveys.

Commitment requires time and effort, at times, even sacrifice. But when you have your CEO marching ahead in the front lines, the rest of the army surely follows with even more gusto than hoped for.

Cindy Burdette is Head of Client Acquisition and Servicing at STORM Technologies, the Philippines’ largest flexible benefits and incentives firm. Cindy has over 7 years experience leading innovative and strategic initiatives that drive revenue growth. She is passionate about tech, business, scaling, and B2B sales.



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