This Will be a breakdown of the memo that James Damore at Google published internally. It will not go into Google’s response or Mr. Damore’s motivations here. This is a breakdown of the actual Memo done by a white male in the IT industry.
Before I started this process I have not read more than a few excerpts and some friends opinions. I usually attempt to avoid “news” like this. The rhetoric that happens around a thing like this usually gets blown bigger than the actual thing people are talking about. The full memo can be found here, it is too long to quote and break down every piece of it but will be as thorough as possible.
Interesting start. Don’t know which way he leans but knowing the industry we can guess. He does invite comment so here we go.
The first three paragraphs are setting up the memo. Basically “I’m not prejudiced but..” He also says Google has been receptive to what he has said in the past.
What follows is a TL;DR (Too long, Don’t Read) summary of the memo in five bullet points.
● Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
I found this interesting having never heard anti-PC point of view put this way. The silencing of the mentally harmful is a problem.
● This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too
sacred to be honestly discussed.
This happens in every business I have worked for. The status queue is hard to fight against in any group. Fact of life.
● The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this
○ Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
○ Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
The ideology is not defined but the results are pretty clear: Disparities are due to oppression so Google oppresses to combat disparities.
● Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership.
● Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.
And this is where people get into trouble. I am curious what arguments James makes.
Skipping the Background paragraph, He goes into Biases, not at Google but of polittics.
As soon as I read this I see where James has gone wrong. His framing of “Left Biases” is obviously from someone on the right. It implies those on the Left don’t have respect, are not just, unstable, and not pragmatic. He does imply, in turn, out that the Right is not compassionate, closed, and not idealistic but it is clear which side he believes (more) in.
In the paragraphs that follow he diplomatically states, these are not 100% but Google is definitely on the left side of this biases table. the thing that bothers me the most is, “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture…” Not sure how attempting to create diversity creates a monoculture. James equates political diversity with cultural diversity. The two are not the same.
The next section is entitled “Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech” Here is where I started pulling my hair. There is a lot of saying how men and women are physically different and also traits many traits are male dominated and female dominated. Then says what he just said is not try for everyone and doing so is bad.
There is a lot of stereotyping in this. I’ll share some highlights.
Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher
This is typical sexist talk. Women aren’t assertive they are gregarious. Women can’t be assertive so why would you assign them important leadership or a project that is going to require tough customer pushback? But wait, there’s more!
Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).
○ This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist
and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.
And I start swearing in my head. I currently am doing an assignment in the NICU at a hospital. Babies born premature who only are alive because of the constant vigilance of the 96% female nurses there. (96% is from that one NICU) They literally hold lives in their hands. One mistake or missed sign of trouble and someone’s baby dies. Every milliliter of formula and ounce of pee and poop carefully recorded and checked. Then deal with the parents about every up and down in their recovery. Don’t dare tell me women seek out less stress or anxiety jobs. *deep breath*
Then he says men have a higher drive for status without saying what are high-status jobs that they seek. He does say:
Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths.
This comparison makes no sense to me. Tech jobs are not dangerous and coal mining I would say is not a high-status job. What I get the sense is that James sees software engineer as a high pay and prestige job. Most every job title has high stress.
He then goes into “Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap” by stating a gender stereotype and then saying how Google can bend to that stereotype. Isn’t that just feeding what he is fighting against? My *cough* favorite part of this section is:
● Women on average look for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average
○ Unfortunately, as long as tech and leadership remain high status, lucrative
careers, men may disproportionately want to be in them. Allowing and truly
endorsing (as part of our culture) part time work though can keep more women in
Let women work part time. That’s all they can handle… see NICU rant above.
The next section, “The harm of Google’s biases” is very Google specific and references things I have no way of knowing. so I will withhold comment.
The section called “Why we’re blind” is an interesting diatribe of the differences/stereo types of men/women and how discussing them hurts men.
We have extensive government and Google programs, fields of study, and legal and social norms to protect women, but when a man complains about a gender issue issue affecting men, he’s labelled as a misogynist and a whiner.
This sentiment ignores the history from the beginning of it to about the 1970’s where sexual inequality was enshrined in law and still in rape/sexual assault legal practice. (I know there will be pushback on that on all sides) Things don’t change on a dime, it takes a lot of time and effort to change historical biases.
The last section is suggestions to Google. There are a few valid points (Stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races for example.) but the last point in the memo I want to address touches on many of James’s points.
Stop alienating conservatives… Alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad businessbecause conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is required for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.
Conservatives are more careful and vigilant the Liberals and therefore better at buisness. Putting those traits on a political kinda ignores the success of the business in the field you work in, James. Skipping over what you laid out as left bias toward embracing change in a changing industry; there is a solid business reason why sexual diversity is sought after by companies. Because a business wants the best people working for them no matter who are what they are. They don’t want to scare away potential talent by having a stance against GLBT people. Businesses, overall, would like to stay out of politics but will lean toward inclusion for their own self-interest.
To sum up, James Damore attempts to make an argument against a diversity push by pointing out why diversity is important. Points out his belief in the superiority of ‘Right politics” and his prejudice against women. A few good points don’t make up for the filth in the memo. He does sound like a person I could sit down and have these arguments with, which is more than I suspected with the rhetoric that’s out there.