New York Times columnist David Brooks makes the case Friday that Google CEO Sundar Pichai should resign because of how badly he handled this week's "memo" controversy. Dealing with the aftermath required the subtlety of a skilled leader, but Pichai instead assumed a "mob" mentality to unfairly demonize now-fired engineer James Damore. To back up, Damore wrote a lengthy memo offering his take on why so few women work at Google. In doing so, he cited numerous studies about the genetic differences between men and women, but the media and his critics, including Pichai, "blatantly" mischaracterized his argument, writes Brooks. As an example, Brooks quotes one scientist in the field who wrote that the memo was "fair and factually presented."
The other big factor, however, is that a gender disparity does exist in tech, and life isn't easy for its relatively few female workers. Now "along comes some guy arguing that women are on average less status hungry and more vulnerable to stress," writes Brooks. "Of course you'd object." Bridging these two realities—the memo vs. real-world gender inequality—is difficult but possible, and that's where Pichai blew it. He was either "unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a CEO) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob," writes Brooks. Precisely when a good leader was needed the most, he failed badly. It's time for a "nonleadership position" for him. Read the full column. (Read more Sundar Pichai stories.)