In memo’s aftermath, Google can’t talk diversity

Google has canceled a meeting on diversity because of fears over the safety of its employees, the Wall St. Journal reports.

This all comes following the publishing of a memo from a now-fired Google engineer who said the company’s diversity efforts are discriminatory at the tech giant where nearly 80 percent of employees are men.

Some alt-right websites have since published names of employees leading to fears of organized online harassment, Recode said.

It was to be a mandatory all-hands meeting, called by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who ended a vacation to address the firestorm caused by James Damore’s memo.

Wired reports that some employees have been victims of “doxxing”, online harassment that includes publishing of private information.

Google employees had submitted more than 520 questions to Pichai, who spoke at a girls’ coding conference yesterday.

“I want you to know there’s a place for you in this industry,” Pichai said. “There’s a place for you at Google. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here, and we need you.”

In the New York Times today, columnist David Brooks said he should quit.

We should all have a lot of sympathy for the second group of actors in this drama, the women in tech who felt the memo made their lives harder. Picture yourself in a hostile male-dominated environment, getting interrupted at meetings, being ignored, having your abilities doubted, and along comes some guy arguing that women are on average less status hungry and more vulnerable to stress. Of course you’d object.

What we have is a legitimate tension. Damore is describing a truth on one level; his sensible critics are describing a different truth, one that exists on another level. He is championing scientific research; they are championing gender equality. It takes a little subtlety to harmonize these strands, but it’s doable.

On Vox, aspiring women engineers said Damore’s memo isn’t going to scare them off.

  • Guest

    You belong here, and we need you.” = = = Very true. However that is because women ARE different and bring a different perspective. Of course any single individual can be great or rotten at ….fill in anything here.

    HOWEVER, it is also true that on average, over vast numbers, women MAY have different interests due to those differences and so a less than 50% software coding workforce is not automatically due to discrimination.

    Nursing is open to both genders, yet comparatively few males are interested. Software engineer is open to both, yet comparatively few females are interested.

    Having said that, it benefits an outfit to reach out and encourage a diverse background when building products for a diverse customer base.

    • Nursing has it’s own issues. Despite the fact that the majority of nurses are female, higher nursing positions like NAs, CRNAs, and NPs are disproportionately male.

      As for tech, there’s a big gap between 80/20 and 50/50. Considering that we are talking about a company that is making an effort in this regard and still only managing 80/20, perhaps lowering our goals might not be the best way to address the issue. Aiming for the bare minimum is not generally seen as a way to ensure success at any endeavor.

      • Guest

        Would you be content with 22% of qualified applicants are female and Google hires 22% female???

        • Maybe I’m too old, but I don’t understand the point of 3 question marks.

          As for your question, that would be fine on Google’s end, but I would have to question the training system that is producing that skewed a pool of applicants. If you don’t believe that women are inferior, then there has to be some kind of systemic flaw producing this result. There first step to solving any problem is admitting there is one. Blaming the women who simply choose not to enter a field that has a well documented misogynist streak is a great tactic for the insecure, but any person of character should have a desire to get to real causes of the issue.

          • Guest

            ??? means I’d really like an answer. Just emphasis.

            My point is that saying something is wrong because 50% of coders are not female is assuming interest and desire to be a coder have no role to play. I am using interest from all sources from biology to evolution to society pressures.

            I am NOT saying women in the industry are inferior. I personally think it is a great industry to be in and I would encourage anyone to look into it. I also would be surprised if, (outside of society pressure) a 50/50 mix of genders WANTS to be in nursing, social work, coding, car repair, and dirty dangerous outside work and any other industry you care to name.

        • Kassie

          I think “qualified candidate” isn’t a good tool. Hennepin County recently did a complete overhaul of their minimum qualifications for their jobs. They found they often put artificial barriers up on jobs that lead to keeping good candidates, often people of color, from meeting minimum qualifications. For instance, lots of jobs required a degree, but the degree wasn’t really needed for a job.

          I see this all the time in my profession, which is IT. I’m a project manger, but my degrees are in other things. I often see PM jobs that require undergrad degrees in IT, so I’m not a “qualified candidate” even though I have 10 years of experience and my Project Management Professional certification. This minimum qualification excludes me, a woman, while it will allow in less experienced people with IT degrees, who more often are men.

    • Rob

      When a workplace has close to an 80/20 male-to-female ratio and women employees are paid less than men, something’s rotten in Denmark.

    • In the American workplace, men tend to acknowledge that women “bring a different perspective.”

      Then they provide that perspective and men are all, like, “oh, no, that’s wrong.”

      That perspective is not valued.

    • >>HOWEVER, it is also true that on average, over vast numbers, women MAY have different interests due to those differences and so a less than 50% software coding workforce is not automatically due to discrimination.<<

      Or girls/women have been told from birth that these types of jobs aren't really for them.

      "Historic" gender roles are hard to change when keeping them is built into the system.

