The culture wars are at a fever pitch already, and the latest front to explode is in Mountain View. If you’re not caught up already, I suggest you read the memo first, then imagine what you think the reaction will be, then mosey your way back here after possibly skimming through the comments for a brief sampling. I’ll wait.

The fact that it’s exactly what you expected is the real problem here. The memo’s author slays the sacred cows of sex, race, political orientation, and **shudder** IQ. It’s a four-alarm thoughtcrime, all hands on deck!

Let’s get something out of the way so the real conversation can take place. If I were in a position to do so, I would immediately fire the individual. Hey, I’m sympathetic, but I don’t want the headache, and no competent manager would either. I understand some of you might disagree with such an action, but let’s be real, you’re wrong, it’s the only responsible one to take. It sure is a sad state of affairs, though, that a company must feel so cowed by the mob that it would sacrifice a (presumably) capable and intelligent employee.

Now let’s talk about the merits of the memo. The author makes a number of quite cogent points, seems to take great pains to emphasize the limits of his arguments, and offers constructive suggestions on how to resolve what he or she sees as a very serious problem. At least that’s how I read it, and I would certainly give the benefit of the doubt to any of my employees.

Now, many who have come to the author’s defense make quick pains to say how they disagree with what he has to say, and I suppose I too have some things I disagree with, or at least maybe think should have been considered further or better characterized. Sure, let’s hash it out, let’s talk about this stuff. Seriously, I’d love to have a conversation in the comments below about some of the issues the author raises–to what extent the stereotypes of men and women are true, whether most corporate diversity policies are counterproductive or unfair, the relevance of IQ, the current distribution of engineering talent, or the role of empathy in the workplace.

But no, the most serious issue here is the fact that we can’t even have an honest conversation about any of these topics. At least that’s what elite attitudes (vogue term: “woke”) are suggesting. The memo was immediately and totally condemned, even by the author’s own new head of diversity or some sh**. No room is allowed for any discussion whatsoever. Those who offer such wrongthink must be shunned and mocked publicly, and all must signal their agreement with such condemnation.

But the thing is, these are really important issues. How on earth is it a good idea to suppress dissenting opinions and avoid a hint of critical examination of them? Moreover, doesn’t such suppression allow truly disgusting ideas to fester? Frankly, much of this is uncontroversial until recently, such as the idea that men and women are different. And one need not look further than this other story that popped up today to know it is true.

But our diversity commissars have stated that men and women are completely the same, so it must be true and therefore cannot be questioned. This is the rhetorical equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and shouting “LALALALALALA”. Sorry kid, the issue isn’t going away.

And it’s really, really sad that American life has come to this. Frankly, this is something I’m really struggling with, that I can’t even have honest conversations about differences and openly discuss possibilities that could help us arrive at the best solution or policy. I do notice myself self-censoring more and more if I know someone of a certain political persuasion is around.

The optimist in me tells me this is a passing trend, and the pendulum will swing back as the wave crests and the ground settles a little (or something like that). But the realist in me suggests that it’s not a pendulum, but a ratchet. We were always warned that democratic society is a fragile thing, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that we are descending into authoritarianism and mob rule.

42 comments

  1. Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males

    FTW

    Anyone that wrote that for distribution in a professional setting is a fucking idiot and nothing else that person said has any relevance. Find someone else to make your case, this guy is discredited for inferring in a company memo that eunuch>woman because of in vitro testosterone.

    I am at heart an ideas person and I would have this conversation any day of the week but not with someone that started with this person’s quite obvious confirmation bias. If you really want to start a conversation about diversity, a screed about how unfair it is to white men is counter productive.

  2. I’m having trouble following the logic. Because he said eunuch’s raised as female still think they are men instead of women, that eunuchs are greater than (>) women?

    BTW, did you mean “WTF”? I think WTF is a very appropriate response to that sentence, but fail to see the greater than comparison.

  3. Thank you for tackling this, Zoom.

    It merely took the birth of my child for me to be conclusively convinced that men and women are wired differently. I try to be a good father. I try to be a good husband. The husband thing comes easy — it’s not challenging for me to anticipate my wife’s needs. But the father part? It’s a constant effort to remember my lines. If I’m in watching our son while my wife is out, he’ll eat on time, get snacks on time, get bathed, brushed, and played with. He’ll get his naps on time and be laid in his crib at 8pm sharp. But every single one of those acts take an incredible amount of thought on my part. It doesn’t come easy to me. It doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, after 16 months, it still is something that my brain needs to exert a lot of time and energy on. What if he isn’t eating the food that I’m giving him? What do I do? What if he’s biting and slapping? What if he’s coughing or crying in the middle of the night?

