Gebru, who was co-leader of the ethical artificial intelligence team, said Google fired her last week, but the company announced her resignation. Google refused to grant Gebru and four other Google employees permission to include the company name or theirs on a document which has been accepted for publication. An internal team of reviewers felt the article “did not meet our publication bar”, according to Jeff Dean, Head of Google AI.
In an email to her bosses, Gebru suggested she would step down if the company refused to respond to multiple requests. The company cut off access to Gebru emails and told Gebru reports he had accepted his resignation.
Pichai wrote in his memo that Google needs to “assess the circumstances that led to Dr Gebru’s departure, looking at where we could have improved and had a more respectful process.” He said the company will take a look at what happened to “identify any points where we can learn,” taking into account factors such as de-escalation strategies and possibly establishing new processes.
“We have to accept responsibility that a prominent black female leader with immense talent left Google unfortunately,” he wrote. “This loss had a ripple effect on some of our less represented communities, who saw themselves and some of their experiences were reflected in that of Dr Gebru. It was also keenly felt because Dr Gebru is an expert in an important area of ethics in AI. we need to keep making progress – progress that depends on our ability to ask tough questions. “
More than 5,000 Google employees and leading figures from academia, industry and civil society signed an open letter express support for Gebru. Google has faced a scrutiny of how it has handled the departures of other employees. Last week, the National Labor Relations Board claims the company unlawfully dismissed two workers who were involved in organizing activities.