      • Guest

        Are you saying ONLY society pressure influences who wants to be in what industry???

        I do not know how to separate the old “Nature versus Nurture” cause.

        • Did I say “only”?

          The system is rigged in favor of historic gender roles which is a huge deterrent for those wishing to live outside those roles.

    • Laurie K.

      The difference in the examples you cited are that men are not actively discouraged from entering a field that typically has been female dominated.

      • Guest

        fair point. Thank You.

    • Lindsey

      Hello again Guest…
      Women and men do not inherently have differences in their passions. Women are not more likely to be nurses because they are more soothing, but because other healthcare fields have traditionally been closed to them. Men are not nurses (by and large) because this is a woman’s field and manly men shouldn’t be a nurse…

      Women are not the majority of software engineers because of societal roles, not because of passion or desire to work in the field.

      The reason that there are less women in STEM is not because they are different than men, but because society has pressured them out of the fields.

      Women have a different perspective, not because of biology but because of society and experience.

      It’s important for women to be involved, because they are under-represented and under-representation causes women to continue to be pressured to not be in the room.

      If you still believe that women are inherently different, please provide evidence.

      Signed – Lindsey, MPH in Epidemiology (that is to say, a woman in science).

      • I can’t like this comment enough…

      • DJ Wambeke

        Thank you for offering your perspective. Is it your view that biology plays no (0%) causal role in the imbalance of women in STEM, and societal factors form all (100%) of the causes?

        And if so, given your statement that Women and men do not inherently have differences in their passions do you have an opinion on the relative merits or faults of this analysis by a UCA Fullerton professor of Psychology, which seems (if I understand it correctly) to suggest that in gender-egalitarian societies gender differences of interest are actually larger than in non-gender-egalitarian societies?

        • Laurie K.

          Find a position you like, find a scientific analysis to support said position. For instance, in contrast to Lippa’s analysis, is Ceci and Williams’ study which holds that although men may have some advantages in that the male brain may be physiologically optimized to perform advanced mathematical and spatial operations, this alone cannot explain the fact that women are under-represented in STEM careers. Their position is that women are faced with certain choices they are compelled to make in our society that men do not have. (The Mathematics of Sex: How Biology and Society Conspire to Limit Talented Women and Girls by Stephen J. Ceci; Wendy M. Williams)

          • Dan

            Law school and medical school have roughly equal applicants from men and women. Google has about 20% female representation in tech jobs. Since women are more neurotic and don’t apply for positions that are stressful, we can conclude that programming (or excuse me, software engineering) is 30% more stressful than law school or medical school.

            Boom.

            /sarcasm

          • DJ Wambeke

            Ceci and Williams’ study which holds that although men may have some advantages in that the male brain may be physiologically optimized to perform advanced mathematical and spatial operations
            How does this contradict Lippa’s analysis? If anything wouldn’t it corroborate it from a slightly different angle?

            this alone cannot explain the fact that women are under-represented in STEM careers
            I don’t know of anyone who is suggesting that biology alone is the cause. Although many people seem to be suggesting that social bias alone is the cause. Which is why I’m curious about Lindsey’s view, as she may have some actual relevent expertise to offer on the science (or possibly not; I’m not sure the level of relevance of her specific epidemiological area of study might to psychology, neuroscience, and/or evolutionary biology).

      • Guest

        “Nature versus Nuture” I have no idea of the relative mix of importance. However we have seen the 1yr old boy surrounded by his older sister’s dolls and yet goes to the truck to play with.

        When I say interest, I mean from whatever cause, biology or society. To pretend that there is something wrong until 50% of software coders are female is just as wrong as saying we have few and are fine with that.

        If an average guy applies to 10 companies until he gets a job offer and an average gal in the same industry applies to 10 companies until she gets an offer…..there is zero problem in my view.

        Differing views are now welcome. Please state reason for conclusions and not just conclusions.

      • Al

        PUBLIC HEALTH REPRESENT.

    • asiljoy

      Going to throw out again that coding was primarily women’s work until men figured out it paid well and got to do cool things like get people to the moon.

    • Have you seen the recent movie “Hidden Figures?” I’m going to guess no, so I would recommend you spend the couple of hours it’ll take to watch. You just might learn something about the types of interests women have.

      • Guest

        Exceptions abound of course. But if you were going to place a bet, which way would you bet????

        • Watch the movie. Seriously.

          • Guest

            I did and enjoyed it. I KNOW many non-traditional types can learn all that is needed.

            I do not know the mix of causes that influence choice of career, but I do know most anyone who applies themselves can be a great coder. Violinist, singer, painter and other skill jobs, not so much.

  • Gary F

    The Simpsons were way ahead of the curve.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64PKoAiWhjE

  • AL287

    Sounds like one, very insecure macho man trying to intimidate women. He could have said it much more succinctly by just saying he doesn’t think women are up to the job. I think there’s a vacant position for him somewhere in the Trump administration.