    Meanwhile, my wife just reacts. And it’s the right decision 98% of the time. She can hold on a long conversation with somebody and manage our son at the same time. I, on the other hand, find it to be borderline stressful to pull my attention away from my son for fear of losing track of time or, worse, losing track of the Lego that he may be trying to swallow.

    So, ok — maybe I’m just a poor representative and she’s an exceptional one. Maybe this has nothing to do with gender. It *certainly* has nothing to do with effort, intelligence, or motivation, though.

    But you’ll need to convince me that men are naturally set up to handle children as well as women. You’ll need some serious data to overcome my subjective bias.

    I don’t agree with everything that the author said in that piece. But there is nothing that he wrote that was intentionally inflammatory. I also think he should have done a better job sourcing his more controversial assertions. Had he done that, a large percentage of his detractors would need to contend with data. Instead, they are able to brush them off as unsubstantiated opinion.

  4. No, just being sarcastic “For the Win”.

    I may have a different interpretation of the comment than you did and that is always possible. I certainly do have my own biases. His screed comes across to me as women as inferior in tech and business so by that logic I concluded that the thinks that eunuch is better.

  5. Yes, women are different than men but not so much that they should be excluded from certain career paths and that seems to be what this guy is saying between the lines. Since he was fired, he will probably be inclined to clarify his statements. I hope that if he has been improperly vilified he will get a chance to vindicate himself but he has made some pretty idiotic points that will be difficult to overcome. He could have made is point(s) without talking about castrated men, and extroverted women being “gregarious” vs “assertive”. What on earth does that have to do with being a programmer?

  6. I think this stems from the liberal belief that if they want something hard enough, their belief is enough to make it so.

    Think of the repeated attempts to try to ignore the laws of economics and human nature, despite Venezuela, despite Communist China, despite Communist Russia, despite numerous cities and a few states in this country that are so far in the hole, they will never get out, etc. etc.

    Think of gun control laws – if there are just enough controls, then gun crime will go down, despite the evidence found in Chicago, D.C., Detroit, L.A., etc. etc.

    Think of the attempts at regulating…anything. Take Healthcare for example – if we have enough regulations then prices will go down…not.

    I think this is why so many on the left are having such a hard time with Trump. They really, really, really wanted Hillary to be President. And when their wishing didn’t make it so, they snapped. Their view of reality actually breaks a bit, and they have to come up with some other reason for what happened, whether that’s Russia, or Obstruction, or whatever. It can’t possibly be a rejection of their ideals, and candidate. It has to be something else.

    The firing of the person who wrote the memo just shows their refusal to examine these beliefs. Believing is what is important, not examining any of this other stuff. It’s why so many college campuses have “safe spaces” now. By firing the guy, Google is essentially saying they are a “Safe Space.” Because we have an entire section of society that can’t take the world as it is, and does everything they can do to be willfully ignorant of it.

  7. that seems to be what this guy is saying between the lines

    That is very unfair, and part and parcel with one of the biggest frustrations in how elite opinion is addressing this. There is a whole lot of “telephone” going on, in which critics summarize what the author is saying in a very biased light. That was part of what I was getting at in talking about how I’d construe the memo were I the boss. Critics are ascribing motivations that there is no evidence for, and which are rooted in their own biases and prejudices.

    I prefer to take these sorts of things at face value, and not impugn motives and undercurrents that there is no evidence for. I saw nothing indicating a desire to “exclude” women from certain careers, but rather that we should at least account for different distributions between the sexes in our expectations of workforce diversity.

  8. Blatantly off-topic, but would love to see a post on it –

    Does it bug anyone else that an illegal immigration has been paid almost $200k by San Francisco because someone in local law enforcement reported him to federal authorities? We’ve reached the point where we will actually pay someone for coming here illegally, and getting reported. It’s utter lunacy.

  9. No one is free from bias/prejudice. Your willingness to excuse him is biased. I have not seen you quite as open-minded with liberal screeds.

  10. Interesting. *sigh*

    I just watched somebody in the “March For Science” Facebook group spend about an hour correcting people who were making their own straw men out of his diatribe. He was staying above the fray and simply asking people where they were quoting from or why they were making certain assumptions. He was being assaulted the entire time, personally. Finally, the moderator came on and banned him due to the “group policy” while leaving all of his assailants untouched.

