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The Google memo isn’t sexist or anti-diversity, it’s science (theglobeandmail.com)
592 points by 20100thibault 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 637 comments



Not much new here. This article is essentially just re-affirming all the scientific statements that were already made in the original memo, backed by links to scientific studies.

Only difference being that the author of this article has a PhD in sexual neuroscience (so people might have a harder time accusing her of not knowing what she's talking about) and is female (so some people might have a harder time of accusing her of sexism).


I personally never called it out for sexism. I called it out for regressive-thinking as a solution based on plain fact.

I can only be brief right now, but it's starting to get to me how so many people in an innovative sphere seem to have such a hard time with this. To me, it seems like it shouldn't be a second thought.

If the main argument is that women do not [by nature of our scientific understanding] have minds tuned to engineering prowess to the extent that men do for whatever cause, then just how does that itself prescribe that we should stop pushing for an expansion there?

Humans never evolved to fly, yet we do it all the time. By the same logic, if we weren't evolved to do it, we should probably just put our planes away because it's bad for us. Same with communicating long distances and sharing knowledge on a planet-wide scale. <sarcasm> I mean, they've caused problems themselves after all. I think we should put all these silly, limit-pushing ideas and practices aside and just go back to smashing rocks together. The ground has rocks. We all have two hands. It can work for us.</sarcasm>

TL;DR Why is a fact being accepted as sound basis for a totally disparate theory on why we should stop trying to exceed our limits? This guys post wasn't science. He used science to reason out a way to revert to a state of community where he stands to gain more. There was another theory like that, I can recall. I think it started with an 'e'.

edit: Wanted to add, a PhD of neurosexuality is probably one of the last people I would consult on philosophy, humanism or any kind of larger social issue. It's not exactly her scope. It does help to have an expert on the subject chime in on the science, though. It will help at least dispose of that less useful side of the discussion.


The guy's post was science, according to scientists - 5 of them have now spoken up saying that. Maybe there'll be more.

With respect to "why not try to solve it", it's a reasonable question. The guy answers that too - he is all for trying to solve it. He even makes suggestions about new ways to do it, like encouraging pair programming.

But he feels the current solutions aren't working and are, in fact, causing bigger problems. They might also be illegal. That seems like a good reason to pause for a moment and re-evaluate if the current strategy is a good one.

He also made a wider point, that was actually his main point, that Google's strategy on women in tech was breaking the internal culture and causing a severe lack of other kinds of diversity, namely, political and ideas-based diversity. He said that people couldn't challenge ideas around gender diversity and the best way to fix it without intimidation and fear. Google claimed they totally support people having discussions like that, and then immediately fired him, which shows he was right.


Why did the memo's author think that Google's current hiring practices were flawed? I mean, what empirical evidence? Were there teams full of "diversity" hires that were performing below par?


Well, did you read it? He lists the following:

"* Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race [5]

* A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates

* Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate

* Reconsidering any set of people if it’s not “diverse” enough, but not showing that same scrutiny in the reverse direction (clear confirmation bias)

* Setting org level OKRs for increased representation which can incentivize illegal discrimination [6]

These practices are based on false assumptions generated by our biases and can actually increase race and gender tensions. We’re told by senior leadership that what we’re doing is both the morally and economically correct thing to do, but without evidence this is just veiled left ideology [7] that can irreparably harm Google."

There are some hyperlinks that are presumably citations but they go to internal links so we don't know what they say.

So that's why he thinks that.


Yes I did read it. You can check my comment history where I've even linked to that exact section you cite: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14953398

I asked for empirical evidence that these initiatives had led to bad results at Google. If the biological research so directly contradicts Google's aims with these diversity initiatives, then we should be able to measure the negative impact, no? That Google has had these initiatives for years and still has ratios nowhere near the 50% that the author fears is a harmful goal, belies the notion that Google is conducting its recruitment in a reckless, diversity-at-all-costs way.

Of course having read the memo, I know that the author does not cite any such empirical evidence, besides begging-the-question anecdata such as "I've gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues". While I believe the author to be smart and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt about being sincere, I question how he can fill 10 pages with observations and boilerplate (including a trite table of what he thinks "left" and "right" biases are) and not be able to mention actual observed consequences of Google's hiring practices having gone awry. It suggests to me that he hasn't really been openminded or willing to investigate both sides of the issue.


> I asked for empirical evidence that these initiatives had led to bad results at Google.

Where is the empirical evidence that these initiatives had led to good results at Google?

And assuming we can measure both the good and bad side effects of such initiatives, does the good outweigh the bad?

The biggest piece of empirical evidence that these initiatives have led to bad results at Google is everything that has happened in the aftermath of the memo being published and found considerable support both in and outside the company.

Had the initiatives been universally good and whose goodness is easy to defend empirically, I would likely have no or at most very few bad results to present to you in response to your question.


If there was any evidence as to the utility of these things, then the argument might look rather different. But the memo - as you already know - states that Google management presents no empirical evidence in support of its policies, so it's reasonable to assume the firm doesn't have any evidence in either direction.


For what do you lack evidence? The value of diversity, the value of programs designed to increase diversity, or the value of the specific programs at Google?


Me personally? I don't care either way. The meta-debate is more important than gender studies.

Damore and Google? All three that you name.


"we should be able to measure the negative impact, no?", or "how to get fired from Google in 20s"

... as the memo just proved ...

Management could have put him in charge of gathering and analyzing data to prove or disprove his memo.

They fired him instead => they don't care about data => the memo was right, management is biased


Or because they believed his manifesto to be both bullshit and a legal liability. Especially as the company -- which Damore accused of using its "money to water only one side of the lawn [i.e. women's]" -- fights off a possible class-action lawsuit [0] and an ongoing federal investigation [1] alleging discrimination against women.

Again, why should Google put the guy who lacks basic research skills (again, being ignorant of anti-discrimination cases brought by men) to be in charge of gathering and analyzing data?

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/08/google-wo...

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/07/google-pa...


What basic research skills does he lack?


I pointed out an example earlier in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14974543


Ok. You throw around terms like "ignorant", "massive error" etc; but I don't think your own assertions are not founded.

What "basic facts and history" are you alluding to, and how do you think they are relevant?

Why do you feel justified saying the author is "ruled by his emotions"? You made blank assertions without explicitly backing them up ("Only someone ignorant..", "only someone ruled by his emotions..")

You say his premises are not "coherent in their arrangement" but can you give an demonstrate this? Just saying "clearly he's ignorant" etc isn't enough to convince me you are right about the quoted snippet, let alone the whole memo.

As was stated in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14974650 you are nit-picking a memo intended to invite discussion, but name calling ("ignorant") without providing at least a similar level of citation, or explanation, yourself is not constructive.


That's hardly a good option. Google hired him as an engineer, to work with his team and build things. With this manifesto, he's made it very hard for his team to work with him, and alienated at least a third of his colleagues. Why would Google want to keep around an engineer in that situation?

The firing is justified from the point of view of the company, they want someone that can contribute, and he's just effectively removed himself from that pool. In my opinion, this is a bigger part of why they fired him, and the fact that they disagreed with his policies was just a cherry on top.


Actually he hasn't made it hard for his team to work with him. Rather, they choose to make it hard for themselves to work with him, because they believe his views on politics and gender science make him a "bad person" who must be shunned to teach him a lesson.

The world is full of religious people, Trump supporters, conservatives, and people who agree that men and women are biologically different and that might affect their life choices. Adults can go to work and collaborate productively with these people.

Google is quite clearly now full of people who are not adults in this respect, and who feel it's totally OK to refuse to work with someone they never even met because of a memo they wrote on political and policy issues. And their management supports them in this.

From the companies point of view this may mean they are justified in firing him, but California law apparently disagrees - you aren't allowed to fire someone for their political affiliations, and that is true even if other employees are refusing to work with them. That would require you to fire those other employees, as they are the ones refusing to do their work unless a legally impermissible act is taken.


oh please... how he acts is their fault? are you serious?

if he was a white-supremacist who wrote a scientifically-backed manifesto about biological differences with his black coworkers, would you still be blaming the people who are 'shunning' him?


> oh please... how he acts is their fault? are you serious?

No, how they act is their fault.


>he ... alienated at least a third of his colleagues

Do you have data to validate this claim?


What? He is an engineer, not a social scientist. He lacks the qualifications to perform such a study. Why would Google pay him to do that?

Further, his job was to make more money for the company than he cost it. The negative publicity he generated, right or wrong, means he is no longer doing his job. Firing him meant the managers did theirs.


this 'logic' is mind-blowing


What's the problem with scrutiny? If these policies are based on premises that aren't true, wouldn't it be better to discard them in favor of policies that are based on premises that are true? How would we do that without a discussion?


Sorry, why do we assume that those premises are true? And which premises in particular, because much of that memo consists of begging the question and/or the author's personal opinion. For example, in the TL:DR: "Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety." Uh, OK. Obviously "shaming into silence" is not in any part of Google's stated mission. But I guess that's because it's an unconscious bias, and if only Google were truly woke, they'd realize that, right?

Or how about:

> 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 [sic] affecting men, he’s labelled as a misogynist and whiner

So the memo's author is apparently a prophet of truth but can't even use Google (or Bing, if you will) to look up the times that men have sued on allegations of discrimination? If there weren't law that protected men, those lawsuits would not be brought to court by a competent lawyer, nevermind won (as in the case of Hooter's):

- http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Yahoo-lawsuit-Marissa-May...

- https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/4-3-14.cfm

- http://www.nytimes.com/1997/10/01/us/hooters-settles-suit-by...

- https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/01/2...

- http://thegrapevine.theroot.com/white-men-sue-diddys-revolt-...

- http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/08/02/court_rules_...

So given the memo's author inability to look up simple case law, you'll have to excuse my hesitance in not accepting that all of his premises are either true or relevant to Google's diversity efforts. Which is why I ask for any empirical evidence that would support his allegations that Google's hiring processes chase diversity in a way that is harmful to the company's performance or even in a way that is unreasonable. Given that Google's stock seems to be still doing quite well, that it still seems to be hiring people of the author's political mindset (including, obviously, the author himself), and that Google's demographic numbers are not anywhere near reaching parity with overall demographics, I'd say the burden of evidence is on the memo's author.


You don't have to show that Google is actually succeeding in it's efforts to bring in "diversity" and equalize representation among it's workforce to match the general population to question the premise that the purported effort is based on. You don't even have to show that they are making a serious effort. Most likely they aren't. It's very likely they know full well what kind of people are likely to make valuable contributions to the company and they are probably not eager to jeopardize that.

If that is the case, then as far as I'm concerned, you don't even have to show that there is a real harm to the purported victims (as Damore sees them), it is enough to question what the big charade is based on. Are the premises that this supposed diversity push is based on valid? If not, what exactly are we doing here?


Yes, perhaps you don't have to argue all of that. But Damore did. Perhaps if he hadn't made those assertions, his memo wouldn't be seen as particularly interesting or controversial.

But we don't have to engage in such hypotheticals. Let's consider the premise that Damore's memo is simply a call to debate based on science and facts. In my opinion, such a non-biased, open-minded essay would not include this kind of assertion:

> 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 [10]. Nearly every difference between men and women is interpreted as a form of women’s oppression. As with many things in life, gender differences are often a case of “grass being greener on the other side”; unfortunately, taxpayer and Google money is being spent to water only one side of the lawn.

Only someone ignorant of basic facts and history would make this sweeping claim. And only someone ruled by his emotions would be unable to take a step back and do a Google search to see if anti-discrimination law has been used on behalf of men. Given that kind of massive error, or inability to recognize one own's ignorance, I don't think we should continue assuming that Damore's premises are factual or coherent in their arrangement. Which is why I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt in saying that it'd be better if he could have actual empirical evidence on the harm of Google's diversity programs. Just because his memo contains facts doesn't mean that it's truthful, if those facts are used loosely to further the author's emotional appeals.

edit: Fixed the formatting to show that [10], in the original memo, refers to a footnote and contains a hyperlink.

The footnote:

[10] “The traditionalist system of gender does not deal well with the idea of men needing support. Men are expected to be strong, to not complain, and to deal with problems on their own. Men’s problems are more often seen as personal failings rather than victimhood, due to our gendered idea of agency. This discourages men from bringing attention to their issues (whether individual or group-wide issues), for fear of being seen as whiners, complainers, or weak.”

The URL of the hyperlink (the text of which is "misogynist and a whiner"): https://becauseits2015.wordpress.com/2016/08/06/a-non-femini...

(Pretty sure "becauseits2015.wordpress.com" would not pass as a useful source on Wikipedia, but YMMV.)


Nobody ever said that the memo was perfectly conceived or written. If you're saying he overstated his case in the passage you quoted I would probably agree. But the standard for inviting a conversation is not a perfectly formed argument from the get-go, a standard like that would make it impossible to have a conversation at all. So I'm still not clear on what exactly he wrote that would earn him exile and banishment in the judgement of a reasonable person open to having a discussion on the topics he raised.


I was just thinking, since I'm one of those "diversity" candidates that never made it to an interview. does it mean that I'm a worse candidate, because even though my profile is favoured as you highlighted I've never made it to an interview.


Google is famous for nixing qualified candidates for all kinds of nonsensical reasons. I would never read anything into failing to get an interview or offer letter there.


If those are the only variables, logic would say yes.


If you believe women and/or minorities are biologically predisposed to underperform white males in tech, then it makes sense to offer them more help. That offer only increases "tension" if you don't believe the biological premise. So which is it? You can't have it both ways.


uh, it's not either... if you believe women are socio-politically disadvantaged in the tech world, then it makes sense to offer them help


> But he feels the current solutions aren't working and are, in fact, causing bigger problems. They might also be illegal. That seems like a good reason to pause for a moment and re-evaluate if the current strategy is a good one.

In fact, he goes farther. He says this "Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business." Where is the science to back that up?


> Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business." Where is the science to back that up?

The same question could be asked for the converse statement that represents those pushing for these policies: "Discrimination to reach equal representation is fair, cooperative, and good for business."

The truth is that we don't know either way. My biggest frustration with those arguing in either direction is that no one has really put forth any specific and objectively measurable ways to evaluate these policies.

I personally believe that diversity is economically valuable, but that how valuable it is depends on the task/goals of a team. In some circumstances it will be very valuable and other it will be of negative value. And in many cases it may be of negligible value relative to other things you can optimize for.

What kind of diversity is another valid thing to question? Why are certain kinds of diversity like gender and race given priority over other kinds of diversity such as cognitive (aspie/autistic to neurotypical) diversity, socioeconomic diversity, national origin diversity, urban/rural diversity, etc.

If a team/company is composed entirely of the same race and or gender but every member is from a different country are they more or less diverse than a team/company composed of all Americans of various races and genders?

These are all important questions and it's good and healthy to express skepticism.


Discrimination is by definition unfair; therefore divisive. I thought everyone agrees on that.

It's very hypocritical to scream how discrimination against women or POC is bad and needs to be routed out, only to turn around and start discriminating yourself.

Discriminating against anyone (yes, even people you disagree with or don't like) is unfair.

Treating people differently based on their gender is sexist.

Smearing, bullying and firing somebody for disagreeing with you is bigoted.

The hypocrisy on display in this whole brouhaha is astounding.


Discrimination is not by definition unfair, the context is important, or do you think aiding people in need but not those who aren't is unfair?.

If you want to reach a balanced state from a unbalanced one, you need to discriminate to provide more for the people that are behind.


What we should provide is equality of opportunity (i.e. anyone should be given a fair and equal treatment in an interview) not equality of outcome (someone should be given a job, just because they represent a certain segment of population).


Exactly. I really can't understand why someone would fail to see this. Unless they have some other definition of equality. But I genuinely would like to hear other definitions and discuss the semantics of that word in the social context.


equality of opportunity should mean that equivalent effort should yield equivalent results, right?


You're right that a number of scientists have come out to say his post was science. I'm saying that they are not the conclusive authority on the posters' intent.

He is of course entitled to feel and think whatever he wants, but maybe a little old-fashioned advice would help here: measure twice, cut once. He clearly didn't think through the effects of posting a stern essay to a company-wide board on a subject that is really quite touchy in the midst of one of the more socially-turbulent periods in the past 20 years.

If he wants to prove it's that desperate, he probably should have worked harder on his essay or social skills, and found a better way to introduce discussion.

And we haven't even confronted his perceptions yet. I have to wonder who exactly feels afraid and intimidated by the conditions. Him, and who else? Instead of resigning to anxiety that he might be confronted for such a strongly-pointed diatribe, maybe he should have considered that his understanding of the situation might be skewed?

I can't speak for anybody else, but his facts didn't support his conclusions for me. His timing was even worse. If it's a discussion he wanted, then maybe he should have researched tact first.


There's the problem. You're too suspicious of his unstated intent, and dismissing his stated intent. That seems to put him in an impossible position.


If you insist on judging arguments by appeals to authority, which I agree is much faster than wading through all the research papers themselves, then there are no higher authorities on gender science than actual biologists who study the topic full time. Almost by definition, they are the most qualified. By all means be skeptical but you must have reasons. Otherwise you are no better than people who reject evolution because they really don't want to believe it's true.

With respect to his essay skills and tact - they are just fine. He makes it abundantly clear he doesn't want to offend people and is not describing individuals, but only the statistical preferences of large populations. You are shooting the messenger in another desperate attempt to ignore the message. Could a few words have been tweaked here or there? Sure. Should he have written it? Yes - he alleges that Google is engaged in illegal behaviour. Google, like all large firms, teaches their employees that it's their responsibility to flag illegal and problematic behaviour and writing such a well researched memo in order to do so is more than most companies could expect.


> there are no higher authorities on gender science than actual biologists who study the topic full time

Only one (Dr Soh) has supported him that I've seen thus far - she seems to have only got her PhD this year and she studies sexual paraphilia via fMRI (which doesn't have a great reputation.) Not exactly "full time gender science study".

By way of contrast, there's PZ Myers - PhD in Biology in 1985, been teaching since 1993 - who thinks Damore is an idiot.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2017/08/06/what-diff...


There were four others too. They published their views on a website (Quillette) that was immediately DDoSd off the internet - presumably by the sort of extremists who now control Google and who did not want anyone to see the evidence that Damore might have a point.

Damore is not an idiot. The people who are attacking him in these ways are though: it's pure anti-intellectualism.

And by the way, counting experts is not a valid way to decide things, it's just a heuristic.

Damore has 5 who point out that he isn't making the science up, but what actually matters is that there are hundreds of studies and papers that support his basic position. Dr Soh points that out. It's not just her opinion vs other people's opinions. It's the opinion of thousands of scientists who have published research that shows all sorts of preference differences between gender.


Dr Soh was one of the Quillette authors.

> Damore has 5 who point out that he isn't making the science up

Only 4 - one of them is duplicated.


Then it seems we disagree on what the core issue is. I don't think it is a matter of gender science. I think he's using research in gender science to push an ideology that he's attempting to form grounds in his attached research.

I see it as a social issue primarily, with considerations that should include gender science, but not be based solely upon it.

For reference to my thinking on the matter I'll confer to one of my favourite scientists (as he is to many), Mr Feynman:

>> "Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad — but it does not carry instructions on how to use it. Such power has evident value — even though the power may be negated by what one does with it."


Let me ask you this - what ideology is he pushing?

Damore's piece can be read as supporting one of two policies, depending on how you interpret it:

1. Adopt alternative approaches to increasing the number of women at Google.

or

2. Leave things alone and don't try to interfere with the outcome of the standard hiring process.

I think he argued more for (1), in which case his "ideology" would if anything be rather close to Google's standard ideology and it's only a debate about means rather than ends.

But if you read it as (2), e.g. because he says he doesn't support socially engineering tech to get a particular outcome, that's still not an ideology. Doing nothing is not an ideology, it's an absence of ideology.

So I find myself disagreeing with you on this basic point. It's Google and Damore's opponents who are pushing an ideology here. Not him.


To begin: He built his own categorization of political alliances based on moral outlooks that he named with a clear bias. (see page 2)

Here he tries to remove himself from the rankings but his rhetoric signifies a preference. The weight of the language on one side versus the other induces this effect. He produced this ranking without reference, except noting that these are his own observations at a single campus.

