To begin, I don’t hate women, or women in STEM. I am one, and I love seeing my peers in power. I also love equal treatment, and the new “Google Manifesto” leaked this weekend shows a perspective that has been silenced. James Damore, the man behind the 3,000 word memo, has worked at Google for four years and detailed how Google is favoring political correctness over the company’s best interests. He discusses Google’s echo chamber, the biological disparities between the sexes which explain the lack of women in STEM, and how the forced demographic diversity weakens the intellectual diversity of the company.
Since Google swiftly fired him, his points are further proven. The first three points of his TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read, something I sense many people discussing this memo are guilty of) essentially predict his expulsion from the multi-billion dollar corporation, especially this second point: “This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.” By firing him for pointing out valid arguments and suggestions for change, Google proves his point entirely. As women, we are strong enough to handle gender debate without resorting to blocking out the opposition. So, debate I shall.
First, I’ll take a look at the Background section he begins the document with. Since I do not work at Google, I do not know if his claim that the overwhelming majority of Google leans politically left is true. He does preface this statement with “What follows is by no means the complete story,” though. Considering Googleplex (Damore’s campus) is located in California, one of the most liberal states in the country, it is safe to assume a majority of their employees would be left-leaning. You may ask: “Is that such a bad thing?” He goes on to explain why it (and its converse) has the potential to be: “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.” It’s eerie to read after he’s fired.
I’ve established silencing is a bad idea, yes, and most people can agree on that point. Where the media tends to split is his subsequent argument: men and women (on average) have biological differences which predispose women to prefer people-oriented work rather than systemizing careers like STEM. He explains women generally are more empathetic, agreeable, and neurotic than men, which is supported by many personality studies (just take a look at this MBTI gender study). Just as it makes little sense to actively look to hire men in nursing or teaching fields, hiring women in STEM just because we’re women (and your company wants to use us to look “diverse”) is an insult to women and can negatively impact the success of a company.
Where his case begins to get rocky is when he attempts to explain why we see so many men filling top leadership positions. CEOs are already an outlier and an incredibly small percentage of the population, so applying biological averages isn’t quite appropriate.
He goes on to address non-discriminatory solutions to the issues, which I consider his strongest point. He offers a mix of Google-oriented and society-oriented solutions, including adding more collaboration within software programming (leading more women to desire the positions) and encouraging men to abandon the male gender role (leading more men to pursue their true passions, which may likely be outside of STEM or leadership).
Damore continues, going on to describe the discriminatory practices occurring within Google. He cites “Stretch, BOLD, CSSI, Engineering Practicum (to an extent), and several other Google funded internal and external programs” as being created for people only within a certain gender or race. Personally, I see these programs as extra assistance, but not entirely discriminatory. To someone within the company, though, I could possibly see them as superfluous. He later states that “Google money is spent to only water one side of the lawn.” His perspective is valid, sure, and readers can tell he wants Google to optimize their expenses as much as possible as a loyal worker.
As he finishes his memo, he states he advocates for treating people as individuals and is not anti-diversity. He lists multiple suggestions for Google, including ending the alienation of conservatives, having an open discussion about Google’s diversity programs, confronting Google’s biases, prioritizing intention (i.e. reevaluating microaggression training), and reconsider the mandatory Unconscious Bias training. All of these sound pretty reasonable points, and I don’t see how Google’s answer to them could be to fire him.
Danielle Brown, the new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance at Google, issued a statement soon after the memo circulated. A couple sentences stood out to me: “And like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.” What assumptions were incorrect, and where are the facts to back this up? Her second sentence is telling of the environment Google has created; it seems like Google is a place where the opposition cannot be heard whatsoever.
Google has the privilege to hire and fire whoever they choose, yes. But we don’t have to think they are just. Just because the statistics are against us, does not mean we should accept them and move on. That’s not what Damore is saying at all. We need to hire based on merit and our ability to aid in a company’s work environment. Anything less is inequality. In a way, this is similar to a competitive university’s admissions process. If I was accepted or rejected solely because I’m a woman pursuing a STEM degree, I would be incredibly insulted. I have more to give to a college than my gender. And companies have more to gain from diversity than face-value gender statistics.
Lead Image Credit: Pixabay