    I write a note indicating my disgust and then left the group.

    I cannot believe that we live in such a stifling, oppressive, hypocritical climate. As a liberal, it makes me understand what you right-wingers have been saying all this time.

  11. spend about an hour correcting people who were making their own straw men out of [the Google employee’s] diatribe

  12. I’m not excusing anything, I am taking what he says at face value.

    You’re the one reading “between the lines” and inferring things that are simply not supported by any evidence other than your own prejudices.

  13. I frequently find it fascinating to read through comments because it really provides insight into how people seem to think (or not think in many cases). I continue to be floored by how far people go in making assumptions, inferences, and just wild-ass accusations that lo-and-behold fit perfectly into their dogmatic thinking, but which simply aren’t supported by the evidence.
    You see pfluffy doing it above, saying the guy thinks women should be excluded from certain career paths (which he never said). The most common one I see is that people say he is saying women are unqualified for certain positions, which is such a gross misinterpretation it makes you wonder if they have any reading comprehension whatsoever.
    It’s just amazing to me that people can be so far apart in their interpretation of reality. The fact that we’re not allowed to openly discuss these issues only exacerbates those divisions, and I fear it only makes it more combustible for when something forces this all in the open and it just explodes.

  14. Right after posting this I saw a tweet linking a nice summary by the Federalist of the willfull media misinterpretations of what Damore said.

    http://thefederalist.com/2017/08/08/media-outlets-blatantly-lying-google-memo/

    I have to wonder whether it’s incompetence (not understanding the memo), ignorance (not actually reading the memo and relying on others’ biased summaries), or willful misrepresentation of what was said in the memo.

    Reminds me of the old adage that a lie makes its way around the world twice before the truth has even had time to put on its pants (or something like that).

  15. Kevin this is not limited to liberals. Spend some time on a conservative forum and you will see the same treatment of someone defending a liberal stance. This doesn’t make it right from either group but I am not sure why “liberals” are called out for this. You obviously never saw the treatment I got over at Right-Thinking when I defended a city’s right to ban plastic grocery bags because they were clogging their sewer system and costing the city millions. Apparently the idea that a city would solve its fiscal problems in this way was over the top communism and unworthy of debate.

    Every ideology has is own acceptable dialogue. Yes, liberals can be quite obnoxious if someone questions something that they have deemed “settled”, either by science, law or whatever. In a liberal’s mind their is no need for discussion about what a woman can do in the workplace. She obviously can do the work and she should be paid appropriately. Anyone wanting to “discuss” this has some nefarious agenda. I admit that this is where I am coming from, although I am very much keeping the obnoxious to a minimum.

    What is this guy aiming for with his castrated men argument? What kind of problem is he trying to solve by saying that they act like men? What on earth does this have to do with computer programming? I am willing to listen to the arguments but I do understand my fellow liberals that just don’t want to hear it any more. With comment sections there always comes a jackass being coy and asking a billion questions trying to box people in. On this topic, most liberals made up their minds quite some time ago.

  16. I already acknowledged my own biases, you are claiming to be bias-free. See, this is what happens when someone admits to what is known to exist by everyone. You will never admit it, but OK.

  17. In a liberal’s mind their is no need for discussion about what a woman can do in the workplace. She obviously can do the work and she should be paid appropriately. Anyone wanting to “discuss” this has some nefarious agenda.

    Actually, I’m a liberal and I want to discuss it because I’m not convinced that sexism is 100% of the reason why women are underrepresented in software development (my field). I’m curious what accounts for the other X%. There is nothing nefarious about my curiosity — I am entirely open-minded and am not assuming that it’s biology of shaming or aptitude or ….. anything, really. But I do believe that our world isn’t so awful that everything is always the result of the worst possible motive.

  18. Must clarify — I wasn’t referring to what a woman could do or what she should be paid. I’m not sure the Google guy was, either, really.

    In my reading, his main goal seemed to be attacking diversity programs. One of the ways he attempted to mount that argument was by suggesting that women weren’t underrepresented because they were women but, instead, because they weren’t applying in the same percentages as men. He then went to some lengths to explain *why* they weren’t applying.

  19. In a liberal’s mind their is no need for discussion about what a woman can do in the workplace. She obviously can do the work and she should be paid appropriately. Anyone wanting to “discuss” this has some nefarious agenda. I admit that this is where I am coming from, although I am very much keeping the obnoxious to a minimum.

