Google CEO Pichai Cancels ‘Town Hall’ On Gender Dispute

PALO ALTO (AP) — Google CEO Sundar Pichai has canceled an internal town hall meant to address gender discrimination on Thursday after employee questions for management began to leak online from the company’s internal messaging service.

Pichai said in an email to staff that several Google employees became fearful for their safety and grew concerned about being outed for speaking up at the town hall.

ALSO READ: Fired Google Engineer Who Wrote Controversial Gender Essay Speaks Out

He said the company will aim to create several other forums “where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.” Pichai’s email was sent about an hour before the event was to start Thursday afternoon.

The town hall was meant to hear out employee grievances over a flareup that has consumed Google for much of the week. It began last weekend after engineer James Damore circulated a memo that claimed biological gender differences helped explain why women are underrepresented at the company.

His widely shared memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” also criticizes Google for pushing mentoring and diversity programs and for “alienating conservatives.”

Google’s just-hired head of diversity, Danielle Brown, responded with her own memo, saying that Google is “unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success.” She said change is hard and “often uncomfortable.”

Google fired Damore on Monday. The engineer has claimed he had a right to voice concerns over workplace conditions and filed a labor relations board complaint prior to being fired.

Google’s internal “Dory” system allows employees to ask questions and then vote on questions posed by other employees so managers can address the most pressing ones. Wired magazine published some of the questions verbatim online Thursday. Screenshots of the questions with names attached had been leaked, although none with names had been published as of late Thursday, a Google spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, a graphic composed of the Twitter profiles of several Google employees who were gay, lesbian or transgender began to circulate online, assisted by conservative commentators such as former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos . That graphic drew hundreds of negative comments about the people and the company.

TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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