    As for the CEO stepping down, I’m not buying it. Just because one rogue employee chose to vent his hatred of women in a 3,000+ word internal manifesto doesn’t make the CEO unfit for duty. Not even the CEO of Google can control what happens on the Internet.

    This kind of harassment is to be expected in the age of social media. It has become the most efficient and damaging way to spread, hatred, bigotry, intolerance, racism and misogyny since typesetting was invented by Gutenberg.

    If women had not taken over in the factories and shipyards during WW II, we would all be speaking German and Japanese now.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

    • Veronica

      Or a bunch of insecure white men who keep threatening women.

      This is what women ALWAYS deal with. Always.

      • AL287

        I won’t disagree with you there. We have one of them in the White House right now.

  • crystals

    This guy reeks of being a dude who has had a hard time with women – in the workplace, in grad school, in his personal life – and instead of wondering what he might be doing to contribute to that difficulty attributes all of his problems to women as an entire gender.

    David Brooks needs to step off the soapbox and actually try to help for once instead of just preaching from his white man mountaintop. Google needs to figure out how to have difficult conversations among a diverse group of people with different views, while still being focused on the work at hand. James Damore needs to understand that granting his first interview to a couple of online alt-right guys who advance anti-feminist and anti-diversity views shows who he really is even more than the memo itself.

    I’d be most interested to actually hear from women at Google, instead of all of the men talking about them.

    • Jerry

      I think somebody should say this: I don’t think the way you just talked about men is okay. As a thought experiment, consider your exact words with the words “man” and “woman” reversed. Does it sound okay to you, or does it sound kinda sexist? It sounds pretty sexist to me.

      “This person reeks of being a woman who has had a hard time with men – in the workplace, in grad school, in her personal life – and instead of wondering what she might be doing to contribute to that difficulty attributes all of her problems to men as an entire gender.

      David Brooks needs to step off the soapbox and actually try to help for once instead of just preaching from her white woman mountaintop. Google needs to figure out how to have difficult conversations among a diverse group of people with different views, while still being focused on the work at hand. James Damore needs to understand that granting her first interview to a couple of online alt-right women who advance anti-feminist and anti-diversity views shows who she really is even more than the memo itself.

      I’d be most interested to actually hear from men at Google, instead of all of the women talking about them.”

      In particular, it sounds a lot like you are discrediting the opinions of David Brooks and of some leaders at Google based on their genders (and in David Brooks’s case, on his race). That’s not okay. It’s not okay to say those things about women, and it’s not okay to say them about men, either. If you have a concern with their arguments, address that instead. Insinuating that their opinions are somehow invalid based on their race and gender is not only unconvincing, but also hurtful.

      • crystals

        Thanks for parsing my every word to tell me how I’m being sexist and racist towards men, really, thank you. It’s a lovely piece of work that beautifully illustrates how it can feel to be a woman online, having male strangers correct her in an effort to be helpful.

        I know what I said. I’m fine if you disagree with it.

        • Jerry

          Okay, I just wanted to put it in your ear. I think it is worth thinking about.

          Just so you know, I did not know your gender until you indicated it just now.

  • KTFoley

    “He is championing scientific research; they are championing gender equality. ”

    Oh come on, David Brooks. You’re wearing the same blinders as Jim Damore.

    Damore is not championing scientific research so much as he’s clinging to a notion that the environment he’s used to is how research should happen.

    Google said they fired Damore because his promotion of harmful stereotypes violated the company’s code of conduct. The problem is not that Damore’s views are conservative but that they are erroneous — as shown repeatedly and extensively by bodies of research devoted to gender studies and to the long-term effects of institutionalized discrimination.

    Now Brooks is continuing the error by failing to understand that scientific research is (a) collaborative by nature; and (b) succeeds only when researchers recognize and discard false assumptions in the construction of their hypotheses.

  • Zachary Mott

    I think more people need to read the primary source before discussing it. Much of the commentary around this document refutes claims that the author doesn’t make and expressly rejects.

    • L. Foonimin

      Absolutely correct. I actually read the Damore post and I find many people are reacting to what they think/want it to say. How does one “recognize and discard false assumptions in the construction of their hypotheses.” until one tests the hypothesis?

  • Guest

    This is all about the relative mix of an individual’s choice and society’s pressures and being welcomed. Kinda impossible to know the relative importance of each influence.

    I do KNOW that coding has a unique set of pressures and rewards like any industry. I also know I could never be a singer (you’re welcome world) because no matter how much I apply myself, I would never have the talent.

    However, most anybody who applies enough effort can be a software coder, same as any knowledge industry. Creative and skill industries, not so much.

    The fact that 1/2 of the population does not have the same interest in coding as the other 1/2 is a fact. WHY is again, kinda impossible to know. Surely being made to feel welcome IS a PART of the reason.

    I am saying there are many reasons for not having 50% female participation in any industry. It is not all discrimination, it is not all biology.

  • KTFoley