This week saw Google forced to respond to anti-feminist sentiments, Singapore being named the best city for startup professionals and the government announce a new data protection law
Google employee sacked after penning anti-diversity manifesto
From female founders publicly naming and shaming sexist VCs to tech companies being accused of nurturing chauvinistic cultures, it’s safe to say that Silicon Valley has some issues when it comes to gender. And this week provided another example after a senior engineer at Google published a manifesto slamming the tech giant’s diversity policies, leading the tech firm to sack him, which provoked a retaliatory lawsuit in response.
The story kicked off last Friday when the ten-page treatise titled Google's Ideological Echo Chamber spread like wildfire amongst the tech giant’s employees and then went viral after it was released online. In the document, James Damore argued that biological differences and not biases explain the gender imbalance in the tech sector. For instance, he stated that women were more “directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas” and that their nature meant that women have “a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up and leading.” Finally, Damore urged his employer to stop focusing on gender diversity and instead concentrate on ideological diversity.
After a weekend where the manifesto was met with criticism both internally and externally, the tech behemoth sacked Damore on Monday. At the same time Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, issued a memo saying that while the company “strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves”, parts of the treatise violated Google’s Code of Conduct and crossed “the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes”. Pichai continued: “Our co-workers shouldn't have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being ‘agreeable’ rather than ‘assertive,’ showing a ‘lower stress tolerance’ or being ‘neurotic.’”
Following the termination of his employment, Damore sued Google as he had already filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that accused his former employer of trying to shame him into silence. “It’s illegal to retaliate against a NLRB charge,” he told Reuters. However, a Google spokesman stated that the company couldn’t have retaliated to the complaint as it wasn’t aware of it when Damore was fired.
It’s safe to say that the memo shows that the tech industry still has some way to go before solving its sexism issues.
Government announces new bill to improve data protection
Given that almost everyone has shared something stupid online in their youth, it’s encouraging to hear that the government is taking steps to make it easier for people to scrub old information from the net. With the help of a new data protection bill announced this week, the government plans to update and strengthen data protection on these shores.
Aligning the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation with UK law, the new bill will enable people to ask social-media channels to erase things they posted and will safeguard their right to be forgotten. It will also enable parents and guardians to give consent for their child’s data to be used. Furthermore, the bill will require companies to ask for users’ explicit consent to use their data, doing away with the old opt-out tick boxes so that users actively have to opt-in. And in order to boost transparency, people will be able ask organisations to disclose personal data they hold on them more easily and free of charge.
In order to ensure companies obey the regulations, the bill will make it a criminal offence to either intentionally or recklessly create a situations where someone could be identified from anonymised data. Failing to follow these regulations could see businesses fined up to £17m or 4% of their global turnover.
Now that’s certainly good news for anyone who’s ever posted a picture of themselves wearing lycra and sporting a mullet.
Singapore named best city for startup professionals
Silicon Valley is often seen as the startup capital of the world. However, a new report is challenging this notion: according to Nestpick, the Berlin-based apartment-comparing startup, it seems the Valley’s new ventures just aren’t serving up enough perks for their employees.
Listing the 85 best startup cities for workers, the company looked at five metrics: the cities’ startup ecosystems, quality of life, social security and benefits, salary and cost of living. According to these metrics, Singapore and Helsinki respectively nabbed first and second place while San Francisco came in third. The top five was rounded off by Berlin and Stockholm.
Encouragingly, four locations in the UK also made the list. Given that Edinburgh was recently named the best place in Britain to start a business, it is hardly surprising that the Scottish city came in at 19 on the list. Hot on the heels of its Caledonian sibling, London was ranked the 43rd best city for startup professionals, while Birmingham and Manchester came in at 62nd and 63rd respectively.
It seems that being a hotbed of innovation is not necessarily enough to win over workers.
SMEs face smaller profits due to the national living wage
When the national living wage was first introduced, many business owners feared that it could take a cut out of their earnings. Now a new survey from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed that they may have been right.
Having surveyed 850 SMEs, the FSB has shown that 64% of small firms saw lower profits when the national living wage rose to £7.50 in April. As a result, two in five of the small businesses affected had increased their prices, a quarter had cancelled or scaled down their investment plans and a fifth reduced staff hours. In response to these results, the FSB recommended that the National Living Wage shouldn’t rise any higher than £7.85 when the next hike is due in 2018.
In light of this research and the fact that the economy looks uncertain for the foreseeable future, it may be time for the government to consider new ways to support the country’s business owners.