Former Google VP on the "insidious perspectives" in the tech industry


Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he canceled a meeting meant to address a controversial memo on Thursday for safety reasons. The 10-page document, written by former employee James Damore, criticized the tech giant's diversity initiatives and argues that women are more neurotic than men, saying that may contribute to why there are fewer women in the tech industry.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a company-wide email explaining why he called off the meeting, saying the company needs to "step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion."

Megan Smith was the U.S. Chief Technology Officer during the Obama administration and is a former Google vice president. 

Smith joined "CBS This Morning" to discuss discrimination in the tech industry and what can be done to combat it.

"It's an extraordinary industry, it's so fun to work in but a lot of young women of all races, men of color face a lot of challenges because these kind of insidious perspectives that are around," Smith said.

Asked if she's heard things like what is described in Damore's memo, Smith said, "Sure." 

"We call it death by a thousand cuts, it's just all around," Smith said.

But Smith praised the leadership of Google's CEO and said "this is solvable."

Smith stressed the importance of telling the stories of people like Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, and the Oscar-nominated movie "Hidden Figures," which introduced many to the African-American women of NASA who helped launch astronaut John Glenn into space.

"You need to know that people like you do it," Smith said. "We want more people in tech. We've got to get rid of the biases that make people feel uncomfortable and leave the industry."

Asked if she's experienced any bias when she was at Google, Smith said, "At Google, yes. Yes -- in all of the jobs that I've been in. Even in my own family -- my grandfather was a fabulous engineer, he worked at U.S. Steel, he built the highways in Indiana. When I went to engineering school he said to my mom, 'Why would she want to do that?' So, he couldn't see his granddaughter doing that."

Smith said while the lack of diversity is real, she's "proud" of the work Google has been doing to correct it.

"I think they can do more, all of the companies, but what's been nice is to see leadership taking this, you know -- this is in their top 20 priorities and let's move it to the top three to five because you want to field the whole American team on our hardest problems," she said.

 Smith ended with a warning of how discrimination could have long-term effects.

"Also, as we get into artificial intelligence and machine learning we need to make sure we're not writing discrimination into the algorithms," she said.