After displaying a chart of associative terms he goes on to implicate Google's bias as lying on the left of his custom political spectrum. Shortly thereafter, he decries Google's particular bias as being harmful. Harmful to nobody in particular, so an assumed ethereal everybody... or himself. In fact, he spends most of the rest of the paper decrying left-handed politics as he's defined them, and continues to define them. (Here his reference is to a WSJ editorial article, hosted offsite. Their editorial sections are generally known to be significantly right-leaning. It's full of conjecture without proofs in between notes about studies.)

I found this particular passage interesting:

>Communism promised to be both morally and economically superior to capitalism, but every attempt became morally corrupt and an economic failure. As it became clear that the working class of the liberal democracies wasn’t going to overthrow their “capitalist oppressors,” the Marxist intellectuals transitioned from class warfare to gender and race politics. The core oppressor-oppressed dynamics remained, but now the oppressor is the “white, straight, cis-gendered patriarchy.”

Now while it's a footnote, he's making severe assertions about history with no references at all.

He's also quite enthusiastically twisting the content of his sources to suit his needs. For instance, in the Scientific American article where he derives his "PC-Authoritarian" term to label Google the author of the SA article attributes that to people who declare biological differences as the source of group differences. Of course I have my suspicions he didn't use this term specifically so he could cry vindication once he was fired, but that's just me. The article in fact uses the term "PC-egalitarian"[0] (an apparent other end of the PC political spectrum) who debut programs for specific diverse groups of people to increase their inclusion in the larger community by a sort of 'hand-up'. He evades this point completely.

I could go further but it I'll try to boil down to my point, before I end up writing an essay myself.

He's pushing a hard-right ideology. One that evidenced itself by tangential ramblings about communism in the footnotes, linking to dubious blog and editorial sources (even if they were written by scientists, there are more opinion pieces than are warranted being[1]), and he's repeating (in more "smart" rhetoric than usual) far-right talking points.[2] Further, he wants to be allowed to use Google as a forum where he can say whatever he wants, and will probably cry "transgressors" if somebody tells him to stop being an asshole.

[0] "PC-Egalitarians tended to attribute a cultural basis for group differences, believed that differences in group power springs from societal injustices, and tended to support policies to prop up historically disadvantages groups. Therefore, the emotional response of this group to discriminating language appears to stem from an underlying motivation to achieve diversity through increased equality, and any deviation from equality is assumed to be caused by culture. Their beliefs lead to advocating for a more democratic governance."

[1] Majority right-wing news editorial sections, blogs that exist on scientific websites, and political studies that took place in Europe where the base level "conservatism" is probably closer to American centrism citing the conscientiousness of conservatives.

[2] Personally, it sounds like it came right out of the halls of "red pill/mens rights" forums. They will brigade an intellectual-sounding attempt at legitimacy once in a while by attempting to veil their ideas in a shroud of sloppy rhetoric and tertiary-source material.

The paper's primary focus seems to be removing the programs that were put in place to aid diversity by setting up programs for historically disadvantaged groups, and railing on the "left".

Just in case anybody was wondering: http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/08/who-is-james-damore-fired...


What does "it's science" mean? Do you mean to say it's fact based? Because that's not the same thing. Science is a careful application of the scientific method. Damore did not do that. Instead, it seems this author is using the term science instead of factual because a) it sounds more credible and b) alliteration.


> 5 of them have now spoken up saying that.

Who's the 5th? We've got the 4 from the Quillette article and ...?


Er, the one this entire thread is about. Click the link to the Globe and Mail. It's written by a neuro-scientist.


Who is one of the 4 people from Quillette article (Dr Soh) which still leaves us with 4!


> If the main argument is that women do not [by nature of our scientific understanding] have minds tuned to engineering prowess to the extent that men do for whatever cause, then just how does that itself prescribe that we should stop pushing for an expansion there?

You are wrong in this assumption. I am going to try to explain it. We have group A and group B with different genetics. We measure everybody in the groups A and B in a particular skill and we get the average of A is lower than B. We are not saying everybody of A has lower skill than B (it could be the case but we cannot say anything without knowing the distributions). For this particular case the ranges of scores for A and B overlap a lot. It means that if you take someone from group A and someone from group B, it is more probably that the person from group B have a better score than the person of A, but you find a lot of cases where someone from group A is better than the person of group B. If you repeat this a lot of times and take the winners you would end up with more people from B than for A. But all those people are better than the one you don't selected and probably have the same average for the skill.

What does it means in tech? that you see less women in tech positions but the ones that are there are as same as good or better than the men. In other professions will happen the opposite.

Note: I am taking account only the genetic part, but there is one part that is based on the environment that can lead to sexim and alter the final distribution of the selected people. And this unfortunately happens and we should try to prevent it without having unrealistic goals in selection distributions.


The point is, many people feel very bad at the thought that the distribution you mention exists. Some feel it's not something inherent and can be changed.


> Some feel it's not something inherent and can be changed.

That's a fair position. But it's not an indisputable position, clearly. The biggest issue here isn't about whether there are fair points against the google manifesto. It's about whether thoughts, hypotheses, and opinions like this are harmful and punishable.

> ...many people feel very bad...

And many people feel bad that someone expressed himself earnestly in good faith and has been treated this way. Do we decide where to go from here from how people feel? How do we decide which feelings are important to us?


I think he was fired because he offended people in the company (with his opinions). If this is the case they should fire everybody because someone is going to be offended by the opinions of others. I found very stupid what google did without taking some time to analyse what happened and the consequences. The research community is turning against google with this type of articles now.


Nobody asked for his opinion, though. You arent required to voice your opinions. He shared his thoughts and now he deals with the reactions. Just like he is entitled to his opinions, those of others should be respected. Thats life. He was treat horribly? Who initiated the treatment? He did with his 10 page write-up.


> Who initiated the treatment? He did with his 10 page write-up.

No, the person or persons that leaked it to the press did that.

Will google go on a witch hunt to fire all those people too? Likely not...


> Nobody asked for his opinion, though.

I though google was an open company when anyone can raise a concern when they feel like. It is what the CEO said after firing him probing that the company is not that open.

He send the manifest to a select closed group of people, not all the company. But it got leaked. You can blame him and you can also blame all the people who get angry with his opinions, because his intention was to improve the company not hurting people.


The more important point is, that when people feel strongly about something, facts presented that counter their opinion trigger cognitive dissonance. That's why nearly everyone I follow on Twitter was complaining about a memo (usually calling it a manifesto) that had little to nothing to do with the one I read.


I want to take your example one step further to see if I understand what you are implying.

If you select all persons from groups A and B that pass a certain threshold, then you will have a smaller number of A than B. Let's say the split is 40% A and 60% B.

We then analyze the population at our company and find we have 7% A and 93% B. Does this mean the company has a bias towards B, and needs to take special action to search for more A candidates to bring the ratio closer to 40/60?

It's not a question of "diversity", just an optimal hiring algorithm - the company is not utilizing a pool of hireable people in a time of scarcity, and its in their best interest to source more from that pool.

Of course the math gets more complicated when the supply of A is drastically different than the supply of B.


> Does this mean the company has a bias towards B, and needs to take special action to search for more A candidates to bring the ratio closer to 40/60?

Without more information maths says you probably have a bias. I am assuming your company is big enough and the pool of candidates represents the 40/60.

I not sure I understood your point, can you explain it more?


Bringing it back to the manifesto: he used the gender difference as an argument against special programs to hire more women, but this should only apply if Google has already achieved the optimal ratio.

His argument is moot if Google still does need further optimization in its gender ratios. I don't know what the real-world ratio is for this problem, but it appears the author of the manifesto doesn't either?


His argument was that given A and B they were choosing B because is a woman, regardless of the skills for the position. Some people here also say the gender diversity programs in google are only for sourcing people, that the hiring process is the same (in which case the author of the doc is wrong in his assumptions).

Also another argument from him was that 50/50 is impossible to achieve and if you do you are being unfair and lowering the bar for one of the classes.

The real ratio in unknown, but some people here commented that you can get some approximation taking into account the graduates, the statistics about the applications etc. But for sure the ratio is not going to be 50/50 and positive discrimination is still discrimination.

So, as you said, if you don't know the real ratio why do you have positive discrimination policies? You might be doing it wrong. I think this is the discussion he wanted to bring, review the diversity programs because they can harm the company creating an artificial proportion far from the reality. Given that some other actions could be made like adding more "female skills" to the positions for example. Instead of starting a discussion of this issues based on his biological theory most people pointed at him as a sexits and other stuff. And Google shut him up firing him. So now noone will raise any concern because you can be fired.

To sum up: the big issue is that they are not having the conversation we are having here now, regardless of who is right or wrong.


The on-site Google interview process has 2 steps. The first is the usual, get grilled by 4/5 engineers on technical issue, that is broken up by a lunch with hiring manager in the middle. The feedback from interviews are submitted with candidate application to a hiring committee, whom makes a hire/no-hire decision.

Would the diversity program at Google encourage the committee members to looks for biases against female/minority candidates and compensate accordingly? In essence, giving the said candidate more benefit of the doubt than male/Asian candidates? All candidate passed the technical bar, but may be treated differently based on their ethnicity/gender at the hiring committee, with preference for minority/female candidates.


I know how is the process from the external point of view, but, what is the feedback they submit? Here is where the bias of the hiring process could be (like only considering skills more likely to be in men).

> Would the diversity program at Google encourage the committee members to looks for biases against female/minority candidates and compensate accordingly?

I don't know, and I would want to know how the really work. One girl here commented she was hired by one of this programs, so at least I know the candidate know he/she is in on of this programs when they apply. Other girl commented that she heard in one of her interviews (I don't know the company): "+1 point because you are a girl and diversity make us pay less taxes". I wouldn't be surprised if something like this also happens internally at Google. A googler also said the hiring process is the same for everybody, but giving the evidence of the document I don't think is exactly the same.

I cannot say more. I do not have more information. If you find it, let me know.


I would like to sit in one of those hiring committee meetings too, or read a transcription. Anyway, I believe Google gets so many qualified candidate that, just like Ivy League colleges, it has lots of leeway on who to hire/reject without affecting quality of their engineers in any measurable way.


You are missing the trees for the forest. Your argument is on individual skills in a distribution within a gender. Have you considered how gender distribution within a team may affect productivity? This is the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Even if we hire more of group B and we end up with a lower average of a particular skill in the team, if productivity goes up as a result, then it is still a good hiring practice.

The memo, and your argument, is all about summing the parts instead of measuring the whole.


First your comment of missing the trees for the forest didn't add anything to the discussion.

1) If you hire more from group B other company cannot hire them. So you will have imbalance in another place. You don't solve the problem but move it to another company.

2) Skills usually are related. If you need some set of skills for a position I don't see how not having them is going to increase the productivity.

3) I never said we are assigning the right skills to the positions. I strongly believe that we should have more "female" skills in more tech positions because they add value and we are not doing it now.

4) When you are not good at one skill you don't want to have a position where that skill is valuated. You are happy working in positions that fit the skills you have. This fact decrease the number of women that want go into tech because they don't like it. We can solve this if we add more "female" skills to tech positions and learn to assess everybody by their skills even when they are different.


1) Are you saying there aren't enough qualified women to hire? I agree. Hiring more women then creates competition which would increase their pay and make their jobs more attractive to more women. What's the problem?

2-4) I get the feeling we're probably on the same side but maybe arguing for it differently. I think tech positions already need "female" skills (however sexist that may sound) but we just ignore it in favor of programming abilities as if we all work in silos. That's just my opinion.


> Hiring more women then creates competition which would increase their pay and make their jobs more attractive to more women.

Women are one of the groups you can hire. Salaries would only increase if you force the companies to have a higher number of women that they are really are (supply/demand).

> I think tech positions already need "female" skills (however sexist that may sound) but we just ignore it in favor of programming abilities as if we all work in silos.

Exactly this. What I am saying is that the solution might be to put those skills in written for those job positions and taking them into account in the hiring process. I think we are not doing it now. Also creating programs to teach everybody that other skills are also valuable for the job, and not because we don't have them we should under valuate who have them. I think something like this was the goal of the person who wrote the doc, but unlikely us, they fired him before open a discussion like we are doing now. In the first comments it seemed that we were having different opinions and look now, it wasn't really the case.

Sorry for the "female skills" sentence. I only wanted to explain it in an easy way. Those skills I refer like empathizing or social skills are more frequent in women but they are in men too.

EDIT: to make clear my position about the salaries: same position = same salary (no discussion here, if you want different salaries justify that person should be in a different position with more/less salary)


>If the main argument is that women do not [by nature of our scientific understanding] have minds tuned to engineering prowess to the extent that men do for whatever cause, then just how does that itself prescribe that we should stop pushing for an expansion there?

That's not the main argument and I think you should re-read the "manifesto" if that's what you walked away with.


Please define what's Regressive about plain facts...

> it's starting to get to me how so many people in an innovative sphere seem to have such a hard time with this

The prevailing (cultural) attitude is clearly against plain facts. The question should be why the prevailing attitude is against facts and real solutions but embraces lies and bad solutions. That is what is getting to intelligent people no matter their sphere.

> If the main argument is that women do not [by nature of our scientific understanding] have minds tuned to engineering prowess to the extent that men do for whatever cause

It's not an argument that women's brains are structural and chemically different than a male's brain. Also, there are time tested (1000s of years of history) of observations as to what these differences (generally) manifest in. This is also not an argument.

> then just how does that itself prescribe that we should stop pushing for an expansion there

Socially, you can do whatever you want. However, each such action caries consequences. A company that silences inconvenient truths and doesn't promote those capable of root cause analysis but instead promotes group think centered on flawed thinking and those that skirt around root causes will face the consequences of such a decision. As far as I'm concerned, it's a self-correcting problem. There are plenty of giant corporations in history that are no longer known for similar such missteps.

The rest of your post is filled with hand waiving and appeal to extremes. One group is presenting facts backed by sound logic and science you're resorting to demonization, appeal to extremes, and asserting intelligent people are incapable of philosophical/humanistic conjectures whereas observation proves the exact opposite. What's isn't the scope of a non-intelligent uninformed person is any higher minded thinking or analysis yet they feel the need to constantly interject their half witted opinion into matters and strong arm intelligent people's more accurate and thought out commentary. In the age of intelligence, it will be the half witted opinions that get disposed of and the opinions of entities in support of it and for good reason so that we can truly explore our humanity and our reach without being stunted by those who seek to hold back the truth or progress that can be made embracing it.



Inferiority nor superiority was argued. So, quite frankly, this doesn't fall into this category. You can admit to a difference without falling privy to pseudo-science. Men and women's brains are structurally and chemically different as is each individual's unique brain. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that this manifests itself in real-world observable differences.

Misapplying a wikipedia link brings zero support to the parent comment. It possibly demonstrates that you have no truthful, factual, or logically sound arguments against the facts/science that have been stated thus can only resort to demonization .. Aka trying to thinly imply what has been presented is scientific racism.

I'm African American and I'd hire this guy in a minute. Why? because I can be assured that he is capable of sound root cause analysis and wont hold back his tongue w.r.t to presenting his findings... Even if the document was 100% about the inadequacies of African Americans, Id still give him the opportunity to debate and highlight his supporting data/arguments. This is not grounds to be fired. This is grounds for a promotion.

This is invaluable in engineering... The fact that company's in the valley have grown so high and mighty that they feel that such people are dispensable is a clear sign to me that the current tech giants have no place in the future of technology that is set to unfold... As such, the problem quite clearly will resolve itself.

Good luck discovering and developing the future of technology when you can't stomach viewpoints beyond the least common denominator social consensus.... I'm so glad I ignored google's attempts to recruit me as a quota hire... which is a whole other discussion on its own (hiring minorities for market/social currency and to pad your statistics while throwing them into b.s roles that don't allow them to develop further). I went through enough of that crap in my internships. Ironically,many times I was overqualified yet constantly was looked at and treated like the dumb minority who is there to fill a seat.

The problem and wrong minded culture that select people have embarked and forced on society is clearly going to fix (sink) itself.


You'd maybe hire him, but would you expect a team that consists of at least a few women to work with him? That's the point here, I think. He's made it impossible for some people(at his position or higher) to work with him, and that makes it an easy choice to fire him.


What does this prove? At some point in time, unscientific, racist practice was called science? It even says "pseudoscientific" in the article. If you are claiming that the citations in the memo are an example of pseudoscience, the burden is on you to demonstrate.


>Please define what's Regressive about plain facts...

I think they are saying that descriptive scientific observations have limited utility as prescriptive devices if we are to make progress because descriptions are based on how things have been rather than how things could be (or even could have been).

Especially in soft sciences, the /cause/ of what is described can be hard to reliably tease out. To assume the same cause is an unchangeable aspect of the human condition and that cause, even if true, will only ever lead to one end-state is often a mistake.


You put it far more elegantly than I did.


> edit: Wanted to add, a PhD of neurosexuality is probably one of the last people I would consult on philosophy, humanism or any kind of larger social issue. It's not exactly her scope. It does help to have an expert on the subject chime in on the science, though. It will help at least dispose of that less useful side of the discussion.

Please respect all the researches, they usually read out of their main topic to get more data and more opinions. She works in neursexuality and probably has read a lot more from philosophers, humansims and other larger social research than you.


I wasn't disrespecting her work. In this discussion, though, her writing on the hard science being referenced is extremely valuable. Her giving a conclusive statement on the intent of the original author muddies the pool a little bit.

I keep hearing "well the scientists say so!", but it's simply not enough. For instance, I am enamoured with the work of physicists and their unique ability to explain the beauty of the "clockwork of the universe", so to speak. Outside of my personal sphere, I wouldn't consult a PhD Physics for advice on breaking up a fight between friends, necessarily.

Also, I didn't attack anyone here so please leave the ad hominem jabs at home.

edit: typo


Sorry to disagree and with all my respects I find you attacked her when you under valuate her job in the topic compared with other professionals. It is exactly her topic of research and you throw her away.


I didn't attack her at all, nevermind on her work in Neurosexuality. Frankly, it's a subject I know nothing about and have no position to do so.

I did imply that it's no more her position to conclude the subject of the original essay than anybody else's, and cautioned against taking words of any number of scientists as canon on the understanding of both the original essay and any social implications it may or should have.

edit: Rereading my original statement, I could have certainly made my implication more clear. I'll concede that point.


Probably you missunderstood what neurosexuality mean. It is a mix of philosophy, psychology, social sciences, physics and biology. That is why I think it is very relevant for the topic. I didn't mean to attack you, but I would like to people to consider her opinions too. Some people trend to discard what doesn't fit with their opinions too quickly and this leads to problems


I can assure you, I didn't misunderstand what it means.


In fact, there's at least as much text in the memo devoted to ideas about how to help women in tech, as there is about differences between the sexes.


"If the main argument is that women do not [by nature of our scientific understanding] have minds tuned to engineering prowess to the extent that men do for whatever cause"

The main argument isn't about prowess; it's about preference.


But if other countries have more equal representation in tech, India and Malaysia for example, then doesn't the biological argument fall apart? The difference isn't between men and women but between America and other countries.


Not really, the societies are too different to draw such conclusions. In less gender egalitarian societies a women without income is at the mercy of a sexist society. In more gender egalitarian societies, there is more social support and safety for women at lower economic levels. So in these less gender egalitarian societies, the drive to secure income is much greater and thus you would expect women to take lucrative but otherwise unappealing jobs. In societies where these pressures don't exist you would expect women to be less attracted to income in career choice. And this is how it plays out.


Yes, this is exactly how it plays out. This isn't proof, in itself, but it does seem to have predictive power as a theory:

"Galpin investigated the percent of women in computer classes all around the world. Her number of 26% for the US is slightly higher than I usually hear, probably because it’s older (the percent women in computing has actually gone down over time!). The least sexist countries I can think of – Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, etc – all have somewhere around the same number (30%, 20%, and 24%, respectively). The most sexist countries do extremely well on this metric! The highest numbers on the chart are all from non-Western, non-First-World countries that do middling-to-poor on the Gender Development Index: Thailand with 55%, Guyana with 54%, Malaysia with 51%, Iran with 41%, Zimbabwe with 41%, and Mexico with 39%. Needless to say, Zimbabwe is not exactly famous for its deep commitment to gender equality."

Source: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagger...


It's the same concept as FU money. In societies with poor gender equality, having financial independence is a crucial and powerful defense against societal injustice.


For what it's worth, the stuff I've read on societies that flatten our social pressures for job roles, specifically the most egalitarian societies like in Scandinavia, have larger exaggerations of traditional job preference for the sexes rather than more equal distribution.

