Google Cancels Town Hall About Diversity Over Concerns for Employee Safety

Sundar Pichai delivers his keynote address during the Google I/O developers conference on May 28, 2015 in San Francisco.
Robert Galbraith / Reuters file

Google CEO Sundar Pichai canceled a town hall event about diversity shortly before it was to begin on Thursday, after he said some employees expressed concerns for their safety.

“Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall,” Pichai wrote in an email. “In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion.”

News of the cancelation was first reported by Recode.

Some Google employees were said to have been named personally on social media and various websites, prompting concern about whether they could candidly ask questions at the town hall.

Pichai had cut his vacation short for the town hall, where he planned to bring together employees to discuss the tensions ignited by a memo circulated inside the company that claimed to explain why more women are not engineers.

Instead of the company-wide format, Google will now hold several smaller forums “to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely,” Pichai wrote.

“We’ll find a better way to help our employees connect and discuss these important issues further,” a Google representative said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Pichai told employees in an email that it’s been a “difficult” few days for many people at Google and said he’s committed to finding a way “to debate issues on which we might disagree — while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct.”

“I’d encourage each of you to make an effort over the coming days to reach out to those who might have different perspectives from your own,” he said. “I will be doing the same.”

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SOURCE: NBC News, Alyssa Newcomb and Jo Ling Kent