Here’s what Google’s diversity and bias training looks like

James Damore, formerly of Google, gave his first interview since the controversy around his internal memo erupted to "men’s rights activist" and alt-right ideologue Stefan Molyneux. In the...

James Damore, formerly of Google, gave his first interview since the controversy around his internal memo erupted to “men’s rights activist” and alt-right ideologue Stefan Molyneux. In the interview on Tuesday, he said that he had written the memo—which argues that women are underrepresented at Google due to biological differences—after an upsetting experience at a “diversity program at Google.”

“It was ... not recorded, totally secretive,” he said. “I heard things that I definitely disagreed with in some of our programs. I had some discussions there. There was lots of just shaming and, 'No, you can't say that, that's sexist,' and, 'You can't do this.' There's just so much hypocrisy in the things they are saying. I decided to create the document to clarify my thoughts."

So what was the program that set off Damore? It was probably Google’s Bias Busting @ Work, a workshop with slides and materials that are available publicly as part of re:Work, an open platform of HR materials used by Google.

Damore wrote in his memo that “[a]t Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership.” There are two presentations on re:Work that have to do with unbiasing. One is called Unconscious Bias @ Work, and the other is Bias Busting @ Work. The first has been filmed and publicly posted on YouTube with over a hundred thousand views.

The second—Bias Busting @ Work—is more of a small workshop that takes place in a safe space, where participants are “supposed to make mistakes.” A slide in the deck reminds participants not to repeat what others say in the room, an admonition that Damore seems to have taken as making the program “totally secretive.”

The following slide explains that debating whether or not bias exists at Google is “off-topic” for the session. It’s possible that Damore felt stifled by the constraints placed on the session, and that he attempted to go “off-topic” anyways, prompting a conflict that he now describes as “lots of ... shaming” and “‘No, you can't say that, that's sexist.’”

The re:Work website only hosts a basic, customizable deck with an accompanying facilitator guide, so it’s possible that the actual contents of the presentation vary in practice. The Bias Busting workshop doesn’t appear to be a mandatory program for Google employees. We have reached out to Google asking them to confirm.