I don't think it's clear why both of these occur however and I haven't been convinced that people who try to derive a position solely off societal level trends tend to do anything other than show off their ideological preference on both ends of the debate.


> more equal representation in tech, India and Malaysia for example

Places where women also have less choice / self-determination. When women get to choose their career path, they do not choose tech. That is the relevant correlation suggested as a cause.


Not necessarily. These populations may have, for genetic reasons, a smaller gendered difference in tech interest.

The "young males prefer trucks, young females prefer dolls" split is also found in chimps FWIW.

Interest drives practice and practice drives skill.


It would truly be strange if genetic divergence over approximately 100,000 years (between these populations) ended up affecting a behavioral trait that has only been important for about 100 years in one of these populations. Well, it might not be strange if humans had the same generation time as insects. But for a species with generation time of 20 years, this is a very unlikely hypothesis IMO.


It could as well have diverged by accident. Sexual dimorphism in these kind of interest may not have any evolutional impact, but be affected by genes that were close to other genes that improve male fertility for example. The closer two genes are on a chromosome, the more likely they are to be selected together.


Your position is scientifically illiterate but I suppose it's worth pointing out why: It would require basically one gene to control these complex behavioral traits, which is implausible. Moreover, such a strong, population-specific, selective force on the human genome does not exist, which we know from population genomics studies. Therefore, what you are arguing here is factually wrong.


Ever heard of SRY ?


... and more generally homeobox genes, SRY was taken as a blatant example of a single gene that controls many different traits, both micro and macroscopic. There are plenty of others.

Even more generally, transcription factors, and the way they cascade.


I think that a lot of the noise this whole thing drummed up as been a bit more about both.

The major concerns being how some perceive their prowess -- and who's preference is really deciding the solutions.

Aside: I've been around enough people in the general field to have heard enough thoughts about women in tech... and they're too often ill-reasoned and ill-positioned (relating to prowess and potential)... but that's more circumstantial, I admit.


>If the main argument is that women do not [by nature of our scientific understanding] have minds tuned to engineering prowess to the extent that men do for whatever cause, then just how does that itself prescribe that we should stop pushing for an expansion there?

That's not the main point. We need to establish truth first, then act on it.

What is discussed here is the underlying truth, not how we should act on this truth.


"He used science to reason out a way to revert to a state of community where he stands to gain more."

This is spot on right here and the main difference between the memo and this article. The memo might have cited real science but it arrived at grossly inappropriate conclusions.


> it arrived at grossly inappropriate conclusions

Which conclusions were inappropriate, specifically? The memo I read made several suggestions that would only help women in tech. If that's "inappropriate", then it proves his broader point: our biggest diversity problem is really the lack of diversity of thought.

If any of the conclusions are wrong, then no amount of shouting or complaining should be necessary; just refute the basis of those conclusions using facts rather than feelings.


You must have missed the parts in the end where he advocated measures that systemically undermined diversity measures (let's not make this a moral issue, have less empathy, be more rational). While all of those arguments make sense individually, together they take down any diversity in thought: left side brain good, right side brain bad.

What we need more in this discussion is more emotional intelligence, not less.


> left side brain good, right side brain bad

We're programmers/engineers, not painters/artists. Hence I don't see where that statement doesn't hold absolutely true for us. (Except perhaps for management, team leads and entrepreneurs.)


My friend, engineering's primary purpose is empathic in nature.

Have a quick look at new pursuits such as:

http://www.engineering.cornell.edu/magazine/features/empathy...

https://phys.org/news/2015-11-empathy-faculty.html

I could discuss this at length because it's a subject that really interests me, and I'm severely biased because I started out in the humanities with my main pursuit being an understanding of the human condition. I've brought those learnings with me into my current software engineering career and it's serving me well.

Simple being able to place yourself in the shoes of an end user, rather than dictating to them what they necessarily have to learn (and even better, when you know they should learn something with improved understanding of how to implement such a feature) saves everybody a lot of time and frustration. Your estimates will improve in accuracy as well. You'll see less scope-creep.

It's especially important in critical-systems work.

Plus I consider it a bit of a boon to someones character if they care about what they're putting into the world. Most people do. Hint: it won't inhibit your technical understanding.


As I understand, you're saying that empathy is vital for assessing requirements. That's precisely why I mentioned management and team-leads as being likely exceptions.

(But each manager or lead usually has more than one report, so there are likely very few managers/leads compared to everyone else. Hence the general sentiment.)


But not every engineer works in environments or on projects with those roles in place. Beyond that not everyone has the resources available to work with UX teams and proper designers. And if one is in the younger class of engineers, chances are more likely one will be exposed to a wider variety of situations where they'll face the need of or benefits of being expose to better understanding human beings (being one of them) -- especially having entered a market where long-term employment is on the downslide, and experience is more project-based or transient.


This is how you end up with a convoluted technical solution that takes a month to program, instead of just talking to the business to adjust the requirement and turn it into a couple hours of work.


> inappropriate conclusions

"Inappropriate conclusions" resembles "thought crimes" applied to a corporate/social context.

I'm fine if people think his conclusions are "incorrect", "garbage", "shoddy", "poorly argued", "unsubstantiated", and a whole host of other adjectives. These are all responses that can be part of a discussion, even a healthy one in the right context.

But "inappropriate" is a lot more puritanical. It implies the thoughts are unwelcome and should be shunned (or worse). It implies that the appropriate response isn't reason-based but power-based. Some power is social (shunning, blacklists, twitter shaming) and some is corporate (HR training, formal reprimands, notes in files, demotions, firings).


This is toxic postmodernist/feminist dogma.

It frames everything through a lens of identity power struggles. Therefore, whether an argument is scientific and factual is secondary to what identity group the person making it belongs to, and what their group stands to gain from it.

This ideological lens is anti-science, anti-cooperation, extremely racist/sexist and ultimately focused on only one objective: reducing the power of the group perceived as being at the top of the social dominance hierarchy.


The author of the memo framed his argument in exactly this way.

To quote the memo:

"As it became clear that the working class of the liberal democracies wasn’t going to overthrow their “capitalist oppressors,” the Marxist intellectuals transitioned from class warfare to gender and race politics. The core oppressor-oppressed dynamics remained, but now the oppressor is the “white, straight, cis-gendered patriarchy.”"

The author literally thinks 'Left' policies are part of a Communist power struggle.

If the above comment is toxic, then so is the original memo.


[flagged]


And here I thought I was just a capitalist who believes that people should all be given an equal shot to choose their own path in life and that how things have been does not necessarily dictate how things should be.

Turns out I'm a hateful, dogmatic, sexist racist as well as a malevolent nihilist, postmodern feminist, and a Marxist to boot.

Thanks for clearing that up.

Those -isms really snuck up on me (they really are an insidious bunch, aren't they?). Good thing there are people out there that know way more about people's position and why they have them than they do themselves. Otherwise, we may have to picture the world we want to live in and work toward it without thought to all of the pseudo-cruft attached to specific iterations of ideas throughout history in various places and times by specific individuals that some people might highlight and promote as The One Truth of an Idea to further their own political agenda. It's all very obvious, now that you bring it up.


I did not say that you're a "hateful, dogmatic, sexist racist". I said that postmodernism and feminism are.

Very few people subscribe to all of the beliefs of a particular ideological and philosophical framework. But the tenets of an ideology are there, even if a particular adherent is unaware of them.

An ideology manifests itself in its effects on the world. In postmodernism and feminism, we see that in the completely dogmatic and anti-science reaction to the memo. Here was a memo that was produced in good faith, stayed fully within the realm of established science in its assertions, and within the realm of the reasonable in its opinion, and yet we have absolute lies being trotted out by its critics about its content, and an ideologically motivated firing of its author.

This is not an accident. It's a result of an anti-science dogma that frames the world as a power struggle between identity group, and where facts are only acceptable when they aid in the fulfilment of the postmodernist/feminist agenda: which is to flatten the social dominance hierarchy that, according to the postmodernist/feminist framework, is formed by various identity groups. This is inspired by Marxism (as the historical record shows), whether or not you personally identify as a Marxist yourself.


That's your point of view (and likely the author would agree with you). Let me explain mine.

I see the memo and the citations it trots forth, not as an authoritative treatise with well sourced, scientifically sound backing, but as a cherry picked hodge-podge of descriptive science (where the citations were, in fact, scientific publications - many were blog posts and opinion pieces) abused to support a prescriptive framework.

This is not an anti-science position. It is a position that understands the limitations of science. A scientific fact that may successfully describe the past or current condition doesn't consider other states that could have happened under similar conditions and certainly doesn't lock us into a way forward. Descriptive science can tell us the process that gave giraffes their long neck but doesn't have much to say about why other creatures didn't select for long necks as well under similar conditions but instead found a different niche nor does it have anything to say about niches left unfilled. It also doesn't have much to say about what giraffes will look like in 10,000 years under different conditions. It's the difference between analysis and synthesis. Turning successful analysis into successful synthesis is only possible under very simple conditions relative to the messiness of the world[1] and the complex and chaotic interactions that are possible. Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of human behavior.

This is one reason the memo only had the veneer of reasonableness. Either the author was unaware of what he was doing (deeply misguided but in good faith) or thought others would not catch on to the bait and switch (in which he was promoting his own agenda in bad faith). I lean toward the former since he seems genuinely surprised that other people had a problem with his analysis and cherry picking facts and abusing statistics to make a political point is very common (on the other side of the political specturm too, of course).

[1]Which is why we've had better luck as a species crafting synthesis in different fields from mathematics -- building from the ground up rather than trying to tease the relevant parts from the morass where we are in danger of missing important ingredients or making effort killing assumptions.


The article that is linked here is written by a PhD in sexual neuroscience, and defends the claims made in the memo as scientifically valid.

Instead of responding to the memo, and proving the assertions contained in it wrong, Google's executives fired him, and Google VP Daniele Brown justified the reaction by claiming that the memo advanced "incorrect assumptions about gender".

And you claim this is not an expression of dogmatism, and is not hostile to science, which I see as yet another manifestation of this anti-science dogmatism.

>A scientific fact that may successfully describe the past or current condition doesn't consider other states that could have happened under similar conditions and certainly doesn't lock us into a way forward.

That's a sweeping and over-simplistic generalisation, and trying to justify the extreme rejection of and intolerance toward the memo based on it is a stretch, to say the least.

The individual was fired for stating facts and an opinion (which any society that values rational debate and dialogue will tolerate) that went against an unscientific dogma. A dogma that is as certain of the correctness of its own conjecture about gender as it is about the inapplicability of science to understanding statistical differences between genders in socioeconomic outcomes. An individual, especially a male, is not permitted to express an opinion that contradicts the dogma on the causes of differences in gender outcomes, and the proper reaction to said differences.

That's what the Google engineer's firing demonstrates.


You've been posting like this over and again. It amounts to waging ideological battle on a site that exists for thoughtful and considerate intellectually interesting discussion. Please don't, it's not what we're here for.


There is nothing to debate against, unfortunately. If I'm being repetitive, it's because the justifications for the firing are so utterly baseless.

Also, if the upvote/downvote ratio is any indication, many people appreciate my contributions, even if they're not agreeable.

One final point I'd add is that this is an explicitly ideological issue. A Google engineer was fired for violating Google's corporate ideology (on diversity and gender). There is no way to address the issue in a meaningful way without addressing said ideology.


You are just repeating yourself.

Let me ask this: what difference does the statistical differences found between genders in the general population matter for any small subset of that population?

If I had test scores from 1-1000 with 1 being the worst and 1000 being the best for a million people that match a normal distribution and I told you that I have a set of 10 that I picked non-randomly but I don't tell you how, what can you tell me about that sub-set of 10?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

What does it say about how that set of ten will do on the next test given only that you know the test will be an iteration on the last with some differences?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

So, why would it matter if, statistically, females exhibit certain behaviors more or less than males in the general population when applied to the subset that apply and work for Google?

Same. Answer.

What disturbs me (having Google stock, as many do) is how a person that doesn't understand this basic fact got past the Google hiring process and ended up an employee.


>what difference does the statistical differences found between genders in the general population matter for any small subset of that population?

With all due respect, this is an absurd question. Statistical differences between the genders in the general population will very plausibly cause differences in the representation of each gender in a particular field, like computer science.

Do I really need to elaborate more on why this is the case?

To claim that the causes of gender differences are a settled science, that agrees with the postmodernists and feminists, and so assuredly that an opinion based on a different interpretation deserves to be punished and otherwise ignored, is absolute nonsense.

If anything, the social constructionist position on gender differences has been thoroughly discredited by the experimental evidence, to the point where the media and Google's reaction to the memo is, without a doubt, an expression of anti-scientific dogma.


It is in no way an absurd question.

Google is not selecting their employees at random. Google is not promoting people at random. Google is not placing employees in a neutral environment relative to the rest of the population. Google is not providing neutral support to employees relative to the general population.

There is no reason to expect that their subset of the population should conform to a general population skew.

In short, plausibility =/= probably.

You repeat yourself a lot for someone who keeps bringing up dogma in this conversation like it means something in context. Can you point to my dogmatic position?

The guy was fired because he let everyone know that he is more than happy to point to descriptions of the general population and sinister world spanning conspiracy theories in order to maintain a dismissive and belittling attitude within the work environment toward women that happens to support a status quo that directly benefits himself rather than support the stated goals of the company.


>There is no reason to expect that their subset of the population should conform to a general population skew.

Absurd. Differences in the general population will translate into differences in the number of men that pursue CS and related fields, which will affect the gender composition of the applicant pool that Google recruits from.

>Can you point to my dogmatic position?

The dogma is in you ignoring and denying basic statistics and common sense in order to defend the ideological premise underlying Google's discriminative (affirmative action) policies.

>The guy was fired because he let everyone know that he is more than happy to point to descriptions of the general population and sinister world spanning conspiracy theories in order to maintain a dismissive and belittling attitude within the work environment toward women that happens to support a status quo that directly benefits himself rather than support the stated goals of the company.

This grossly mischaracterizes the content of the memo and the veracity of his arguments. Your comment displays utter and unscrupulous intolerance to opinions that disagree with your postmodernist viewpoint on gender.

It rejects the relevance of overwhelming empirical evidence on the causes of gender differences in the general population, that are manifestly relevant to gender representation in tech. Your comment embodies the prioritisation of dogma over science, and the willingness to use any means, including blatantly mischaracterizing the arguments made by ideological opponents in order to justify their being fired, to achieve one's ends.


Ok, since we asked you to stop doing this ideological boilerplate thing and you've repeatedly ignored us, we've banned this latest account. Would you please not create accounts to abuse Hacker News with?


You realize that science is ideological, epistemological, and political?

Edit: I appreciate all of the vote downs. Empiricism is as guilty in choosing models according to power dynamics as any ideological endeavor. See phrenology. To suggest science isn't political and ideological is absolutely delusional.


Is science not about finding the truth above all else?


Mm .... Maybe?

Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has the most relevant writing on this.


The search for truth is fundamentally epistemological. There is a fascinating dive into just what science is, when it began, etc.

One might disagree with his language, but this post is remarkably insightful to begin such a dive:

http://fucktheory.tumblr.com/post/57633497486/in-which-steve...


That is the postmodern anti-science belief, which assumes that truth is not really truth. It is just a device used in power struggles between identity groups. It's so extreme that there was actually paper published on feminist glaciology [1]. This is not science. It is just dogma and actually hostile to the principle of science as a pursuit of objective truth carried out by people of good faith.

[1] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0309132515623368


You should read a little about the history and sociology of science.


Feel free to explore what truth is. Hint: You will end up in epistemology. It is also clear you have never read a Postmodern text in your life.


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Who do you think defined notions of truth? Scientists? Or were scientists philosophers interested in epistemology?

No, not being a smart ass. "Science" as we know it today is an invention. It hasn't been around forever. It is relatively new. Yes it is political. Yes it is epistemological. Yes it is ideological.

In terms of social sciences, it is far harder than we like to think.

What we choose to measure, how we choose to measure it, what we choose to ignore, diversity of contexts, etc. are political and ideological decisions.

If you would be interested in reading a rather dense and difficult text, Foucault's Discipline and Punish might be of interest.


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You haven't read a single text that falls under the banner of Postmodern. Please stop using the term.

As the other commenter has noted, you need to historcise.

Continental philosophers didn't just plop onto the scene buoyed by multimillion dollar marketing budgets; the epistemology issues they raised are real. Your ridiculous claims of Marxist thought, Feminist thought, etc. betray your ignorance.

So yes, I disagree with every single one of your assertions, but RTFM isn't applicable here, so I avoided stating it outright. Your valuing and clinging of random opinion over informed knowledge is at least as telling as your initial professions. You may have been able to fake it around your equally uniformed peers.

Replace the term "Feminist" with "A person believing in equal rights for women" and your deeply seated, neurologically stuck repetition of misogynist statements rings clear across all communications.


The giants of postmodernism, like Jacques Derrida and Jean-Paul Sartre, were fanatically Marxist before they became postmodernists. They themselves described their philosophies as evolutions of Marxism. Derrida for his part described his outlook as carrying on the spirit of Marxism.

The philosophy very openly calls for deconstruction of all existing values and power structures, and a radical rejection of what the modernist interpreted as reason.

I think you are deliberately downplaying this element of postmodernist philosophy and I don't think you're doing the discussion any favors by casting your opponents as bigots.


I don't recall ever reading Derrida as a fervent Marxist. Sartre's somewhat predates postmodernist canon. Marx would be a bit of a grandfather in deconstruction. Hard not to move forward without acknowledging his presence[1].

> They themselves described their philosophies as evolutions of Marxism.

Citation needed certainly in the case of Derrida.

With that said, to have a peek at J's posts. Every single message is prefaced with the rubbish connection, and by suggesting that there is some lineage to Marx is giving the individual more credit than he is due. Doubly so that it is clear he has never read a Postmodern text.

Also, as I have been citing Foucualt, it might be worth noting that his view of power contrasted against Marx's.

To suggest that the toolbox of Postmodern thought is all Marxism and Feminist is absolutely ridiculous.

[1] In terms of critiquing capitalist thought alone it would be almost mandatory to explore Marxist thought. It would also seem that Derrida wasn't quite the Marxist cited. http://www.salon.com/2013/04/28/grappling_with_specters_of_m...


In Spectres de Marx Derrida describes a political movement that gets back to the roots of Marxism (and away from the supposed bastardization of Marxism that Leninism/Stalinism represented), so to speak, with a new deconstructionist coalition that continues in the "spirit of Marxism". The book was a crystalization of views he had developed over the preceding decades, when he had done the most to develop postmodernism.

While postmodernism differs from Marxism in many ways, and while its progenitors were inspired by and attempted to build on top of Marxism to different degrees, it certainly comes from the same intellectual tradition of radicalism, and advocacy of overthrowing power structures, as Marxism, and was formulated mostly by intellectuals that accepted several of the basic suppositions of Marxism.

This shouldn't be surprising, considering how prevalent Marxism was among French intellectuals in the postwar period.

As for whether Marxism has any redeeming value, I'd argue that even if it did, the recklessness of its attacks on the capital owning class, in concepts such as surplus value, exclude it as a perspective worthy of being given that level of respect. Marxism crosses a line in human relations that is hard to come back from, and hard to build a humanistic society on top of.


> The book was a crystalization of views he had developed over the preceding decades, when he had done the most to develop postmodernism.

Key point is that his readings of Marxism weren't central to his core tools of Postmodernism, nor is that reading indicative of any fervent Marxism from "before". Wrong on all counts.

> its progenitors were inspired by and attempted to build on top of Marxism to different degrees.

> and was formulated mostly by intellectuals that accepted several of the basic suppositions of Marxism.

Again, citation needed on the majority of the tenuous connections. You are being a tad too obsessive here.

Sorry, but being a green account to respond to my single post screams another J account. "The lady doth protest too much." The rest of your post? Equally misguided with nothing to do with Postmodernism, and less relating to the Foucaultian aspect I referenced.


The problem is Google fired this guy for distributing WRONG information. Wrong is the important word here.

If the information is right, it completely changes the case, and the guy was fired for Wrong reasons.

I hope he'll sue and win his job back (yes, I think Google needs this guy more than ever).


Nah, he was fired for drawing negative attention to Google. Whether he was right or not is irrelevant; if you publicly criticise the company you work for, on a "controversial" topic, getting fired is the expected outcome.