    See, I don’t think that’s what he was wanting to discuss at all. Nowhere did he say that women can’t do anything they want to do. Just that it’s possible less women want to do those things *GASP*. He’s questioning the need for diversity movements, because he thinks that the reason for the apparent disparity in hiring might not be because of some misogynistic plot to keep women down. He’s not declaring women should get back in the kitchen, and when you write off what he’s saying as a “screed” as you did twice above, you point out that you’ve already written off everything he said because of some “nefarious agenda” that doesn’t exist.

  20. See what, exactly? In making faulty assumptions, inferences, and wild-ass accusations? Please tell me where I have done so and I’d be happy to discuss it. A vague “you do it too” doesn’t get very far.

  21. Where did I claim I was without bias? Please tell me, because this is another example of where you’re not taking someone at what they say, but rather trying to read between the lines.

    All I was saying is that I am taking him at face value. That means I am reading the actual words he uses, and only basing conclusions on those. I am not re-characterizing his words, or impugning motives for which there otherwise is no evidence.

    You are the one making up words. Tell me where he said women “should be excluded from certain career paths”. Quote him and prove me wrong.

  22. So let’s get this right:

    1.) Colin Kapaernik kneels for the anthem and he’s an asshole who should be fired from ANY NFL team.

    2.) This guy posts junk science manifesto which basically is a blueprint for any woman in the office interacting with him to file a lawsuit, but we need to be more open minded and hear him out cuz “muh rights.”

    Oooookkkkkk.

  23. An overall point about diversity, relating to his memo. And links to your fatherhood story KevinMKR

    Certainly there are societal differences between the genders on the macro level. The problem with Mr Googles claims, is that he talks about the personality differences ‘on average’ between men and women, but the discussion is about them in absolutes.

    Yes, KevinMKR, the maternal instinct means that more often than not females take to parenting more quickly. But to make decisions on the assumption that every man you meet is a bad parent isn’t good policy (this is where the unconscious bias comes in)

    It may be true that less women like coding. But that fact shouldn’t influence a hiring decision when you’re confronted with the skills and achievements of a person sitting in front of you.

    The other thing to note is that workplace diversity isn’t just a hippie, feel good issue. It’s actually pretty well established that it drives growth (or more accurately avoids decline). Pretty much every sector is going through fast paced change at the moment, and a more diverse workforce tends to do better in innovation, adoption and expansion.

  24. It may be true that less women like coding. But that fact shouldn’t influence a hiring decision when you’re confronted with the skills and achievements of a person sitting in front of you.

    I think the author is saying that that situation may not happen as often as we think because of the statistics. People assume it happens because there are less coding females. But it’s possible there are other reasons for it rather than prejudice, or some misogynistic bias. That’s all the author was saying, and he used logic to back it up.

  25. poor guy he really fucked the goat on this one, if he wasnt fired, just imagine the hostel work environment he would face, in the coming weeks…

  26. ilovecress, an interesting point between your statements and mine is that they don’t contradict each other.

    I think that’s one of the problems with unpacking all of this. Everybody seems to be fighting a different, yet overlapping, battle.

    To me, his main point is that there are reasons other than sexism to explain the gender inequality and, therefore, he finds programs that “balance” the workforce to be flawed. He doesn’t seem to be saying women are less qualified, less intelligent, or less capable of performing the job. Just less interested. He also doesn’t say that women aren’t discriminated against.

    i don’t believe that anybody on this website would suggest that there is ever a reason to pass over a qualified applicant. Or, rather, no reason to pass over the *best* qualified applicant.

  27. Very interesting and compelling point about the overlapping battles. In many ways, that is the aspect where our biases are making this conversation hard, because we’re each fighting a slightly different (but related) battle.

    It may be true that less women like coding. But that fact shouldn’t influence a hiring decision when you’re confronted with the skills and achievements of a person sitting in front of you.

    My take on this is that this is his exact point. Everyone seems to assume hiring biases are anti-woman, but I think what he’s trying to address is that at Google (and many other companies in similar male-dominated industries), the bias is actually unfairly pro-woman. So much so that there are numerous support resources, organizations, policies, and programs oriented towards increasing the proportion of women in the profession, and that maybe hiring standards become lowered for women or otherwise equally- or even better-qualified male candidates lose out. Diversity hiring pressures routinely encourage that type of behavior.

    What he’s clearly trying to say is that it’s ridiculous to think that, if the pool of available qualified women is a significant minority of the overall workforce, it’s an unrealistic expectation that Google would be able to hire enough women to significantly exceed that distribution without policies that lower standards for women. I, for one, agree with that, and think there has to be a better way to approach the laudable goal of diversity than that sort of discrimination.

