YouTube's CEO Responds To The Google Memo And Shares Her Own Experience With Sexism In Tech

"I’ve had my abilities and commitment to my job questioned."

Last week, the internet began buzzing with controversy over a 10-page memo written by a Google engineer that argued that biological differences made women less suited to jobs in tech, "and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."

Google's Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance Danielle Brown responded to the manifesto with her own memo, stressing, "We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company." Google has since fired the employee responsible.


On Wednesday, the memo received another high-profile response, this time from YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who penned an op-ed for Fortune reacting to the controversy and sharing her own experience with sexism in the tech industry.

She starts the piece by writing that her daughter had seen the news and asked her, "Mom, is it true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership?"

According to Wojcicki, that question is "pervasive" in her industry, and has "weighed heavily" on her throughout her career, as she detailed challenges and discrimination she has faced due to her gender:

Time and again, I've faced the slights that come with that question. I've had my abilities and commitment to my job questioned. I've been left out of key industry events and social gatherings. I've had meetings with external leaders where they primarily addressed the more junior male colleagues. I've had my comments frequently interrupted and my ideas ignored until they were rephrased by men. No matter how often this all happened, it still hurt.

Wojcicki adds that she "once again felt that pain" when she saw the memo, calling it "another discouraging signal to young women who aspire to study computer science." She also addressed the argument being made by some that Google violated the employee's free speech by firing him. 

"As a company that has long supported free expression, Google obviously stands by the right that employees have to voice, publish or tweet their opinions," Wojcicki wrote. "But while people may have a right to express their beliefs in public, that does not mean companies cannot take action when women are subjected to comments that perpetuate negative stereotypes about them based on their gender."

She ends her piece by sharing the simple response she gave her daughter: "No, it's not true."

Wojcicki's voice in this conversation is a significant one, as The Verge reports that she formerly worked as Google's marketing manager, and handled the company's acquisition of YouTube, becoming CEO of the video platform in 2014. She has also been outspoken in the past about the issue of paid parental leave. Her views on the controversy — and honesty about her own experience — are not only relevant but important in tackling sexism in STEM fields.


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