Google has been doing an excellent job drawing (the wrong kind of) attention to themselves, thank you very much.

High-visibility lawsuits have been brewing already:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/08/google-wo...

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/07/google-pa...


An internal memo isn't really the same as "publicly criticizing the company".


You are assuming above that the guy that wrote the memo leaked it to the press. I suspect that we all write memos for our work places that could get us fired IF WE LEAKED IT to the press. However, I have seen no mention that the memo author was in fact the person that LEAKED IT. When will Google fire that person or persons?


He should be the new D&I person. At least he has something more substantial to offer than doublespeak.


> If the main argument is that women do not [by nature of our scientific understanding] have minds tuned to engineering prowess to the extent that men do for whatever cause, then just how does that itself prescribe that we should stop pushing for an expansion there?

It doesn't. There are just different ways to get there.

One way is to eliminate unjust barriers that discourage females from participating in the industry. Another way is to explicitly discriminate against males. The second category has been used in practice and people reasonably object to it.

Not creating bias against men doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't eliminate any existing bias against women.

But it's also possible that even if we do strike down all the unjust barriers, most women would still prefer to be veterinarians or nurses or psychologists. Are we then supposed to pass laws to coerce them to become programmers?


> just how does that itself prescribe that we should stop pushing for an expansion there?

You are the only one being "prescriptive". If a class of people doesn't prefer (in aggregate) to do the kinds of work you want them to do, what right do you have to insist that it is better for them if they are forced to do this work? When did it become feminist to lecture women about the sort of work environment they should want?

You write as if you know what is best for society, yet where do you get this knowledge? It seems to me you do not even understand the points you are criticizing. The author of the Google piece was arguing that Google should change its work environment if it is serious about changing its workforce composition. He didn't tell women what they should want or how they should behave -- you are the only one doing that.


The practices at places like Google have been designed to get women who want to be in the field into the field. They're far from perfect. Being a straight white male in a progressive country and working at a larger corporation that is currently undergoing many of the same situations and issues that this whole thing is about -- I will likely be passed over to share the opportunity with people who traditionally have not even been given a chance to prove their ability. That's fine by me. I just have to adjust my trajectory. It's a great wide world with all kinds of wonder outside of optimized career paths.

To add, I started out as an English major. While I did well in most things I applied myself to, I spent the largest part of my youth studying humanities, the human condition, social mores (first hand, from the 'dirt' to the most pious), and art. I'm now back working in amongst the tech world, and studying science again, and that's how you have me here, contributing.

I'd also like to add that my grandmother was an early systems analyst and programmer (FORTRAN, COBOL) and had to work so hard to even be recognized that she wore it as a badge of honour the rest of her life. I didn't understand at the time she told me. I do now.

My mother on the other hand, left her career to look after my siblings and I to the chagrin of her feminista detractors who thought it was a move of weakness. She rallied against that her whole life, and I supported her then, too.

This wavering from one extreme to the other is really harmful, emotionally, on a large scale. However, sometimes we have to dig a little deep to make sure our colleagues, friends, and others get to see a little light. Somebody who's never had to struggle will never understand that fully.

The immediate and harsh backlash for proposing that science is not a good sole means for rationalizing how to work through social issues is pretty striking to me. Anyway, I never claimed to -- and certainly don't -- know what's best, but I know a slippery slope when I see one.


> That's fine by me. I just have to adjust my trajectory.

And silence your mouth? There is a big difference between "I'm fine with this" and "Anyone who isn't should be fired".


If I disagree with somebody, I can grab a megaphone and shout in their face, hit them, or try to start a civilized discussion.

If I'm not mistaken, he was fired for breaching the company's civil code of conduct. That's different than being fired for an idea. If I started onto my company's social intranet and posted essays citing references about why something should change, I'd probably face equal back lash because it's abrasive and not at all socially graceful. There's a lot of conjecture flying around in all directions...

Anyway that's a whole other discussion, because I primarily disagreed with his issue in the first place. His being fired was most likely twofold: he created a hostile atmosphere either knowingly, or because of social ignorance or naivete. This resulted in bad press, the whole lot, and corporations are [probably inarguably, on average] heartless institutions that seek to maintain an even keel -- bad press is bad for business. That's again a whole other discussion, but it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody.


> he was fired for breaching the company's civil code of conduct.

We've yet to hear details of what this really mean, and if this CoC is applied fairly. It sounds like the violation i a) based on a particular interpretation of the memo, or b) based on the subjective offense of other employees. This sounds like the "cultural fit" loophole of the left.

> That's different than being fired for an idea

Is it? Have all the ideas you want, just don't express them, even in forums than are specifically for that purpose? Why isn't the leaker being punished?

> If I started onto my company's social intranet

There are plenty liberal/left essays floating about the google intranets, this is not you average employer.

> he created a hostile atmosphere

Did he? The leaker, and those who misrepresented the content of the memo seem to be implicit in that.

> This resulted in bad press

So does any whistle-blower. But again - He did not leak the memo.


> There are plenty liberal/left essays floating about the google intranets, this is not you average employer.

Yeah, but do they call a third of their coworkers incompetent?

It's not the fact that it's an opinion piece, it's that it's a very tactless way of approaching the situation. I'm not defending the leaker here, but once it did get leaked, there really was little the company could do to keep him a productive member of the workforce.


> do they call a third of their coworkers incompetent

the memo doesn't either - If you disagree please quote the part that does.


Why are you attacking James for "regressive thinking" if you respect women and their choices? No-one is denying women autonomy and choice. Quite the contrary: James seems to be the only voice at Google defending their freedom to have group preferences at all.

And if you want to empower women in your own corporate environment you should read his paper carefully, since part of his criticism is that Google's diversity programs are self-defeating: trying to induce women into engineering by lying about the nature of the work rather than changing the corporate culture so it attracts more women in the first place.


We know where he doesn't get the knowledge.


> This guys post wasn't science. He used science to reason out a way to revert to a state of community where he stands to gain more

I don't think we should dismiss the ideas because of the person presenting them. In fact, the original Google Memo was written by a man in tech, but this open from Global and Mail was written by a woman in academia. What does she have to gain from the state of tech? Regardless, let's not focus on the people but instead on the ideas.

> how does that itself prescribe that we should stop pushing for an expansion there?

The call is not to stop pushing for an expansion there. It's that our approach is wrong. And we're not able to even see that our approach is wrong because in this liberal bubble we're not allowed to talk about the differences between men and women.


I'm just more of the opinion if Norway tried it and failed with the full weight of their government behind it from the educational level down, one of the most gender equal places on the planet, why does Google think it'll work?

http://vimeo.com/19707588

Their conclusion was ultimately that the more equality and freedom of choice you have for genders, the more uneven the split between genders in careers as preferences tend to skew by gender. You can't force 50% of women to like or want to be engineers. So the more they tried to give women a choice, have equal pay, etc, the greater the imbalance became. It certainly means many women can enter STEM positions when they want to and are just as good as their male counterparts, but the opposite was true as well, as they weren't just complaining about lack of women in STEM, but lack of men in fields like healthcare and teaching. The cognitive dissonance is that "equality" means everything has to be 50/50, and attempts to do so is naive and wasted effort.

That said treat people individually. If a coworker sucks at their job, stop thinking about it in relation to their gender, their are plenty of men in tech who just cruise or who are barely adequate or worse. Don't make it about their biology. But at the same time realize you can't force diversity either, it has to happen organically, all you can do is maybe let there be a little bit of fertilizer to help the process, and setting quotas or special programs just for certain people is not a formula for equality or natural increase in diversity or interest from typically under represented groups.

That said, its obvious Google is just as much trying to protect a legal position, these programs are in response to law suits or protection from law suits to say "we're doing something about this", even if they don't produce results. Just like the terrible sexual harassment videos and anti fraud videos you have to watch at work, that are more to check a box when legal issues arise then actually fix the problem (because in the end a company can only control a person's behavior or choices so much).


> ...just how does that itself prescribe that we should stop pushing for an expansion there?

Why do we need expansion there in the first place and where is the science behind that?


You are advocating for gender based discrimination, while (I think) saying and likely thinking you are not. To me, this is a very scary precedent as it will likely spread.


Wanted to add, an online commenter is probably one of the last people I would consult on philosophy, humanism or any kind of larger social issue. It's not exactly her scope.


Straight, white male online commenter here. Studied philosophy and humanities earlier in my adult life, and still do privately. Just so that's cleared up.


> Not much new here. This article is essentially just re-affirming all the scientific statements that were already made in the original memo, backed by links to scientific studies.

It's not the biological claims, it's the conclusions he draws from it.

Here's the thing. Let's stipulate that all the biological (and esp. neuroscience-related) claims are 100% true. What follows?

Let's look at nursing. Clearly, it should be a male-dominated profession, right? The work-life balance (all the night shifts) is horrible and the stress is high (lives in the balance and all that). This is a profession that women should not want, right?

Same for accounting. Few professions are less about people and more about things. No room for "gregariousness". Again, a man's job.

In contrast, management positions (at least mid-level leadership positions) should be a great fit for women. All about interacting with people and that "gregariousness".

Obviously, this is not how the real world works. My point is that we're dealing with wishy-washy criteria here that you can use to argue whichever way your personal biases lie. They are inherently unfalsifiable and hence, unscientific. It's like the story about the blind men and the elephant [1], drawing bold macrosociological conclusions from fairly raw biological and psychological data.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant


Very little of nursing is like that. Most nursing doesn't have lives in the balance most days. It does require being somewhat social with patients though.

You are forgetting one huge thing. Lots of women doing something make it automatically attractive to women just because it'll be common in their circles.


> Very little of nursing is like that.

You can make the same argument about IT. My point is not that what I'm saying is true, but that (like the macrosociological claims in the paper) it sounds plausible, yet is unfalsifiable and hence, unscientific.

> You are forgetting one huge thing. Lots of women doing something make it automatically attractive to women just because it'll be common in their circles.

I am not forgetting anything. My argument was in essence a reductio ad absurdum. If you want to advance a social argument why women are over- or underrepresented in certain professions and why Damore is therefore wrong, that would be an entirely separate argument. You're welcome to make it on your own, but I don't think the memo is worth that much of a time investment myself.


>>The work-life balance (all the night shifts) is horrible and the stress is high (lives in the balance and all that).

I think nursing trades stress for job security.

There are many places like this in tech world as well. SDET positions in most big web companies. First 1 - 3 line support groups in big outsourcing firms etc etc.

The job is stress full, but the return for that is not money, its job security.


I'm just gonna copy another comment I made elsewhere:

The problem is that the gender differences cited cannot, in aggregate, explain the 70/30 bias toward men in the industry.

There's a real similarity to the global warming debate, here. There are many factors that affect global mean temperature. For example, over the very long term, the sun will get brighter. But that can only account for an astonishingly tiny fraction of the warming observed on the planet.

Someone who wishes to debate honestly would admit that, while there are many factors that affect global mean temperature, the rise on CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is significant, and has a demonstrable effect on temperature, making it by far the strongest influencer.

Someone who wishes to debate dishonestly will use these other explanations as a method to muddy the debate and try and turn attention toward lesser factors that cannot explain the whole effect.

Now, if you look at this current "debate", yes, there are undoubtedly biological gender differences that can explain some male/female bias in engineering (among many other disciplines).

But no serious psychologist or sociologist would claim that those differences can account for the dramatic real world bias in the industry. It simply doesn't follow.

So to claim those gender differences lie at the root of bias in the industry is a distraction. At best it's a gross misunderstanding of the science and statistics. At worst, it's a deliberately dishonest attempt to muddy the waters and confuse the debate. Personally, my bet is it's more the former than the latter.


> But no serious psychologist or sociologist would claim that those differences can account for the dramatic real world bias in the industry. It simply doesn't follow.

What's your evidence for this? Debrah Soh, the author supposedly has a PhD in sexual neuroscience so one would think she is qualified to make comments about this. And although I can't confirm this myself, the article does say that societies with greater gender equity also have greater gender gaps due to the differences in what each gender values.


Well, if we're going to just appeal to authority, I guess I'll do the same:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sexual-personalities/20...

The article points out that for most of the biases cited in the memo, the differences are on the order of a few percentage points, which cannot account for the real-world outcomes we see. To quote:

Still, I think it's important to keep in mind that most psychological sex differences are only small to moderate in size, and rather than grouping men and women into dichotomous groups, I think sex and sex differences are best thought of scientifically as multidimensional dials, anyway (see here).

To be honest, I'm not sure how Ms. Soh can seriously argue the merits of the memo, here. Yes, technically the memo is not itself inaccurate, in that there are gender biases that result in practical population-level effects. But how one can seriously use those facts to conclude that the 70/30 population split in the valley is a product of those differences, I really don't know, unless confirmation bias is at play. It just doesn't make any sense.

Heck, just looking historically it doesn't follow... it's not like the biases we see are inevitable. Our industry used to have a different composition. And other STEM fields have seen gender disparities even out. So neither facts nor history support the conclusion.


I'm not sure anybody who has read studies about biological preferences claims that they explain the 70/30 population split. That would be ludicrous.

What nobody seems to consider is that an initial small biological difference may very well be amplified into a large cultural preference over time, due to network effects. A self fulfilling prophesy, if you will.

I'm just speculating here, but it seems plausible to me, at least.


Debrah Soh's explanation leaves a bit to be desired. She claims:

> Lower levels are associated with a preference for people-oriented activities and occupations. This is why STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields tend to be dominated[1] by men.

Using this source [1]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19883140

But the published article makes no claim about any causation between STEM preference and actual employment in a field. We can only speculate on causation.

I know in my job as a programmer there is certainly a great deal of "Social" interaction. Agile programming certainly benefits from "Conventional" thinking that women prefer. A graphic designer on my team is highly "Artistic" and we pull him into design decisions for engineering choices all the time.


It is interesting to me that this major claim is the one that has no citations supporting it. The other references detailing multivariate distinctions in gender morphology all go to pains to point out that most univariate measures have huge amounts of overlap, and pull the distinctions out of groupings of variables.

So why did Debrah Soh neglect to provide supporting citations for the claim that societies with greater gender equity have greater gender career gaps, given that it's the one most central to supporting the Anti-Diversity Manifesto?

Is Debrah going to dispute the claim that Engineers — having to deal with people — need "soft" skills? Is she going to claim that all STEM work is necessarily playing with wheeled toys?

How does Debrah explain that "Gender equality closes the math gap[1]"?

"For science literacy, while the USA showed the largest gender difference across all OECD nations, d = .14, gender differences across OECD nations were non-significant, and a small female advantage was found in non-OECD nations, d=-.09."[2]

It's one thing to be "good at mathematics", quite another to be "a good engineer."

Nobody who participates in quota systems or diversity hiring believes that what they are doing is sustainable in the long term. The point of attempting to hire more people from under-represented portions of the populace is to counter-balance institutionalised sexism.

Debrah Soh does raise one important point: sexism doesn't come from knowledge of a subject, but what we do with that knowledge.

1: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/gender-equality-closes-m... 2: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....


> And although I can't confirm this myself, the article does say that societies with greater gender equity also have greater gender gaps due to the differences in what each gender values.

I can only provide my own anecdote. I come from third-world country, where women's right is a laughable word. Women are mostly controlled by the males in the family. Even with almost no women's rights, women presence in my undergrad STEM school was around 20%. OTOH, when I came to Canada for my grad school, I've never seen any class where presence of women in STEM classes was more than 10%. Even then, most of them women are immigrants from China or South Asia.


> Debrah Soh, the author supposedly has a PhD in sexual neuroscience

That's "sexual" in the sense of "sexology", not "gender", though. She studies sexual paraphilia ("why people are into what they’re into sexually"), not gender differences as they pertain to society.


I don't think he has a gross misunderstanding of the science. If you look at the example cartoon distributions he draws for gender differences - there is huge overlap. From my reading, he is advocating for non-discriminatory methods of trying to fix that gap. He's basically saying we shouldn't try to fix discrimination (that we think is bad) with discrimination (that we excuse as good).


He acknowledges that in practice the gender differences are real, but small.

Then uses the existence of those small differences to justify fundamentally changing their hiring policies.

The latter does not follow from the former.

Again, as with the global warming debate, it makes a lot more sense to tackle the larger influencers first, before addressing these smaller factors.


I think his thesis is we shouldn't fix discrimination by actually perpetrating the same thing - just against a different group.


If a see-saw is tipped to one side, you need to apply more weight to the other to balance it out. Nobody is suggesting that you can continue applying weight to the other end forever and still maintain balance, but you can't maintain balance unless you have some to start with.

Even achieving a 30/70 split in a male-dominated industry will help defuse some of the rampant masculinity which passes as social interaction (aka primate chest-beating). Having people around who think differently and don't want to conform to the established practices of pissing contests, dick-measuring and chest thumping will help establish better modes of operation and contribute to better decisions being made (no more buying product X because the saleswoman had huge breasts or the salesman displayed dominant primate behaviour).


I'm not arguing we shouldn't try to get things more balanced. Maybe a better analogy is one side of the see-saw is winning because bullys (gender discrimination) are shoving people off one side. So to fix the problem, we decide to start shoving people off of the other side too. So now it is in balance, but everybody is shoving each other and generally being jerks.


If you have two equally qualified candidates but 90% of the time the male candidate is hired over the female candidate, and then you change your hiring practices to reduce that ratio to 50%, are you now discriminating against the male candidate? What if you literally reduce it to a coinflip?


That seems like a bit of a straw-man. The problem is that "equally qualified" is poorly defined. We all have biases (conscious and unconscious) - and we should be working to keep them in check and reduce bad discrimination (i.e. not based on "good" things like merit). I don't think anybody is arguing that they wouldn't want 50/50 hiring results given the repeated game of hiring between two hypothetically equally qualified candidates of each gender. But there are many unknowns. The author is saying that there are differences between the distributions of characteristics between genders (even if small). Some are biologically driven, some cultural. Since we don't know where any particular individual fits in their gender's distribution (also knowing the distributions overlap a ton), we shouldn't wholesale give them different treatment based on their membership in that group. Given representative candidates from each group we should expect hiring to be proportional to the difference in means of the distribution(s) of relevant characteristics (to the job) between the groups (genders) of the applicants.

Consider a business where 90% of applicants are female and 10% male. If the business chooses to hire 50/50, they are probably getting some sub-par males assuming the distribution of qualifications between male and female for the two sets of applicants are similar (which we don't have much reason to believe they differ much). In this case the females might be annoyed with the "special" treatment given to male hires that perform worse. And male hires might wonder if they got the job because they were well qualified or maybe just because they were male. In my opinion, this kind of "reverse" discrimination perpetuates bitterness and discriminatory thinking on all sides. I don't think of myself as a strongly religious person, but I think Christ had something when he was teaching that an "eye for an eye" was the old way, but the better way to live is to treat others how you want to be treated.


It is a hypothetical scenario but it illustrates the fundamental difference in perspectives:

In scenario (1) otherwise qualified female candidates are overlooked during the hiring process due to systemic biases in the industry. Programs are instituted to reduce these biases. This puts men at a disadvantage (relative to the status quo), but actually merely equalizes the playing field.

In scenario (2) there are not enough qualified female candidates. If that is the case, then any program which increases the hiring of female candidates will likely cause the hiring of sub-par candidates, causing all of the issues you describe.

I can understand why people would object to (2) but I don't really see a problem with (1). I also don't understand why people assume that these programs actually lead to the hiring of sub-par candidates? I would think that Google's hiring practices would filter out unqualified candidates regardless of gender.


Don't we, in effect, have scenario 2? There are way more men compared to women who study computer science/engineering. Where I studied, only 4% were women.

That means it's impossible to achieve a 1:1 gender ratio for all companies. A few may succeed, but only by heavily biasing their recruitment against men, since their recruitment pool of women is so small in comparison. Given the 4% number above, there will by 30 great male candidates for every great female candidate.

I don't think the argument ever was that unqualified candidates got a job. Rather, the reality is that if several candidates are qualified, and one of them happens to be a woman, she must be the one who gets the job offer, if a company wants to aim for a smaller gender gap.

Is this fair?

To some people this may seem perfectly OK (everybody was qualified; after that, it's more important to reduce the gender gap). Others might think it isn't (it's unlikely that the best of the qualified candidates got the job). In my opinion, both viewpoints are valid.

What personally irks me, however, is that someone was fired for asking the question. That was decidedly unfair.


