Understanding the Discrimination Against Mothers In Silicon Valley

Employee Memo Reads “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave”

Workplace discrimination and retaliation is a very real thing, and the tech giant Google has once again proven themselves to not be above it. In Aug. 2019, a woman who was employed at Google published a memo to internal message boards titled, “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, And Here’s Why.” Within the memo the former software engineer describes how she was discriminated against in the workplace, and had her career momentum halted, simply because she would have a child at a later point in time.

The woman begins the memo by stating that she, in the past, has clearly demonstrated the ability to perform with additional responsibilities, and how she was on a fast track to promotion. She stated, “My director and I discussed a fast-track towards my going up for promotion to L6…she noted my ‘trending up’ in performance.” The employee was successfully promoted and entered a managerial position at Google.

After this promotion, the first hints of discrimination against women starting families emerged. The employee states, “My director/manager started making inappropriate comments about a member of my team, including that the Googler was likely pregnant again and was overly emotional and hard to work with when pregnant.” It became clear that the manager was coercing the woman to manage this employee off of the team.

When the woman reported the manager to HR, she was assured that there were “strong measures [in] Google to prevent retaliation.” Immediately after the report, the employee noticed a significant change in the manager’s demeanor. The manager actively blocked projects and worked to the detriment of the woman’s career, in addition to interviewing to replace her on the team.

The woman began to receive mixed signals from multiple executives, ranging from begging her to remain on the team, to urging her to leave. The stress in the workplace caused many lost nights of sleep and the woman switched teams internally. After emailing HR to ask, “what measures were in place to protect me,” no response was received.

At this point in time, the employee experienced a complication in her own pregnancy and was encouraged to take leave for bedrest. The new manager stated that she had “just listened to an NPR segment that debunked the benefits of bedrest” and claimed to have worked until the day she had her cesarean section.

In the end, the employee went on maternity leave and received her performance score four months later. She had been given a “needs improvement” rating, despite the fact that she has only worked for approximately over six weeks on the new team at the time she departed for leave. This stopped all career progress instantly. She ends the memo with, “I stood up for a mother on my team and doing so sent me down a path that destroyed my career trajectory at Google.”

No company is without discrimination and the entire industry needs to observe this story and learn not to make the same wrongs that were made here.