After canceled town hall meeting, Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at girls’ coding event

Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai, speaking at a coding event for girls happening at Google’s campus today, emphasized the importance of engineers “building products for everyone in the world,” and said that in order to do that, “we need to have people internally who represent the world in totality.”

“I want you to know there’s a place for you in this industry,” Pichai said to the teams of young women who were finalists in a months-long app-building competition. “There’s a place for you at Google. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here, and we need you.”

Pichai’s remarks were especially noteworthy because of their juxtaposition with the controversy happening at Google right now, after a software engineer posted a diversity-related memo that went viral both within the company and in public sphere. The author of the memo, which questioned Google’s diversity training and women’s aptitude for coding, has since been fired from the company, and has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

The public appearance by Pichai also came just after Google canceled a company-wide town hall meeting, which had been scheduled to address some of the fallout from the memo. The meeting was canceled, according to a report in Recode, after employees who had sent preliminary questions started getting harassed online.

“It’s really important that more women and girls have the opportunity to participate in technology, to learn how to code, create, and innovate,” Pichai said.

The coding event this evening was co-hosted by Iridescent Learning, an LA-based nonprofit that has run the Technovation competition for the past several years. Google offers a variety of education opportunities focused on coding, as do many other large tech companies; this event was a part of its “Made with Code” program, aimed at young women.