> Don't we, in effect, have scenario 2? There are way more men compared to women who study computer science/engineering. Where I studied, only 4% were women.

I'm not sure, especially for a company like Google, I would assume they get plenty of great candidates of either gender such that hiring from either pool would not require reducing their hiring standards.

> I don't think the argument ever was that unqualified candidates got a job. Rather, the reality is that if several candidates are qualified, and one of them happens to be a woman, she must be the one who gets the job offer, if a company wants to aim for a smaller gender gap.

> Is this fair?

If under the status quo male candidates are hired the majority of the time over otherwise qualified female candidates, then the status quo is already unfair towards the female candidates. Working to correct the imbalance may be perceived as "unfair" to the group whose advantage is lost, but that doesn't necessarily mean it actually is.

> What personally irks me, however, is that someone was fired for asking the question. That was decidedly unfair.

Unfortunately his memo went much further than that. I mean, is someone who concludes that Google's hiring programs are "veiled left ideology that can irreparably harm Google" really interested in honest debate? Much of his writing comes across as a highly politicized rant that detracts from the actual topic.


But Google (or any company) would want to hire the "best" candidates over "qualified" candidates wouldn't they? Is it best for Google and/or society if Google skips out on the best to only hire qualified people just because they are shooting for arbitrary group ratios? Did he really go "much further than [asking the question]"? Sure he comes from a particular political perspective. But will we condemn him for a couple sentences here and there out of his entire discourse? It was after all posted internally to a list where Google was explicitly soliciting opinions about their diversity program(s) from employees. I think Google and it's leadership handled this case highly unprofessionally and grossly misrepresented Damore's document in the way they referred to and described it. What would all those heavily criticizing him on the basis of not toeing the company line say if an equivalent "reverse" situation had occurred with a right-leaning corp and a left-leaning employee? I think most would feel the same way as right-leaners. A little more seeing from each others' perspective really could go a long way to improving the atmosphere around a lot of these issues.

I just realized my comment mostly consisted of questions. I have way more questions than answers.


> But Google (or any company) would want to hire the "best" candidates over "qualified" candidates wouldn't they?

How exactly do we quantify the difference between "best" and "qualified" and is Google's hiring process granular enough to tell the difference? If a candidate goes through the interview process and the company decides "yes, this person is worth hiring" do you then stop and say "well, this person is qualified, but we're not sure if they are the best, so let's wait and see if someone better comes along"? I'm sure every company wants to hire the "best" candidates but what exactly does that mean and how exactly would that translate to their hiring process?

Besides, it's an open question as to whether or not Google's CS-puzzle-gauntlet interview process is actually effective at hiring the "best" candidates in the first place. But that's an entirely different discussion...

> Is it best for Google and/or society if Google skips out on the best to only hire qualified people just because they are shooting for arbitrary group ratios?

Probably not. Do you think that is what is happening here? That Google's diversity programs are actually causing Google to hire "worse" candidates than they would otherwise?

> Did he really go "much further than [asking the question]"?

He spends several pages trying to justify the status quo with regards to the gender gap in the tech industry, and then calls for the elimination of Google's hiring programs designed to encourage diversity. So... yeah.

I will also point out this particular quote because it is incredibly condescending and makes me suspect the memo was not necessarily written in good faith:

"Once we acknowledge that not all differences are socially constructed or due to discrimination, we open our eyes to a more accurate view of the human condition which is necessary if we actually want to solve problems."

The first part is an obvious strawman that mischaracterizes the opposing viewpoint, I don't think many people would actually agree that "all differences are socially constructed or due to discrimination". Then the second part implies the opposition is blind to the truth that he clearly sees, and furthermore is not capable of actually solving problems. I'm not sure how you could read this and conclude that he's "just asking questions".

> What would all those heavily criticizing him on the basis of not toeing the company line say if an equivalent "reverse" situation had occurred with a right-leaning corp and a left-leaning employee? I think most would feel the same way as right-leaners.

I don't think so. The last time I can recall that a right-leaning corporation fired an employee for expressing a left-leaning viewpoint was when Tomi Lahren was fired from The Blaze for saying she was pro-abortion, and I don't recall there being any backlash to that. These are private corporations, they can hire and fire who they want. (Protected classes excepted, of course.)


Would you agree that it is possible that given elimination of all negative discrimination the gender representation in a particular industry/field might not be 50/50? Since we don't know what the non-discriminating ratio naturally would be, I have a hard time feeling like we would be serving justice well by shooting for an arbitrarily (if somewhat informed) selected ratio. Does the end justify the means?


Yes I would agree that we shouldn't expect all industries to have 50/50 gender representation, and in fact aiming for such a goal is misguided. However, I am not convinced that the status quo in the tech industry reflects a "natural ratio" so much as other factors (that are worth correcting).

Would you agree that, if the gender disparity in an industry is caused by factors outside of the "natural ratio", then correcting those factors does not necessarily imply perpetuating discrimination? Or put another way, if you are holding a race where person A starts at the 0-yard line and person B starts at the 25-yard line, and you make them start from the same place, you are not actually favoring person A and discriminating against person B, but merely equalizing the playing field?


I agree with most all of that. But I think that the policies I see the memo criticizing are not addressing the problem, they are addressing the symptom. Also, I think there are a lot of subtleties about "which yard line people start on" that makes knowing what the best/right thing to do is hard. People born to wealth didn't steal anything from people born with less. I would hope that people born with more would care to help and lift people with less, but I am less comfortable (not necessarily against) with using authoritarian means to take away by force things from the more fortunate and give to the less fortunate.

It is a hard problem, and I think most people want the same/similar outcome. We just need to acknowledge that we don't all know the best way to get there and be able to talk about it. I think that is what the memo writer was really saying is that these are important issues with lots of things to consider - we can't afford to silence voices - especially relatively rational ones.


Yes there is definitely room for discussion on what the best approach should be. Unfortunately the author of the memo comes across as trying to push a specific agenda (multiple paragraphs condescendingly railing against "leftist ideology", for example) and misses the opportunity to actually discuss the merits of Google's hiring programs.


Maybe. I personally didn't feel like it had a condescending tone. There is toxic culture on all sides which is probably what he was referring to (only on the left in his document since his audience was left-leaning) - rather the more reasonable ideas (which are often drowned out). It probably would have been better if he was a bit more careful, but given the amount of content in the document, it is difficult to walk the line of not offending anyone. I think he did a pretty decent job and hopefully lots of productive discussions will have their genesis with his memo and the stir it caused. There sure are a lot of people that think very differently about things :-)


Women used to be more prevalent in STEM fields. In the 80's there were actually more female programmers than males. Something changed in the mid 80's and the culprit might have been gender stereotypes in advertising. If the reason for less women in STEM is biological, they would never have outpaced males at any timepoint.


It may also have been the type of computing that was going on. Pre-80s computing involved mainframes, data entry... secretarial tasks. Post-80s computing involved building businesses, getting heavily involved in the science, and generally hiding out in a dark room programming alone for weeks at a time.

What evidence is there for advertisement stereotyping being the causal factor? Wasn't advertisement stereotyping just as powerful in non-STEM fields like law? medicine? journalism? Why did they break the gender curse whereas STEM did not?


This reminds me of government R&D institutes in India. Where every one gets the title of a 'Scientist'. So there are levels like 'Scientist-1', 'Scientist-2', ...

In reality most of these levels have only clerical work to do. Sometimes things like writing down on a register that you issued somebody a Screw gauge. So basically book keeping, secretarial work, data entry etc etc.

But yeah, on the ground every gets to be called a 'Scientist'.


> Pre-80s computing involved mainframes, data entry... secretarial tasks.

...sending rockets to the moon...


You are assuming that the change in the 80s was something that made programming less attractive to women. But that's not the only change that could explain what happened. It could be that one or more other fields changed to become more attractive to women.

Until people stop focusing on where there women aren't, and instead focus on where the women are, we aren't going to figure out what the problem is in programming, or even figure out if there actually is a problem with programming.

There's a graph here [1] showing percent of bachelor's degrees going to women in several different fields over time, from 1970 through 2010.

The decline in women getting CS degrees starting in mid '80s really stands out. However what also stands out is that nothing else seems to have gotten a noticeable bump around the same time, so assuming that those women who are missing from CS did not leave college entirely, where are they?

It's possible that there is a bump but we just can't see it. There were only about 40000 BS CS degrees granted per year in the middle '80s. Some other fields beat that by a large factor, and so it is possible the missing CS women could have been absorbed into a few of those big majors where the bumps might be small enough to be lost in the noise.

Another interesting thing is that if you look just at CS, the total number of CS BS degrees was growing through 1985, then started falling [2]. If you look at just men, and just women, the same thing happened for each. For both, from 1970 to 1985 they were on an accelerating growth curve (almost exponential), and then for both it turned around and fell quickly (also almost exponentially) then leveled off.

During that growth phase the women's growth curve was accelerating more than the men's curve. During the decline phase, the women's decline was faster, too.

[1] http://www.randalolson.com/2014/06/14/percentage-of-bachelor...

[2] http://www.computerworld.com/article/2474991/it-careers/wome...


The problem with scientific studies is that they're great at describing a population, but generally have very little predictive power at the individual level.

For example, one of the studies that showed boys were better than girls at math showed that if you chose a random boy and a random girl, there was a 55% chance that the boy was better at math. Not very much different from flipping a coin at an individual level, but quite significant in a population.


> backed by links

> PhD in sexual neuroscience

> female

There's a LOT that's new here, relative to Damore's memo.


> backed by links

Oops, sorry I guess my comment was worded a bit confusingly there. When I said "backed by links to scientific studies" I was referring to the original memo. The Gizmodo article which originally leaked the memo omitted those links, but they're present in the original document: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586/Googles-I...

> PhD in sexual neuroscience

> female

These qualities are helpful for getting other people to take the article seriously instead of just immediately dismissing it as an "anti-diversity screed", but they don't in and of themselves affect the factual accuracy of the statements being made. As I said, this author is mostly just re-affirming the same points that were made in the original memo; those underlying points are equally valid regardless of who's making them.


Why does it matter what education a person has, besides as an ad-hominem attack, if the facts they use are correct?

And for the gender of the person advancing an argument to matter seems only to strongly confirm the memos points about discrimination against men.

Counter-factuals are always difficult, but it seems unlikely that we would ever have heard about this memo, much less seen its author fired, had the exact same text been written by a woman.


> Why does it matter what education a person has, besides as an ad-hominem attack, if the facts they use are correct?

Because most of the reactions were emotional, not rational. If we were rational beings it wouldn't matter, but we're not and never have been.


> backed by links

I regularly see psueodo-science blog posts that are "backed by links". Let's pick one of Soh's claims that are backed by a link:

> As mentioned in the memo, gendered interests are predicted by exposure to prenatal testosterone – higher levels are associated with a preference for mechanically interesting things and occupations in adulthood. Lower levels are associated with a preference for people-oriented activities and occupations. This is why STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields tend to be dominated[1] by men.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19883140

Soh uses [1] to claim that Holland Categories and STEM interest have a causation for employment in related fields. In fact, the article merely supports the claim that women have statistical preference for certain Holland Categories and STEM interests.

So why did she use this as a reference to support her claim about employment in the field? It's certainly a reasonable logical step to make, but the citation should be moved back one sentence.

Besides, I'm very curious how that source controlled for cultural influences. Women are regularly discouraged from expressing STEM interests culturally, so it's no surprise to me that they don't express a preference towards it.


the first was cited as well, though news sources removed the citations.


That's really interesting. Do you have a link to the un-molested version?




Credit given to a quote shouldn't be based on the sex of the speaker. To some extend this is an application of the "your point is invalid" meme: you're a man so your point is invalid. This way of thinking is very damaging to the public debate.


If you couldn't tell, the debate was tainted before it even made it to the public.


What astonishes me is that Google's VP of Diversity knows so little about the underlying science of her vocation that she confused statements of clinical fact (with the science even referenced in footnotes!) with personal attacks on women.


The fact that you equate a few studies with "clinical fact" shows you do not understand how science works.

http://retractionwatch.com


The Big-5 aka OCEAN model (openness / conscientiousness / extroversion / agreeability / neuroticism) constitutes the most scientifically accepted framework for measuring personality. It is confirmed by decades of work and massive amounts of large-n survey research.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits

One of the major giveaways that the Diversity VP at Google is incompetent came when she criticized the author for attacking women simply because he used the terms "conscientiousness" and "agreeability" and "neuroticism". You are not doing much better by insinuating that science can only be correct when it supports your ideological position.


I insinuated no such thing. Bluster is an appropriate username for you.


It was an attack on women, even if it used "science" as corroborating points.


This is just dogma. Making a scientifically supported argument against a position of postmodernists and feminists doesn't equal an "attack on women".

The lack of intellect and integrity displayed by the attacks on the fired Google employee is really disturbing.


Nope. But the original memo defends discrimination against women and makes recommendations for future discrimination. Implementing these suggestions would be literally illegal for Google (subject to EEOC), and in fact Google is already in a lawsuit defending their alleged discrimination.


> the original memo defends discrimination against women

Can you back up this claim with a citation from the document? If not, can you explain your thought (feeling) process?


> Status is the primary metric that men are judged on, pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail. - Defeatist. If society pushes men into leadership, then there's nothing we can or should do about it?

> 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 defends putting women into less-desirable jobs because desirable ones are not really that desirable? This argument is self-defeating.

> I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women. For each of these changes, we need principles reasons for why it helps Google; - Discrimination is justified if it helps the bottom line.

> We’re told by senior leadership that what we’re doing is both the morally and economically correct thing to do, but without evidence this is just veiled left ideology that can irreparably harm Google. - You're not allowed to believe that discrimination will hurt the bottom line. Even if senior management tells you so.

> Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate - The alternative is to increase the false positive rate for those candidates.

> Having representative viewpoints is important for those designing and testing our products, but the benefits are less clear for those more removed from UX. - Having representation is leadership is not important.

> Prioritize intention. - This is also illegal. Google is a government contractor and will be required to implement affirmative action policies if its employees are too different from the general population. That's because they're taking money from all taxpayers and redistributing it to or away from certain groups. Intention here is irrelevant.


I don't see any reference to discrimination against women in any of that. Could you possibly pick one of the points and explain to me how it is discriminatory against women?


I put a comment after each quote. Sorry if the notation wasn't clear.


I saw that, I just don't see anything advocating discriminating against women. Advocating to not discriminate for women is not the same thing as discriminating against women. I think for a lot of people this distinction doesn't matter.


> Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things

> Unfortunately, there may be limits to how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get female students into coding might be doing this).


Those comments in no way "defend discrimination against women".

Serious question: does your mind think they actually do? This might be a good illustration of why people differ so much on the same objective facts, the human brain automatically adds additional context (that isn't necessarily physically present) into perceptions.


If the status quo is to discriminate, and someone defends the status quo knowing that it's sexist, that person is defending a sexist position.


Exactly, which is what the manifesto is fighting against.


The manifesto is asking to END those programs and create "separate but equal" institutions. Are we reading the same manifesto?


We're reading the same document, but what you don't realize is your brain is adding additional context and information that is simply not in the document. Therefore, you are confused about what the author is saying.

Can you give me some indication that you understand what I'm talking about? You don't have to agree, just a sign that you know what I'm saying. I'm wondering if your brain maybe censors certain sorts of ideas, such that you effectively don't even "see" them.


See my explanation, it's subtle, he doesn't outright say to discriminate, but he does imply it.


> he doesn't outright say to discriminate, but he does imply it

The truth you are missing about the world is contained right within that statement. I recommend printing it out and hanging it on your wall as a reminder, and let your mind chew on it for a few months. Resist the urge to draw conclusions, just mull it over, you might be surprised.


Keep trying.


I would offer you the same advice, for your benefit I hope you take it.


Do you believe these comments defend discrimination against women? I'm trying to understand how one could see it that way. I see both of these statements as unquestionably true, and the sexism accusation as stifling the type of free expression needed for rational dialogue. If facts are sexist, then the definition of sexism being used is wrong.


It's subtle, but yes. These 2 lines essentially state that as women are more interested in people, there are some roles they might not be able to perform. A little further down he makes a similar claim that since women look more towards work life balance, technical and leadership roles may not seek out leadership roles as much as men. This can be used again to claim women don't belong in those roles. This is also bullshit, as I know several women who run a company and have a decent life.

Strip away his science and his words, he's a misogynistic techbro (I'm reminded of ESR) who wants to pretend technology is some sort of meritocracy and that a woman doesn't play well in that situation. Almost every one of his claims has a hanging but attached to it.


The author mentions many many times throughout his memo that these are 'average' observations and by no ways representative of the entire female population. The author did not say that all women are more interested in people, merely that there is a higher proportion in comparison to the male population.

The author suggests that when these average statistics propagate into life decisions and employment preferences, you end up with an equilibrium with less females in these roles.

You write 'This can be used again to claim women don't belong in those roles' but the author did not use this to claim such a thing! 'I know several women' precisely coincides with what the author wrote. Again, he pointed out multiple times throughout that he was not generalizing but was merely looking at average trends.


The author advocates for ending programs designed to get more females into technology and leadership positions because he views them as discrimination. His basis is precisely what you mentioned, that on average women are X. In his mind, the fact that men are more status oriented than women means that men will be disproportionately in leadership roles. That's "just the way it is" and we should accept it and create "separate but equal" opportunities (part time work in this case). It's not outright discrimination, but it's ignoring several other factors that cause women not to seek leadership positions. He's trying to use some very basic differences and ignoring a much broader picture.


So, you believe that equality ,in this context, is a reality only if the distribution of gender in corporate employees reflects more or less the distribution in general population?


Can you at least admit that your initial comment: that he "defends discrimination against women", is unfounded?


> These 2 lines essentially state that as women are more interested in people

In the aggregate, this is objectively true based on my observations, and you can see this exact same sentiment passionately expressed by feminists.

> ...there are some roles they might not be able to perform.

This part is your mind playing tricks on you. You have certain beliefs, and you are trying to find anything to confirm them.

You have misunderstood what the author was saying, I would suggest because you are not trying to understand it, but rather are trying to find examples to substantiate your worldview.

> Strip away his science and his words

....leaving us....your imagination?


There is no imagination, he might be citing scientific research, but this is no different that similar essays written by other technologists who don't agree with feminism and lean conservative and libertarian. ESR is a prime example, and this essay reminds me of his work. However,

>Unfortunately, there may be limits to how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be

The line immediately before states that women tend to be more people-oriented than object-oriented. The line between these 2 states is crystal clear: women are more people oriented than men, and there are limits to how people oriented certain roles and the company can be, therefore, women will not have the same opportunities as men. If you want to take his words at face value, go ahead, but his entire essay is for Google to stop programs aimed at gender inclusion.


> There is no imagination

> If you want to take his words at face value, go ahead

Very interesting, to me.

> his entire essay is for Google to stop programs aimed at gender inclusion.

Is anyone disputing that? This conversation is beyond confusing.


>These 2 lines essentially state that as women are more interested in people, there are some roles they might not be able to perform.

That's absurd. You're not even interpreting his comments at face value. You're attributing a subtext to them that only exists in your imagination.

>Strip away his science and his words, he's a misogynistic techbro

What an absolutely hateful and sexist comment. It amounts to: "strip away his message and judge him by what identity group he belongs to"


> That's absurd. You're not even interpreting his comments at face value. You're attributing a subtext to them that only exists in your imagination.

Really? The first bullet point is "women are more people oriented". The second bullet point is that there are limits to how people oriented specific roles or even Google as a whole can be. If you want to take his words at face value, go ahead, but the belief that there are some roles than women cannot do due to their differences is consistent with the rest of his essay.


> but the belief that there are some roles than women cannot do due to their differences is consistent with the rest of his essay

The only way I can think of how one could come to this conclusion is a lack of either:

- knowledge of what a statistical average is

- capacity for basic logical thought

You are mixing up your imagination with reality.


Logical thoughts? "Women are X" "There are limits to how well certain positions and Google can support X".

So, what exactly am I supposed to draw from this? You're insistent I am wrong, but you're offering no explanation as to why I am wrong. I don't disagree that women are more sociable than men. I disagree this means certain roles within the company cannot support that trait.

Further down: "Women value work life balance" "Men are status achievers" "Because of that, men will appropriately be in leadership and technology roles, also women suffer anxiety more." Side note, convenient he leaves out that women are statistically able to deal with stress better than men. His conclusion is that rather than creating programs that encourage women to enter leadership positions, leave that to the men and give women access to part time roles.