  28. **Controversial comment alert – I’m being contrarian here**

    What if ‘diversity’ isn’t about fairness at all, but it’s a commercial decision? I’ve worked on leads of different diversity initiatives for a whole bunch of clients – and while it’s nearly always sold as an ‘equality’ thing – quite often it’s a pretty black and white commercial decision that boils down to the fact that most companies customer base is more diverse than their workforce. Now this probably makes no difference to people on a production line – but for knowledge workers, there’s value in having a whole different types of approach to solving problems.

    So you could say that the market for the ‘male pale and stale’ set is saturated, and actively courting employees with different background is a good commercial strategy. If the pool of women is smaller, then that pool becomes more valuable (if you take as fact the fact that a diverse workforce is desirable)

    Both my parents were teachers back in the day, but Dad got promoted much quicker, because, well, someone has to coach the football team, and the pool of male teachers is small.

  29. Since we’re just being philosophical now, I’d like to comment on this:

    there’s value in having a whole different types of approach to solving problems.

    Couldn’t two gay African American Buddhist women provide diversity in approach just as well as one gay African American Buddhist women and one straight Hawaiian Muslim man?

    Isn’t an idea like “we need diverse groups to get diverse approaches” just more of the same pigeonholing that we’re trying to get away from? It’s effectively saying that Zoom and I will approach everything the same because we’re both white males. Isn’t *that* a form of sexism/racism?

  30. It’s effectively saying that Zoom and I will approach everything the same because we’re both white males. Isn’t *that* a form of sexism/racism?

  31. It’s effectively saying that Zoom and I will approach everything the same because we’re both white males. Isn’t *that* a form of sexism/racism?

    Absolutely – which was my point. If you take the moral dimension out of it (as this chap is arguing – “I’m just being rational and saying less women want to code”) then you can equally say “The market is saturated with white dudes in programming, so the value of a female coder is higher. Let’s put in programmes to encourage that”

    As soon as we start to moralize an issue, we stop thinking about it in terms of costs and benefits, dismiss anyone that disagrees as immoral, and harshly punish those we see as villains to protect the “victims.”

  32. I’m very interested in your line of thinking here so don’t take my questions as antagonistic, please…

    But, that said, I’m not sure how the former insists that the latter be true.

    Let’s say, *ONLY* for the sake of argument, that it is 100% undeniably true that less women want to code (which is what that chap is arguing). Why does that logically create an increase in value of female coders? If male and female coders are equally capable to complete the tasks and both have the same capacity to approach and attack issues from unique perspectives within gendered groups, I don’t follow. Are you simply applying economic scarcity principles? If so, shouldn’t I be in high demand at the two daycares where my son has gone, due to their lack of male employees?

  33. Kev – all good, and I’m kind of arguing a side that I’m not 100% sure I’m aligned with.

    But basically, yes. (Coding might be too specific an example though). But it’s the argument for ‘quotas’ for diversity in upper management. The theory is (and is kind of backed up by the numbers) that having a management layer who all come from a very similar background harms your ability to innovate and connect with a more diverse client base.

    Say I’m running an insurance company, and all my upper management are white middle class males in their 50s. But the marketplace is changing, and our business plan involves moving into a more digital platform, to making the product more family friendly, and in appealing to a market of second generation immigrants. (Basically the business plan of every financial services company right now)

    I’m going to want to look to fill my management team with people who can connect with those markets. Cos if I don’t my competitors will.

    There’s also pretty convincing evidence that a more diverse workforce is more change resilient – makes sense. If you’ve had to get used to sharing your cubicle with a filipino buddhist lesbian, and learn what Kwaanza is, a SAP upgrade isn’t going to upset you too much.

    If so, shouldn’t I be in high demand at the two daycares where my son has gone, due to their lack of male employees?

    I imagine you are? I don’t know about the US, but the lack of male teachers at all levels is a problem in both the UK and NZ.

  34. I can see an argument in certain situations, for specific job requirements (such as reaching out to the public). However, the finance department at your insurance company could all be the same demographic and your company would be just fine. Same for IT and janitorial, I’m sure.

    I imagine you are?

    Not in the slightest. Nobody cares. Women run daycares here in the US and that’s just that. Nobody questions it or considers why that is. Without looking it up, I’d make a guess that it’s the most female-dominated position in the US. If it isn’t, it’s close to the top.

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