YouTube's CEO blasts that sexist Google memo in a powerful, deeply personal essay.

“Mom, is it true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership?”

Of all the people to field that question, it's somewhat sobering that Susan Wojcicki — the CEO of YouTube — would be asked it by her own daughter.

"As my child asked me the question I’d long sought to overcome in my own life, I thought about how tragic it was that this unfounded bias was now being exposed to a new generation," Wojcicki wrote in a powerful and deeply personal new essay published by Fortune.

Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Vanity Fair.


Her daughter's question was prompted by a leaked internal memo written by an engineer at Google, which owns YouTube.

In case you literally missed the memo: James Damore, a former senior software engineer in Google’s search division, sent out a jaw-droppingly offensive analysis to his co-workers falsely asserting that there are biological explanations that justify a lack of female representation in tech fields.

With the memo, Damore was intending to curb bias among his colleagues that, in his opinion, unfairly attributed too much of the gender gap in tech to social factors (like sexism and implicit bias). The problem is, the gap exists solely because of those types of factors — not biological ones. His memo, which sparked frustrations and anger among Google employees, eventually leaked to the press. Damore was fired on Monday.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Not only was the memo painfully inaccurate in explaining how biological differences between men and women supposedly justify the gender gap in tech, it also did very little in pointing out the systemic barriers and implicit biases that actually prevent women from excelling in the industry.

The memo was especially appalling to women like Wojcicki, who's spent much of her adult life overcoming very real (aka, absolutely not biologically based) barriers and biases against women in tech.

As Wojcicki wrote in her essay (emphasis added):

"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."

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

In her essay, Wojcicki also spelled out why Damore's firing isn't a matter of free speech, as some have argued. "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," Wojcicki noted, calling discrimination of all kinds against all groups of people inexcusable.

"What if we replaced the word 'women' in the memo with another group?" she wrote. "What if the memo said that biological differences amongst Black, Hispanic, or LGBTQ employees explained their underrepresentation in tech and leadership roles? ... I don’t ask this to compare one group to another, but rather to point out that the language of discrimination can take many different forms and none are acceptable or productive."

For Wojcicki, this issue isn't just personal to her — it's one that's shaping how her own child sees herself and her future.

So it makes sense that the YouTube CEO gave her daughter an answer that cuts straight to the truth.

"Do differences in biology explain the tech gender gap?"

"No," Wojcicki told her daughter. "It’s not true."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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