If you want to say I am wrong, so be it, disagreement is fine, but you have yet to counter anything I have said with an opposing understanding, just ad hominen attacks and criticism.


> You're insistent I am wrong, but you're offering no explanation as to why I am wrong.

The explanation was in my previous comment.

I will give you another hint: you are misinterpreting the meaning of "women" in your excerpted quotes.

> If you want to say I am wrong, so be it, disagreement is fine, but you have yet to counter anything I have said with an opposing understanding, just ad hominen attacks and criticism.

I don't think there's a way to reply that will satisfy you, there is a crucial part of objective perception that you are lacking.


[flagged]


> It makes a statistical observation that refutes the notion that sexism is the cause of gender disparity in the STEM fields.

It does no such thing, because:

(1) STEM fields, especially applied rather than theoretical ones, involve people as much as things

(2) While in some STEM fields gender disparities are apparent from fairly early in career progression, that's not true of all STEM fields; in some (many of them around biosciences) women are overrepresented in education and entry-level work, but still lag men in pay and advancement (problematically for the “it's about men wanting to deal with things and women wanting to deal with people” explanation of STEM gender disparities, this leaves women dealing more with things while the men move to higher levels where they deal with people.)


>STEM fields, especially applied rather than theoretical ones, involve people as much as things

This doesn't negate my point.

You're correct that I oversimplified: some STEM fields are indeed less 'biologically geared' to men. But the principle remains: biologically established differences in interest can very plausibly explain the differences seen in gender representation in some STEM fields. It is the assertion of this fact that has invited unfounded accusations of sexism.

>women are overrepresented in education and entry-level work, but still lag men in pay and advancement

That alone says nothing about the presence or absence of systemic discrimination.


> That alone says nothing about the presence or absence of systemic discrimination.

And, you'll note, I never claimed it did: I cited it as a fact about the gender imbalance in STEM which is not explainable by the facile “men like dealing with things while women like dealing with people” explanation which you described upthread as being, on its own, a refutation of the idea that gender imbalances in STEM are in any part due to systemic discrimination (which could only be true if it explained all aspects of STEM gender imbalance and left no room for systemic discrimination.)

Were it offered merely as a factor which explained some subset of the gender imbalances in STEM, that would be more reasonable.


>Were it offered merely as a factor which explained some subset of the gender imbalances in STEM, that would be more reasonable.

Yes that is a more accurate construction. For the sake of expedience I wasn't this precise, and left it to the reader to sauce out this more precise meaning, which given the format, I think was entirely reasonable.


You're correct, it is a hateful, sexist comment, and I won't take it back or apologize for it. The "angry white male stereotype" has been at the heart of programming for a long time; misogyny has been at the heart of programming for a long time. As eloquent and research based as this paper is, it's just another in that long line of thinking.


>You're correct, it is a hateful, sexist comment, and I won't take it back or apologize for it.

Then you're choosing to not be constructive. Sexism and racism are not constructive, and they are hurtful to innocent people.


Both of those statements, even if true, say absolutely nothing about the relative abilities of men and women to write software.


They could very plausibly explain the differences in the number of men who write software relative to women. The only explanation is absolutely not "systemic discrimination against women".

I know it's trendy to defend feminist talking points, but it ultimately leads to what we see now with the Google firing: a public conversation where facts take a secondary role to ideology/dogma.


Why could it plausibly explain the differences? Seems like a huge leap to me. Basically there is some evidence that men and women are different, on average, to some extent, at the neuropsychological level. There is no evidence linking sex-related neurological traits to being good at or enjoying writing software.

On the other hand, there is evidence that cultural biases specifically discourage women from entering, and push women out of, STEM careers.


It does not defend discrimination against women. That's absurd. Quote me a single section that "defends discrimination against women". Incredibly harmful false accusations like this seem to be par for the course anytime someone goes up against postmodernist/feminist dogma.


The issue with the original article was two-fold:

1. It used strawman arguments. Notably that the world is looking for a 50/50 split in gender ratios. Most reasonable people believe that even in ideal equilibrium state that this is not the expected outcome (although I'm sure there exist some people that push for 50/50 or greater). But that the current ratio is not the ideal equilibrium state. The author of the paper seems to point out that 50/50 isn't likely the expected ratio -- and then jumps to trying to dismantle affirmative action.

2. He selectively uses research and data from research. For example the impact of stereotypes and individuating. But the research shows that while individuating is effective when it shows clear discrepancy, it isn't effective when there is any ambiguity. That is Maryam Mirzakhani will likely make someone who thinks women aren't good at math think, "But yes, she's actually quite good." But when it comes to more nuanced decisions and decision with a lot less data (which is more commonplace in the workplace), individuating isn't so effective. Determining who should be promoted to lead or VP from a group of pretty strong candidates, will often have the stereotype bias still play a role (and in fairness, depending on exactly the role -- it can benefit females too). This is meant to be an example of research where in the memo one part of the story is told, but not the other. Based on my limited investigation, I don't trust him being impartial in presenting these facts. In much the same way that climate change deniers often point to facts too -- its what they don't point to that is worrisome.

Lastly, there is a difference between speaking truth and how you speak truth. This seems obvious to most people outside of engineering. Putting "Catherine has big boobs and I'd have sex with her, if she consented" as part of your sig may be completely factually she true. In fact, it may be obvious to everyone who reads it, but there is a time and a place. If I were a female, I'd have a hard time reporting to Mr. Damore. If I didn't get a promotion, I don't think it would be out of line, to consider what he wrote in the memo. If Mr. Damore ignores my suggestion in a design review, I'd have to again strongly consider if he did so because of my gender. If he rejects all of his women interview candidates -- is that a problem or not? The context of what he wrote, even if done in good faith, creates a more difficult working relationship.

My hope is that if Mr. Damore wrote that in good faith, he will take this feedback and make things better for everyone, male and female. He certainly won't have trouble getting job offers (if he wrote it in good faith or not -- there are enough people in tech who don't like women in the industry) -- and if his end goal was to create the environment for the discussion, then he's done that too.


> Lastly, there is a difference between speaking truth and how you speak truth.

Yes, this seems to be the thing that most people are missing. He didn't release a study in a scientific journal, he shared a document with his coworkers while at work. The things he talks about are what his Women coworkers are living through. He made this about their experience. It doesn't matter how much is true, it was incredibly unprofessional and absolutely something you can be fired for.


> the world is looking for a 50/50 split in gender ratios. Most reasonable people..

This exact target has made it into more than just a few institutions.

> He selectively uses research

In inviting discourse, he is also inviting "the other side" of the argument to do as much the same. I think his effort was big enough without raising the bar - why not bear the burden of evaluating the evidence alone? This memo is explicitly a work in progress, the choice to cherry-pick sources that support his conclusions is purposeful, since he is trying to demonstrate the that the status-quo might be wrong.

> climate change deniers often..

There is something of an active debate on that topic, I haven't heard of any tech worker fired for discussing the issue.

> but there is a time and a place

Did he not release to the correct forum? What is the correct time and place? I'd also note: statements have implied/pragmatic meanings. A statement like "I'd have sex with [Catherine]" would be assumed to have an implicit meaning. The memo, in contrast, is pretty explicit in its stated aim.

> then he's done that too

Well, maybe. He certainly lit a match..


>Did he not release to the correct forum? What is the correct time and place?

I don't really understand the forum he submitted to. It sounds like a huge public internal mailing list. That sounds like the wrong forum to me. This probably could've gone to the new VP of diversity directly.

Maybe I'm overly paranoid but I pretty much never write anything about race, religion, gender, disabilities, age, etc... at work. And if I ever felt I needed to I'd do so very carefully, probably with the assistance of HR.

It's easy for the dominant majority in power to see this as holding back the one aspect in their life where they feel as if they are limited in what they can do/say. But these limits and implied apprehensions exist for good reason, IMO.


I believe it was released in one place, and later leaked to another. No word on the consequence to the leaker.

> Maybe I'm overly paranoid

Maybe you aren't, and maybe you shouldn't have to be?

> the dominant majority in power

Who is this? Men? Liberals? The 1%?


> 1. It used strawman arguments. Notably that the world is looking for a 50/50 split in gender ratios. Most reasonable people believe that even in ideal equilibrium state that this is not the expected outcome (although I'm sure there exist some people that push for 50/50 or greater). But that the current ratio is not the ideal equilibrium state. The author of the paper seems to point out that 50/50 isn't likely the expected ratio -- and then jumps to trying to dismantle affirmative action.

What is the expected outcome? It's somewhat of a rhetorical question, but I am curious. I guess it's somewhere between status quo and 50, but how do we know if we have reached equilibrium?

If anything, isn't status quo an equilibrium based on all current inputs to the system? So at what point do we stop tweaking inputs to the system and declare done? I would love to hear some kind of target/KPI that the Google diversity initiative is trying to hit.

Edit: also, if we don't know what the expected outcome is, how do we know when the process has been over compensated and is actually skewed in the other direction?


> It used strawman arguments. Notably that the world is looking for a 50/50 split in gender ratios. Most reasonable people believe that even in ideal equilibrium state that this is not the expected outcome (although I'm sure there exist some people that push for 50/50 or greater).

It's hardly a strawman; even people in this thread believe that: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14970828

"mainstream gender equality says there should be a roughly equal split"

"50/50 split might be naive. It assumes men and women should be equally represented and that makes liberally minded folks feel good. But what's the alternative? Status quo? A different and arbitrary split? I don't see any good arguments against equal representation."


So with part of all that is something you'd fire someone over?

Before you say "hostile work environment", keep in mind that lots of people find firing someone for this to be hostile as well.


I don't work at Google so its hard for me to say what the environment is like. That said, I would not have published this memo, had I believed the content, on a public work forum. In general I avoid any sorts of things like that on protected classes at work.

I would be open to going directly to HR to discuss it. I, for example, have done this to discuss team vs individual compensation at my job. While not the hot topic that this was, HR was super responsive.

In general, I think before you try to present on a public work forum one side of an argument about some biological subclass and their on average work ability/habits -- I'd think twice. Even with the absolute best intentions you can really isolate and offend people. And when this subclass is already a minority and less powerful, the effect can be compounded (at the end of the day, even the affirmative action programs are designed and implemented largely by white men).


Damore wanted to discuss a topic, and was fired after a vocal subclass reacted emotionally and called for his dismissal.

I think you might be wrong regarding which subclass is more powerful. It certainly wasn't Damore's.

The subclasses I refer to are not based on gender, but on opinion. If diversity based on superficial attributes is so important, why isn't diversity of opinion?


Diversity of perspective is important, but not of opinion. You want to build strong opinions using many different perspectives. Random opinions are not interesting nor useful.

Should Google start hiring more flat Earthers too?


If they are good at their job, sure, why not? Ironically, I doubt anybody would have been fired had they argued that the Earth is flat.

Also, I'm not sure what you're getting at with the distinction between perspective and opinion. Regardless of whether you think Damore presented opinion or perspective, it surely wasn't random.

To reiterate my previous point: considering how things played out, it's obvious that the subclass that you called 'less powerful' is actually quite powerful.


Right, but if you were a boss and a member of your team published it, would you fire him? Why or why not?

I don't find rehashing the wisdom of his decision to speak his mind as important as how everyone else responds to it. That's where the real controversy is.


If I already had several cases due to hiring discrimination against women breathing down my neck, and this person would at the worst point in time publish an article that casts a shadow over every hiring process he has ever been involved in, yes, I'd definitely fire him.


This person didn't publish an article, though. It was shared internally with (presumably) a receptive group of coworkers.


>Only difference being that the author of this article has a PhD in sexual neuroscience

Original evil evil author had a PhD/MS in Biology from Harvard


He studied mathematical biology. A PhD/MS should never indicate expertise outside of the field of study.


Then it's a good thing that he cited sources (that got removed by Gizmodo, Motherboard, etc.)


As said elsewhere in this thread:

Anyone who wants to use "science" in this way needs to read "The Golem" by prominent sociologists of science Collins and Pinch. It's a short, enjoyable read. One of the things you'll learn is that science can only ask the questions humans want to ask, and science often says exactly what people want it to say.

https://www.amazon.com/Golem-Should-About-Science-Classics/d... online link: http://cstpr.colorado.edu/students/envs_5110/collins_the_gol...


He lied about having a PhD and his MS is presumably in "Systems Biology" (same as his claimed PhD), ie "the computational study of biological systems".


This horse is going to get beaten to death like the MNIST dataset with AI tutorials.


For the record, the "facts" cited in her post are indeed questionable. A decent sociological analysis has been making the rounds, including https://ifstudies.org/blog/five-facts-about-women-and-men-in... and https://ifstudies.org/blog/what-the-google-engineers-manifes... among others, including a presenter at Google https://twitter.com/histoftech/status/894418661741649920

Even a brief analysis of sociology would reveal a deeply seated counter argument to much of the "fact" present in the screed and the OP link.


There are reasonable arguments on both sides, which rational people can debate.

That's the bigger point here. Not that there is a slam dunk argument on the side of biology or society, but that we don't know where the exact truth lies, and we need to be open to discussion about it in order to find out. As scientists have been saying all along, both biological and societal factors matter.

What I hope we can all agree is unreasonable is to fire someone for just trying to discuss this.


I think it's perfectly reasonable to fire someone for expressing personal opinions counter to company policies. How is this not a classic example of culture fit?


Would phrenology be acceptable to "debate"? Or race based "debates"?

It is remarkable how the need for debate is disproportionately forwarded from the side with power.


We are talking here about reasonable scientific claims believed by large parts of the population and by scientists. You can disagree with them, but you also need to live in a society with them. We need to find a way to work together, even as we disagree on things.

It's not like phrenology or Nazis which are tiny minorities we can just cast out and ignore.

And I'm not sure I agree with you on which side has power here. Look who got fired.


The article hides a common but incorrect assumption. Look at this paragraph:

> As mentioned in the memo, gendered interests are predicted by exposure to prenatal testosterone – higher levels are associated with a preference for mechanically interesting things and occupations in adulthood. Lower levels are associated with a preference for people-oriented activities and occupations. This is why STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields tend to be dominated by men.

The assumption here is that employment in STEM industries fundamentally and solely involves "mechanically interesting things".

The reality is that tech companies are composed of people and make products for people. Google themselves have found through their own research that the best managers are defined by their people skills, not their technical skills. So why aren't the management layers of tech companies composed of mostly women?

Strong technology is important for success, but so is leadership, market fit, team dynamics, understanding the customer, etc. The hardest question in tech companies is not "how" to build, but "what" to build. This is essentially a people-oriented problem, since customers are people.

EDIT: this tweet puts it succinctly:

> WEIRD how none of these guys ever argue that because our ladybrains are better at communication and teamwork we should be paid more

https://twitter.com/kelliotttt/status/894770623611682818


> The assumption here is that employment in STEM industries fundamentally and solely involves "mechanically interesting things".

It's not. Read the original memo.

He especially mentioned that women gravitate to the more social jobs in STEM environments, but Google's diversity programs were trying to force them into the "code monkey" jobs instead, to spread them more evenly.

> Strong technology is important for success, but so is leadership, market fit, team dynamics, understanding the customer, etc. The hardest question in tech companies is not "how" to build, but "what" to build. This is essentially a people-oriented problem, since customers are people.

Absolutely. So why waste your people-oriented employees on jobs that aren't people-oriented?


I was writing about the article linked here. But since you mention the memo, I'll say this.

The current state of science suggests associations between gender, brain development, and career preferences. But women who are applying to Google for coding jobs are clearly stating their own individual career preferences. People apply for jobs they want.

Using population studies to try to contradict clearly expressed individual preferences is nonsensical; that's not how statistics works. It's like the old joke about the guy who carries a bomb onto a plane for safety, because "what are the chances that there are TWO bombs on one plane?"

And obviously associative data about preferences doesn't tell us anything about individual capability or qualifications.

Finally, if you actually ask women in STEM fields why they left or are considering leaving, career preferences are not the only answer. One also hears about disrespect, harassment, abuse--the glass ceiling. Again, this is real data that can't be lightly set aside just because it doesn't fit a narrative of biological determinism.


[flagged]


What do you think is the right number of people to be forced to leave a job they like and are good at, because of harassment?

I tend to think "zero," but you do you, I guess.

Anyway...

https://www.elephantinthevalley.com

http://www.kaporcenter.org/tech-leavers/

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/technology/women-entre...

Etc.


Thank you for the links. I don't think they are as convincing as you make them out to be (the second does not even talk about women specifically), but I don't have the time to discuss it further in all detail.

Harassment is bad, but I don't think "unwanted sexual advances" should categorically count as harassment. It all depends (of course some advances can be harassment, but just because some attraction is unrequited it is not harassment) - it is human to be attracted and fall in love.


Unwanted sexual advances in the workplace are always harassment.

There's a big difference between:

"Hey would you like to go grab lunch with me sometime?" (ok if not overly persistent)

vs

"You're hot, want to have sex with me sometime?" (never ok at work)

And I would suggest some introspection about why your bar to be convinced is so high. The persistent and sometimes aggressive disbelief that women face from male colleagues when they complain about harassment is a big part of the industry problem.


As I said, it depends on the circumstances, but I am sure a lot of "hey would you like to grab lunch sometime" end up as a number in those harassment statistics.

It is also a very one-sided narrative, omitting the advantages that being attractive also brings.


What's the proportion of people who work their way up to management from code-monkey, versus being hired directly into a management role?

If it's highly skewed towards "promoted from code-monkey", then there's a big barrier to entry if you're the kind of person who loves managing and dislikes code-monkeying.


> So why aren't the management layers of tech companies composed of mostly women?

From my experience, women in technology have a higher chance of reaching manager level than men. I worked with plenty of female managers, and their people and communication skills were the reason that got them in those positions. Women with families, women working 4/5th.

So yes, I do think they can rise up with those skills, from a European perspective.


> So why aren't the management layers of tech companies composed of mostly women?

In competitive environments men are more willing to fight than women, so they are more likely to get the jobs because women are more likely to give up. And I think we should try to change this because as you said "people skills" have a lot of value in management. We need both skills and try to represent both in management roles.

> WEIRD how none of these guys ever argue that because our ladybrains are better at communication and teamwork we should be paid more

There are profession typical for women like nursing that they have less salary than tech jobs. The reason is economical, tech companies produce more money. But I strongly thing the nursing job is as important as a tech job and we should try to remove the gap between professions. But with a capitalism system you cannot do this easily.

Note: I am one of the persons who agree with the biology differences between male and female.


I don't he denied that though did he. He specifically said women would prefer those roles.


I would imagine it is the Peter Principal to blame for lack of woman management. Even tech companies cannot seem to grasp the idea that management is its own separate skill set and simply promoting your best developers isn't going to guarantee you quality management.


> this tweet puts it succinctly:

When people have a scientific theory and that theory can be shown to not be good at predicting the world, it is still science. The point is to find a better theory, one which predictions better match observational data.

So what other theories are there? One that the memo mention in that controversial list is that men are pushed (incentivized) to seek higher earning. So lets put out a few predictions here. At average, jobs with higher risk and higher earnings should have more male applicants seeking them. Promotions that results in pay increase should be demanded by men more even if that risk their current job position. When there is a choice between benefits or increase pay, me should be statistically biased towards increased pay.

Is that theory better or worse? depend on the observational data that can either confirm or dispel the predictions. Personally I am more convinced by the second theory than the first, but that is purely based on the data. Make a better theory and provide convincing data and I would instantly change my mind. At that point the second theory should be abandoned with the same speed that I abandoned the first one.


> So why aren't the management layers of tech companies composed of mostly women?

Higher levels of programming may be composed of more work with people (coordinating a team, extracting requirements from clients, etc.), but the lower levels, and the education leading up to there, is tech focused. And it's from there that managers are sourced.


I upvoted this comment since I think you made a good, salient point, but I also think that you elided the important baseline point that programming is simply more "mechanical" than work done in HR/Sales or by managers.

My impression is that most managers in the tech industry already have a good amount of experience in "mechanical" (development, etc) roles, and to even get there you need an education or experience in relevant skills (correct me if I'm wrong). I don't know about whether the proportion of women vs men with managerial roles in tech is fair, but if what the author of this article is saying is true, the required educational or professional pedigree just to get into the tech industry is probably one of the biggest causes of men vastly outnumbering women in tech already.


I didn't read a specific causality claim like that.

I think there was a purposeful gap in the logic since the causality is too convoluted to be definitive about.

1. "Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in our _interests_ and _behaviour_... our _interests_ are influenced strongly by biology, as opposed to being learned or socially constructed."

2. It might be reasonable to wonder if a biological mechanism is at play here.

3. ??? some combination of things, including innate gender characteristics, but not limited to sexism ???

4. Women are significantly less likely to work in technology.

_ Accenting mine, not in the article.


> So why aren't the management layers of tech companies composed of mostly women?

The article does mention something about stress resistance, which would be an explanation. Of course, the best managers are able to avoid stress altogether by being effective managers.

There's also something I read elsewhere that men are / can be more competitive; both would explain why there's more men at the top, alongside blatant sexism / gender discrimination.


Isn't being competitive pegged with testosterone levels?


But that is not related to "shortage of women in tech/STEM". More women in management wouldn't change that.

Maybe it is just difficult to put managers without experience in the trenches in front of people? That is, managers who have no tech skills as such?


> That is, managers who have no tech skills as such?

There was an article on the front page earlier about how you simply shouldn't put people with no tech expertise in charge of people who have - so far as tech goes.

There is another problem here: the wage gap across industries. Some of our most important workers (teachers, nurses) are paid a pittance, whereas one industry that invents problems to solve is paid the most. The solution is to treasure the work that everyone does - irrespective of what industry they might be in. This would allow people to pursue a respected career in whatever industry they desire, regardless of what gender is typically motivated to engage in that industry.

Tech has been historically awful to women (and some places continue to do so); yet you can find industries where all genders are discriminated against (some being a social stigma) and nobody seems to give a damn about them.

One thing I can say for certain is that, as an extremely young equal society, we seem to be making a heroic effort to improve. We have a very long way to go and the extremes are probably going to be visited multiple times as the pendulum settles to the center.


Wages are determined by market forces. Most nurses may earn less than techies, but their work might be more rewarding to them. They are helping human beings get better, not optimizing ads.

Nobody is forced to choose Nursing over Tech, so if they are unhappy with the salary, why do people choose Nursing? Presumably more people choose Nursing than Tech, so the salary is lower as per supply and demand (and of course demand is dependent on other factors as well - but if fewer people went into Nursing, prices surely would go up).

Nobody is entitled to any kind of job they want. Jobs exist because people need jobs done, and they are willing to pay for them being done.

Tech has historically not been awful to women. The social networks are full of the reports on how early programmers were all women. Even today tech is not awful to women. They get a red carpet rolled out for them.


> without experience... who have no tech skills

Sorry, who are you describing? What group?


The hypothetical managers (women) with no tech skills. The comment I was replying to said many women might do better as managers than in tech.


Maybe it is just difficult for a women to manage a bunch of guys? Maybe if the team has more women, this wouldn't be a problem?


I'd like to see Google become 100% female engineers.


[flagged]


Please don't troll like this here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


So, according to you, there is no statistical difference in preference between men and women? Is that not at odds with the entire field of evolutionary psychology?

I'm not saying that "women should be carers", I'm saying that there are personality traits that women are statistically more likely to have due to how we evolved as primates (the evidence of which has been cited widely). Those personality traits may result in different life decisions being made, especially traits related to being stress-averse. Again, I did not say that women cannot program, I said that there are statistically significant biological biases that need to be accounted for.

In my mind, the biggest problem with the under-representation of women is that school-level education about technology is horrific. That's not a problem you can solve at the tail-end of the pipe (and it's not helpful telling the pipe that it's sexist).


> Google themselves have found through their own research that the best managers are defined by their people skills, not their technical skills. So why aren't the management layers of tech companies composed of mostly women?

That's a great point. So maybe Google should have said, 'This memo makes sense for programmers but not for managers'. Instead they said, 'You're fired!'


What I find interesting about all this is how many people take personal offense from statistics. (and conclusions drawn from statistics)

The author seems to put an effort into explaining statistical distribution and what it means and what not. He's explicit that statistical observations can't be used to judge particular individuals. Draws a graph of overlapping distributions to drive the point home even more.

I'm not sure why would anyone get offended by statistical observation. It's not personal by definition.


Also interesting is that it's one of the things social justice activists constantly criticize others for. I can't count how many times I've heard the following: "when we say men are privileged, we don't mean any and all men are privileged to the same extent." Or "when we say white people are racist, we're not talking about every single individual white person."

And it makes sense. Yet when it comes time for someone to say "the statistical average for career interests in females tends to lean away from technology", all observable nuance is thrown to the wind.


Worse, with social justice this usually takes the form of a motte and bailey argument. The statement that "we don't mean all white men" and "we mean a system of systemic biases/practices" is usually a defense in response to being called out for dismissing someone for being white or male.

"Mansplaining" is the clearest example of this. Supposedly it's only used to describe a man condescendingly explaining something a woman already knows, but in practice it's used to belittle and condescend any man criticizing a woman or women as a group. i.e. "Google employees are furious following the internal distribution of a memo mansplaining away low diversity in tech"

The only constant is the preconceived notion that they always know who the victims are ahead of time. The reasoning is then reverse engineered to suit the situation.

A man is talking based on feelings and anecdote? He's ignorant and pathetic, and probably needs to get laid. A man is citing scientific studies and making a cohesive argument? He's a mansplaining dudebro here to dogwhistle sexism and racism. If it's woman though, she's respectively sharing her lived experience and fighting the endemic patriarchy by being forced to work twice as hard as any man.


Of all terms that have been formed on the internet, "mansplaining" is the one I hate the most. All a discussion is, at the end of the day, is two people explaining their own viewpoints. But now, with this word, you have a get-out-of-conversation-free card because if you don't like someone's response, just say it's mansplaining. It's almost unbelievably ignorant.


I can't speak for the abuse of the term (I've never experienced what you're describing), but 'mansplaining' refers to a very real phenomenon.

To put gender aside, egos and biases can always get in the way of two people explaining their viewpoints. You are pretty lucky if you've never had somebody explain a concept you already understood in a very condescending way.

Many men do this to women when they assume that these women aren't as knowledgeable as they are. 'Mansplaining' specifically describes this.


I 100% agree with your second statement - condescension happens all the time. I've seen it a bunch.

But first, men do this to each other all the time. Most of my conversations with my male friends involve us constantly disagreeing with each other, in a way I've rarely observed in groups of women. It's far more likely that if someone is willing to be condescending, they're going to do it to everyone.

Of course there are instances where a man may only do it to women, but we've quickly moved on from that general observation to "any time a man disagrees with a women he's mansplaining". 99% of the time I've seen this term used, it's to lazily drop out of a discussion once it becomes difficult.


I haven't experienced a person who misuses "mansplaining" in the way you're describing. I'm sure it happens, and I don't agree with those who do that, but I have witnessed the situation the word is meant to describe several times too. I'm more inclined to think that it still happens all the time and is accurately pointed out by the word.

I agree that someone willing to condescend to women will be more likely to condescend to a junior employee or a teenager (i.e. they've already shown the propensity for prejudice), but I don't agree that they are probably condescending to everyone (I'd argue that kind of person is very rare).

It's not that there are legions of very sexist and evil people who are not prejudiced in any other way, it's that there's an unfortunately large spectrum of mostly well-meaning people who might harbor conscious or unconscious beliefs about women specifically. They might also harbor similar beliefs about minorities, or have a life experience that justifies their beliefs in their eyes, but nevertheless it's a big enough cross-section of society and a strong enough phenomenon that it's been noticed. That there is some subset of SJWs who think that they can take advantage of this isn't an extreme claim, but that it's a stronger phenomenon is a pretty extreme claim to me.


The difference is that the "on average" vs "the individual" in the memo is scientific. Which doesn't mean it's the gospel truth, by all means go and criticise the papers linked to. But at least it's science. In the case of privilege or the lack thereof, it's an opinion. As far as I know anyway, I'd be happy to be pointed in the direction of scientific studies on privilege.


Yeah I was more interested in just the interpretation of the statement. It goes to follow that if one of the claims isn't all-encompassing, the other isn't either.

But yeah I don't think it's a scientific claim, of course it depends on how you define "science". If you consider politically-motivated sociology to be science, then yeah I guess you could count privilege as a scientific concept...


> It's not personal by definition.

In my own experience, when one tries to talk with a woman in an impersonal way about something that is personal to her, she will tend to find that very offensive. Infuriating even, because one is ignoring her emotions, treating them as if they don't matter. And to her, her emotions really matter.

From talking to others and based on what I've read, things tend to trend this way. In fact, there was a woman neuroscientist who gave a talk at Google[1] on the differences between the male and female brains and in that she gave an example of this kind of thing. She says that when she comes home and is frustrated about a problem she has been having, her husband wants to go straight to an objective solution to her problem. It drives her nuts. She just wants to hear that he understands how she feels. Before he tries to provide a solution, he is supposed to say, "Honey, I understand how you feel."

I think Damore made this mistake. He has a footnote about the need to be objective instead of emotional about these kinds of things. And so he wrote a very objective, detached memo. I suspect that was a significant part of the problem. It's a male approach to a hot issue. He instead needed to write in a way that was very emotional about how great women are and all the unique gifts they bring to the table and how he wanted to empower them to be free to be themselves at Google and create an environment that was welcoming to all that is special about women. It could have had almost all the same content but lead with positive emotions. Had he done that, he might not have faced such a backlash from furious women.

Men, too, need to know that you care about them before they care whether or not your facts are factual or relevant. But most men do not find an impersonal approach offensive per se, the way that many women do.

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu_uGr1ZOn4


    > She's explicit that statistical observations can't be used to judge particular individuals. 
That's perfectly fine but there's a lot more to it than the statistics, even if they're valid. Moreover statistics doesn't necessarily suggest a clear conclusion and course of action for organizations and decision makers.

That didn't stop the author of the original manifesto, however, from proceeding to make a bunch of bogus smug prescriptions for what google needs to do like "de-emphasize empathy" etc. These were way above his pay grade and I find it hard to believe that diversity has harmed this person.

The fact is, Google is doing just fine. They're not in a downward spiral because of diversity initiatives. They're thriving. At a minimum one could argue that Google's diversity programs aren't hurting the performance of the company.

The author of the manifesto clearly violated Google's Code of Conduct and got fired for it.


Do you really find that interesting though? Isn't that incredibly obvious?

My biggest problem with all this is how the author gave absolutely no thought to how his female coworkers would be affected by this. These are REAL women who have to interact with him every day. They are not just statistics who are on average less likely to be good engineers than he is. They are supposed to be on the same team. I can't see how any of his women coworkers wouldn't think of him differently after this.

This was not a paper released on the internet with no ties to his coworkers. By sharing it at work and tying it in with google he made it personal. The women reading it have no choice but to make it about them, because it is about them! They are the ones who interacted with programs that he is against. Everything he talks about is stuff they actually experience. And throughout the entire thing he shows that he does not care at all about these women.


Yes, really. It's not obvious to me why would people jump to conclusions like that. For example if I wanted to take things personally from my perspective from that memo, I could also find several points that I can misinterpret and get annoyed about.

Perhaps some people are more likely to see themselves in general statements and fill the missing info with their speculation. It may be the same reason why some people are susceptible to horoscopes or fortune tellers, except that this would be more subtle.


The manifesto didn't stop at citing statistics.


Sure, but many reactions were directly related to statistical claims. I'm finding these interesting.


Where he goes wrong is that he conflates statistical significance with clinical significance. Yes, his sources show that there are differences between men and women. However, the measured difference is so minute, there is little to no practical distinction.


Maybe i'm offended because, as a white man, it leaves me open to all kinds of statistics about how white men are overwhelmingly likely to be serial killers, compared to other groups. And it would follow that we could do a better of catching serial killers by assuming white men are unable to control their murderous impulses, and adjusting how our laws work so white men are diverted from jobs involving human contact. That way we don't lower the bar for the safety of our lawful citizens.


Human brains simply aren't very good at thinking statistically. You can say something totally factual and benign, like, "Most nurses are women" and someone will immediately chime in, "My uncle is a nurse!" It happens every time. It's practically a law.

We're good at noticing patterns and exceptions to those patterns, but, for whatever reason, we're just not good at distinguishing statements about populations from statements about individuals. For most people, breaking this intuition takes a lot of education and training.

So, yeah, you shouldn't really be surprised when some random person on Twitter fails to grasp the argument. It's disappointing, but it shouldn't be surprising.


I attribute this to lack of citizen sophistication. If you expect a public discourse to have clarity or nuance on statistical terms, then it probably means paying for statistics training for every citizen, even if it's just a little statistics unit as part of a larger civics course.


Because people do not understand statistics. A great example of this is the Gambler's fallacy [1].

[1] https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler%27s_fallacy


Well if your beliefs is that the statistics are incorrect, I guess these kind of people would be offended by people who are simply stating the facts.


I am always surprised that well educated people who are definitely not "creationists" but consider evolution as a way human kind developed are ready to ignore evolution when it comes to gender.

Clearly man and woman are different physically and mentally as for millenias they played different roles. Why "gender people" keep ignoring that and are claiming that sex is not something inborn and is a "cultural" phenomena is hard to understand.

For me gender studies are just new incarnation of Lysenkoism. Lysenko strongly belived (and thousands of soviet scientist) that weeds could spontaneously evolve into food grains because is should cooperate with communistic party.

Those who were against that obvious stupidity and claimed that genetics is the way to understand plant evolution were fired or put to jail or executed.

Similarly absurdal ideas were brought by soviet lingustics - if any one wants to have good fun, there is no better reading then Stalins's "Linguistics".


You're confusing the way things are versus the way things should be. Evolutionary biology explains the way things are. Diversity measures combats that with the goal of getting us to the way things should be. There are a host of reasons why things are the way they are now. The memo tries to offload some of that to biological explanations and cites studies. Then he makes a leap of faith and recommends the should based on that. The studies only explain why things are the way they are, not whether that is a good or a bad thing.

Specifically, he says at the top of the memo "Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business." I'm not aware of any studies that backs this up.


> Evolutionary biology explains the way things are. Diversity measures combats that with the goal of getting us to the way things should be

Who specifically told you how things should be? I fear I am witnessing the birth of a new religion here and I'm not done recovering from the teachings of the imams I grew up with...


No one told me. I'm still trying to figure it out. But mainstream gender equality says there should be a roughly equal split while the memo says the split should be something else and implied it should be more men than women by citing reasons for why there currently are more men than women.

Oh, am I not allowed to form an opinion on what should be? Please correct me if I am wrong but perhaps your opinion is no one should have an opinion on what should be and let things be status quo? Keep in mind the whole discussion is around what should be the goal of diversity measures.


I didn't mean to be antagonistic. Apologize if I came off that way.

Part of the discussion around the memo indeed is having an open discussion about what things should be like. Of course I would like to see more women in tech and also make sure everyone is comfortable. My gf is also in tech.

My only qualm is that many people seem to axiomatically take the position that a 50/50 split should be the case. I just don't see why. Why not 70/30 or 30/70 or maybe exactly match the gender ratio in the US? What about trans or third gender ?

You're right that the memo similarly makes "should " claims. I am not acquitting it of that issue. Just trying to understand where people are coming up with this idea that 50/50 is the right split and that we should use that as an optimisation function in hiring as opposed to pure, blind meritocracy.


I should apologize too. I was just a bit flustered.

50/50 split might be naive. It assumes men and women should be equally represented and that makes liberally minded folks feel good. But what's the alternative? Status quo? A different and arbitrary split? I don't see any good arguments against equal representation.

The current diversity initiative is biasing towards 50/50 and the memo guy didn't like it but didn't suggest what it should be, only that it should be less because biology. You can see why some people might read that as a first step back to status quo.

Personally, I feel 50/50 is a good first approximation. Maybe it's really 70/30, but no one knows and there aren't any studies to back any up.

Oh wait there is: Bear, Julia B., and Anita Williams Woolley. "The role of gender in team collaboration and performance." Interdisciplinary science reviews 36.2 (2011): 146-153.


(following are purely my own opinions, nothing more )

I think it's good to do humanities studies but naive to latch on to one or two. Humanities is a messy field from a scientific perspective. But nevertheless there is plenty of signal there.

The issue I have is starting with something like 50/50 and then trying to optimize for that. This is invariably what happens. This leads to all kinds of weird, bizzare practices like being discriminatory in hiring based on (largely) immutable attributes like race and gender. The concept of gender itself is so in flux these days that it seems premature to start with 50/50.

This above approach I think is known as equality of outcome. I am not a big fan of that.

I personally think a better system is based on equality of opportunity where the optimization function should be trying to improve people's starting points. This is much harder but much better for the long term health of the society (in my opinion ).

In equality of opportunity, the hiring will be blind to gender. But work will be done to encourage more girls to participate in the sciences from an early age. Liberals wont be able to pat themselves on their backs immediately as they won't be fulfilling quotas quickly to show faux diversity. Corporations won't be able to bandage bad PR events quickly (like Google's gender paygap thing ) but this is in my opinion alot healthier over time.

Now, over time, I would expect the ratio to improve, but then settle at whatever is natural without any top down pressure to fulfill prescribed quotas. It might be the case that the mean of the distribution of women is closer to things like raising families or educating kids as teachers (the most important job in the world in my opinion ) instead of toiling away in front of a screen for crap money to make more money for a big corporation (compared to men).

In the first case (equality of outcome) we take two different distributions, men and women, and push them into a 50 50 split. In the second case (equality of opportunity), we try to move the means closer bottom up. I prefer the second approach. Slower, harder but much better for the long term health of society.


> Specifically, he says at the top of the memo "Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business." I'm not aware of any studies that backs this up.

The unfairness is implicit. If more men are temperamentally inclined to 'thing' based work, it is unfair to push them toward work that they feel less affinity for. Society should support our freedoms, not impair them.


Actually, diversity measures make things worse by promoting below-average candidates unfairly based on their superficial attributes (skin color, sex etc). This actually achieves the opposite of what is intended as it reduces fitness selection of whatever genes make someone good at/interested in STEM topics. By going against meritocracy you are harming the vulnerable groups by giving them a crutch to rely on.


In the case of Google, I don't think the bar is being lowered for any candidate, since there are so many candidates to select from. If anything, it's more likely that qualified non-diverse candidate are rejected for random reasons at a higher rate than qualified diverse candidates, because interviewers and hiring committee aren't on the look out for biases.


I don't think anyone is promoting below-average hires as part of diversity programs. If that was the case, they could just hire only women until the desired gender balance is met.

I get the feeling your position is exactly what Google referred to as toxic. Imagine a woman hired in a diversity program hears your position. Do you think she will feel welcomed and understood?


Is that not what a diversity program amounts to? If the candidate was superior on merit alone then market forces would reward those companies that ignored race and gender in their hiring decisions and punish the racist/sexist ones that were passing up perfectly good candidates. If all existing companies are racist/sexist then the potential entrepreneur that starts a competitor and scoops up all the "ignored talent" would make a killing.

Perhaps instead of whining about gender ratios we should be the change we want to see while making a ton of money at the same time?


I sincerely don't think diversity programs amount to that. And if you know any that do, call them out because they are not diversity programs, they are "discrimination" programs in essence.

As a side note, I think you expect too much from talent in this specific case. There have been more than one companies that have hired excellent talent only to succumb to the market forces.


I'm curious as to why you don't think diversity programs are not exactly that: discrimination programs. Enforcing quotas assumes (usually incorrectly) that there is an equal supply of talent within the underrepresented minority group and that it is simply bias on the part of the hiring managers that prevents equal numbers of blacks/women/hispanics/whatever from being hired. Putting pressure on companies for not having more minority representation is being discriminatory against (usually) white males, as there are limited spots available at a given company.

If you start with the potentially incorrect assumption that your hiring practices are biased in favor of one group over another then doesn't it make more sense to address this bias directly rather than enforcing quotas? Having your hiring process audited and getting rid of any bad weeds seems like a good start. I've seen firsthand manager who have said outright "we can't hire him, we need to hire a woman this time" after interviewing what seemed to be a good candidate.


Without further clarification or elaboration, your comment does not seem to make much sense.

Consider the extreme case of children vs adults. Should we advocate for policies that force companies to employ children because we think it's more equal that way?

I'm not trying to say women are children or anything like that, just taking your position to it's absurd conclusion to show that it's at least questionable.


That's hardly a fair comparison. It's not illegal for women to work (anymore).


That's not a fair interpretation of my comment.

You said:

> Evolutionary biology explains the way things are. Diversity measures combats that with the goal of getting us to the way things should be.

But you provide no reason why you want things to be a certain way.

For example, if it is true that less women are interested in STEM, then, why do you think that we should have 50/50 men and women in STEM?

That just seems like arbitrarily trying to enforce your vision on reality for no good reason.


I am always surprised when well educated people misunderstand or misrepresent opposing arguments, or reuse data points that seem to support their side as some sort of argument-winning trump card.

> claiming that sex is not something inborn

Literally no serious[1] person studying gender makes that claim. The reason it's hard to understand is because the actual argument has always ben that both nature and nurture play important roles. As for why "culture" applies, remember that while sex involves genetics (and hormones, etc), gender is performative. Performance happens in a setting, thus acting masculine hap[ens in a culture/setting that defines what "masculine" means.

> Clearly man and woman are different physically

Obviously true in general, but there are surprises in the details.

> and mentally

That is technically true, but presupposing that is bad science. Historically a lot of stupid crap was invented to justify the two predefined[2] categories. More importantly, anybody claiming there is a difference needs to explain the specifics of which traits they are talking about, because for most attributes the bell curves overlap significantly.

> Lysenkoism

If you want to be paranoid, you will find ways to interpret your experience as being persecuted. Instead, I suggest actually listening to the actual arguments being made.

[1] I'm sure you can find examples of almost any claim in forum comments.

[2] Science should create categories from the observations. If you're starting with the two categories [M, F] and then trying to prove or disprove that, you're doing it wrong. These concepts are more complicated than a simple Boolean flag.


Was literally reading about this last night in "The Gene, An Intimate History": https://www.amazon.com/Gene-Intimate-History-Siddhartha-Mukh...

Couldn't help but think of this troubling incident while reading about it.


I think they acknowledge that our society differs from that of our evolutionary ancestors, and that this context matters in determining social policy, and does not amount to "ignoring evolution".


[flagged]


Easily disproved by the entire school of evolutionary psychology and many other modern schools of thought. The question is if there is more to consider in social constructs than simply evolutionary biology.


Postmodernists and feminists are generally very critical toward evolutionary psychology and hostile toward its scholars, so you're actually supporting my point.


You notably skipped over the majority of my comment, and only added more unfounded sweeping generalizations comparable to your similar ranting about feminists elsewhere.

>The question is if there is more to consider in social constructs than simply evolutionary biology.


[flagged]


Yeesh, more dogma. Is it possible that the truth is more nuanced? You conflate sexual symmetry with gender equality.


They also wield a lot of social clout, as we've all seen from this event among others.


> But sexism isn’t the result of knowing facts; it’s the result of what people choose to do with them.

We know that men are taller than women. I can see you agreeing, but actually this statement is ambiguous, because these two are not the same thing:

  A man is taller than a women

  On average, men are taller than women
Sexism is taking a random male and a random female, and claiming that despite all the facts presented to you, the male is taller than the female. It doesn't matter that in a specific case a female is taller than a male.

The same can be applied to any group and their respective stereotype. The *ism happens when we fail to assess an individual on the data given to us, preferring to fall back on mentally-lazy stereotypes/generalisations even when what we can see says something different.

   A single study, published in 2015, did claim that male
  and female brains existed along a “mosaic” and that it
  isn’t possible to differentiate them by sex, but this has
  been refuted by four – yes, four – academic studies since.

  This includes a study that analyzed the exact same brain
  data from the original study and found that the sex of a
  given brain could be correctly identified with 69-per-cent 
  to 77-per-cent accuracy.
Well I'd argue that isn't great accuracy as 50% is what you'd expect from chance (though I haven't read those references). In fact, I might expect a similar accuracy from a machine-learning technique to predict sex based on your height.

I haven't touched on the causes of population differences. With height, I don't think anyone thinks it's anything other than genetic (by way of testosterone levels). For interests and skills, the proportion that is caused by testosterone versus culture/environment is still unclear.

If we believe there is still a cultural effect, then I think positive discrimination is justified to counter this.

As an anecdote, we were wondering why our four-year old son suddenly lost interest in 'Frozen'. He told us this week that a girl had told him at nursery that 'Frozen' wasn't for boys. Cultural stereotype reinforcement is alive and well, and starts early!


> Sexism is taking a random male and a random female, and claiming that despite all the facts presented to you, the male is taller than the female. It doesn't matter that in a specific case a female is taller than a male.

Upvoted for this. Great definition of sexism.

> Well I'd argue that isn't great accuracy as 50% is what you'd expect from chance.... In fact, I might expect a similar accuracy from a machine-learning technique to predict sex based on your height. ...With height, I don't think anyone thinks it's anything other than genetic....

If the method is probably as good at predicting sex as one based on height, which everyone agrees is genetic, then why isn't that great accuracy?


> our four-year old son suddenly lost interest in 'Frozen'

As a counterpoint, if society was as clear that "My little pony" was also not for boys, Bronies might not exist..


There is a tremendous environmental component to height. Women in South Korea have gained 8 inches in height, on average, in the past century. They are now taller on average than Korean men a century ago, despite no genetic differences.


To people who are flagging this article: why don't you read it? It's important, and the author is competent.


Because it doesn't align with their worldview, and the wrong kind of thought must be quashed.


Or maybe people are just tired of seeing constant posts about this story.


This article is trash. Who is claiming that there are no gender differences across the population? Who is she arguing against exactly?

Maybe the author should have actually read the manifesto more carefully, because it is primarily an argument about Google's hiring practices and how to build the best workforce for a company, a topic which the scientific studies she cites do not address in the slightest.


> Who is claiming that there are no gender differences across the population?

About a quarter of comments on the original manifesto thread here on HN were from people who explicitly stated that there are no differences between genders and wanted scientific proof if someone were to refute their statement.


I don't think that's accurate. Nobody was trying to refute the science that was cited by the manifesto writer. There were many comments arguing that environmental factors are more important, or pointing out that the science of testosterone's effect hasn't been directly connected to job performance, which I think are great subjects to debate.


She is arguing against the way the memo was reported by the media. Like this piece http://gizmodo.com/men-have-always-used-science-to-explain-w...


That article is trash as well, and it fairly got flagged when it was posted here. I think HN is a place for a more enlightened discussion.


Women work in the Berlin Post Office with calculators, 1928: http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-women-work-in-the-berlin-po...

The managers, a more people-oriented activity, are all men. But the people working with actual calculators are women. And it was not just this office, this was happening everywhere. Working with a calculator was a woman's job.

More: http://www.history.com/news/human-computers-women-at-nasa

There is a lot of factors to why STEM is dominated by men. Testosterone may be one, for real, but it is not the only one. And it doesn't justify such a big difference in numbers.

I don't know if the engineer wrote something awful or not, but this article is just a justification for the difference as if nothing can be done. And that is not true.


Data entry has always been a strongly female occupation. Even sixty years later, data entry workers were 92% female: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1987-08-02/news/870226065...

It seems concerning that the de-emphasis of data entry in programming in the 1970s and 1980s may have caused the loss of entry-level opportunities for women and help lead to our field's gender imbalance.


>I don't know if the engineer wrote something awful or not

Perhaps you should read it then.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14969705

>this article is just a justification for the difference as if nothing can be done. And that is not true.

No, the memo did actually give suggestions for getting more women into programming (e.g. pair programming).


What does mechanically typing into calculators have to do with anything? Clerical work was not the precursor to modern STEM jobs.


I have a question to further this debate.

Would people consider it sexist to administer a completely automated test of technical and personality questions which was used by an unbiased program to hire only the best qualified candidates?

What would you say if the results were essentially the same as the status quo?

By the Article's Author's account, she believes that we would probably maintain the status quo with such a test, because she thinks people are self-selecting out of STEM. Others seem to think that there is some other barrier to entering -- would a test like this fix the issue, or is there something else going on?


Well, first of all, such an unbiased test does not and probably cannot exist. People have to write the test, and despite their best efforts, they will likely still be biased. And how do you determine what 'unbiased' is in the first place? Such a test would likely give us the status quo or close to it because most hiring managers are acting in good faith already (at least, I chose to believe that people don't mean to perpetuate sexism/racism etc, they just aren't necessarily trying NOT to do it.)


> What would you say if the results were essentially the same as the status quo?

OK, I'll bite. I'd say that's both surprising and interesting. Then I'd ask why the status quo is even relevant. "Best qualified" at the time of taking the test might not mean "most productive a year hence" when a candidate's circumstances might have kept them from reaching their full potential. Indeed, circumstances might have kept them from making it as far as the test at all. When there are statistically valid predictors of these things likely having happened, why couldn't - or shouldn't - Google take advantage of that knowledge? Also, no individual test can account for the common phenomenon of diverse teams outperforming monoculture teams. Hiring the best individuals is not the same as building the best teams.

Thus, even if such a "unicorn test" could exist, and even from the most hard-hearted "Google shouldn't consider social justice" perspective, the test would only be one input for selecting candidates. There would still be sound business focused reasons for overriding its results some of the time.


Not being sarcastic, is there evidence that more diverse teams are better? There seems to be some anecdotal evidence going both ways (i.e. more diverse viewpoints vs team cohesion). I can imagine that there's a balance point as well. You could have one extreme where people are so similar that its basically a one-person team with 8 arms. You could also have a team so diverse they can never agree, have no common language and no shared cultural aspects, or even shared goals. An interesting balancing act really.


The most often cited paper w.r.t. gender diversity (the kind most at issue here) seems to be this one:

https://papers.tinbergen.nl/11074.pdf

A more readable summary is here:

http://gap.hks.harvard.edu/impact-gender-diversity-performan...

The authors did indeed find a balance point, at about 50:50 (a far cry from the 81:19 among engineers at Google). OTOH, this was for a very different kind of task than programming. Another starting point is here:

http://www.chabris.com/Woolley2010a.pdf

It's particularly interesting that many summaries of this work will use vague terms like "composition of the group" to avoid mentioning anything in the findings about number of women in the group.


There's already a number of companies that do blind reviews of resumes, or applicants that intentionally hide or change their names - not sure if it makes a big difference, also because there's just less female applicants in general.

Actually, how many female software developers can't get a job nowadays?


The problem isn't that women aren't getting jobs (the market is currently in too serious of a demand for hands on keyboards for that) but that they aren't getting as good a job as you would expect from their qualifications and/or that they aren't being paid as much.


I'll have to go see if I can find it, but recently there was a study in Britain, France and ? (Germany I think) on compensation. Ah, here it is:

https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/08/daily-...

While there was a definite gap for the population as a whole, when you zoomed into the same job at the same company, the pay gap disappears.

No idea if that applies to women in tech but it was new info to me. Does anyone have a source for a pay gap in tech?


As an additional perspective, here's an interview from James' perspective[1]. The interviewer is clearly fairly bias and holds the same viewpoint which is unfortunate but I think hearing James' perspective on the purpose of the document is interesting.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agU-mHFcXdw


Here's the full interview[1] - the above comment linked a shortened version.

For reference, this is Dr. Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor who was fired a few months ago for his stance on using gender pronouns. He's a strong proponent of free speech, which he touches on in this discussion.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEDuVF7kiPU


> was fired a few months ago for his stance on using gender pronouns.

He wasn't fired. The university sent him two warning letters and then backed down from taking any action. He's still teaching psychology there.


This is an interesting video to listen to, but as you said, the interviewer is most definitely leaning a certain direction.

That being said, I am not informed enough on the topic of gender differences to actually weigh in on who is right or wrong in this situation.


I am certainly not either, I just think people grabbed their pitchforks impulsively and painted him as a misogynist monster without hearing his side of the story. From the interview it sounds like the document was sparked from an internal diversity meeting that was dubious in its intent. Whether that is actually truth or not who knows but I get the impression James was trying to have a discussion and present some evidence but ended up getting roasted instead of having the discussion he was hoping for.

The issue aside, the hypocrisy in this whole situation is really what pisses me off. James appears to be soliciting discussion and trying to consider both point of views while the masses simply took whatever the media headline was an ran with it without considering both sides.


If his desire is to spark reasoned debate, then Jordan "gender neutral pronouns are Evil Marxism" Peterson and Stefan Molyneux probably aren't the best choices of interviewers to help him with that, unfortunately

It's entirely possible that as he said, he wanted to spark some reasoned debate and he's just made a few mistakes (and got particularly unlucky with Gizmodo cutting his charted caveats) but it's equally possible that he knew exactly what reaction he was likely to provoke and aimed for just beyond the line of what would be considered acceptable.

(I have no insight into what he thinks or how he's been treated, but if I wanted an open discussion on the merits and shortcomings of Google's diversity policies, I'd probably start by suggesting that quotas are nearly always bad and male/female inequalities in STEM start long before people apply to Google, not with an essay insisting that men are more suited to software roles because biology and that Google's promotion of the view that attitudes contribute towards gender imbalances is left wing bias that threatens my psychological safety.)


I do agree with you on this. It really seems like he was trying to promote/encourage a discussion around diversity.

Also, it sounds like he _actually_ was more asking for feedback from a specific group within Google that in-turn decided to circulate it within the company as a whole.

The most troubling thing is the claim that James makes about the 'super secret, unrecorded meeting' that he attended within Google that prompted this paper in the first place. If that meeting really did take place, that is a sign of systemic racism/sexism within Google at some of the highest levels. If. I have no idea who to believe in this situation. An investigation into the company may be called-for.


I have always felt very ambivalent about affirmative action. It is a form of discrimination and therefore furthers the message that discerning based on gender or race is acceptable. You can make a strong argument that it is harmful, which is what the memo did.

However...

In the kingdom of Belgium at some point the rule was introduced that half of all political candidates for election must be women and had to receive equally prominent placement on ballots (by alternating male and female candidates). People were still free to vote men into office, but the idea was that it would give women a fairer chance. The same criticisms were said. Before you saw a low percentage of women in politics, like most countries. This was attributed to women having less of an affinity for politics. And yet, after a few election cycles this caused a shift in mindset as well as quality of female candidates and who was elected. Women are no longer perceived to be less suited for politics, the most popular politician is a woman, and gender has gone away as a divisive issue in politics. So, it actually worked. By making people so used to women politicians the issue went away, and you could probably get rid of the quotas and still see a 50% split in the next election.

So maybe our genetic predispositions matter far less than we think, and we can change mindsets through affirmative action. But it has to be all-in 50/50 % split, so that it will change people's perception of normal.


> I have always felt very ambivalent about affirmative action.

Part of the problem is that "affirmative action" takes many forms. Some people assume that it means quotas and lowered standards, but those approaches have been deprecated (and sometimes outlawed) for a long time. Outreach, anti-bias education, and support programs are generally preferred precisely because they don't lead to the same untoward outcomes that tokenism does. Sure, some people still get left out. I was "discriminated against" in that way once, but I thrived despite that and have learned to appreciate how that policy was just overall even though it was unjust to me.

There is no perfect affirmative-action policy, including lack of any explicit policy. The best we can do is ensure that the burden of any policy is as small as possible, and distributed as fairly as possible.


50/50 will imply to force people to join even when they don't want to. It works for politics because the number of politics is significative small compared to the total population. But the work force is really a big number and close the to total population.

In more gender equality countries like Norway the ratios are the worse ones for things like tech. Before a huge measure like this one you should understand by gender equality countries trend to have less diversity than less gender equality countries. This is very counter intuitive and needs an explanation (for some is biology) -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVaTc15plVs


> Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in our interests and behaviour.

This is obvious and not the point of contention. The crux of the other side's disagreement is in the assumption that differences in brain chemistry attributable to sex necessarily account for all or the majority of the differences we observe in career distributions. I think the insane reaction to this memo is unfortunate because the author does appear to make an earnest effort to discuss this topic, but the memo's defenders are not doing the argument any favors by arguing against the weakest version of the opposing argument.


As mentioned in the memo, gendered interests are predicted by exposure to prenatal testosterone – higher levels are associated with a preference for mechanically interesting things and occupations in adulthood. Lower levels are associated with a preference for people-oriented activities and occupations. This is why STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields tend to be dominated by men.

And why we see fields like law being dominated by women, right?

EDIT: I, and I suspect most other scientists wouldn't disagree that there are [edit - had this as aren't previously, woops!] physiological differences between men and women, but as I read the memo, that was not what was being argued. What was being argued was that those differences were the reason for the gender imbalance in tech (i.e. women are predisposition to be less interested/capable in STEM fields), in other words, the effect size associated with biological sex is larger (and indeed must be significantly larger) than any/all combined societal/'nurture' effects.


This is anecdotal. But a testament on how difficult this problem is.

I have two nieces and 1 nephew, all of which I've tried to encourage into programming. I have tried to get my nieces interested in programming with great difficulty but my nephew has taken to it almost instantly and effortlessly.

I suspect I am framing the activity wrong.


This is also anecdotal. I'm a female working as a technical lead. When trying to describe what I do to non-tech-worker female friends that ask, I often find that they get a look of slight confusion and state things such as "wait, that actually sounds like an interesting job!". It's as if their entire experience of computers, maths and tech is boring, so they think working with them must be as well.

I think how girls get introduced into STEM subjects has to change. I also think it would be worthwhile continuing to encourage adult females to give things like programming a go as well, even if they've tried in the past and didn't like it. Most of the barriers to interest seem to be how the subjects are talked about, as opposed to the subjects themselves.


Interesting. Do you have any insights into how the way you talk about it is different?


We do see people-focused fields like psychology dominated by women. Perhaps law is somewhere in the middle.

The memo didn't say biology was "larger than any/all combined societal/'nurture' effects". In the memo there is a section with this title:

> Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech

Note "possible". No one knows the exact combination of causes of the gap, it likely has many factors. The memo is saying there may be non-bias factors too, and that Google is blind to those, so it's pointing those out. That's not the same as saying non-bias factors are larger than everything else.


> We do see people-focused fields like psychology dominated by women. Perhaps law is somewhere in the middle.

Law is a broad area. I'd expect the combination of interests and skills that lead to one becoming, say, a corporate tax lawyer are quite different from those that lead to becoming, say, a public defender, or a patent attorney, or a real estate lawyer.

It would be interesting to see what the gender distribution is for these various areas of law.


As with many defenses of the Damore memo (and more than a few attacks against it as well), this completely misses the point. Let's say for the sake of argument that there are differences in ability and/or preference between men and women. Let's even say that the magnitude of those differences is sufficient to explain a 4:1 ratio between male and female engineers at Google (which is clearly not true). My response is still SO WHAT? That outlandish premise still doesn't even begin to justify his tone, his complaints, or his policy proposals.

* Differences in ability do not support his accusation of silencing. They're unrelated.

* Phrases like "the left tends to deny science" and "extremely sensitive PC-authoritarians" are inflammatory, prejudicial, and discriminatory in their own right, independently of whether gender differences exist.

* Diversity is provably good even in the presence of gender differences. Many studies have shown that the effect of mixed teams outperforming single-gender teams far outweighs any individual differences.

I could go on and on about other ways that Damore comes across as a radically intolerant jerk, a hypocrite, etc. but I'm trying to stay on one point. The "science" part of Damore's memo, which the OP is meant to support, is practically irrelevant. That's not the only part that's offensive, or dangerous, or in violation of his employee agreement. It's not even the only part that's unscientific, since sociology and economics are involved as well as biology and he doesn't even try to engage honestly with those. His belief that women are less fit to be engineers is abhorrent, but so separately are his other beliefs. Even the strongest refutation of that one point doesn't make a dent in the memo's total start-to-finish toxicity.


> magnitude of those differences is sufficient to explain a 4:1 ratio between male and female engineers at Google (which is clearly not true)

I had obtained numbers for number of pull requests in github and participation in competitive coding contests some time back. Gender ratios are close to 10:1 on both of the places. It's relevant because there is neither any barrier nor lowering the bar due to gender in these.


There's no lowering of the bar in the sense of denying hires/promotions, but I think it's fair to say that there are still significant disincentives to female participation. Also, I know this is heresy, but GitHub is not necessarily representative of software engineering in general. It emphasizes pure code development over ops or design, it emphasizes a very particular style of open source, it's skewed toward certain project types and sizes, etc. How many of those "male" commits were women hiding their gender, or senior males acting as the upstream conduit for an entire mixed team working against a repo elsewhere? Competitive coding contests probably skew even more heavily male, for reasons that I should hope are obvious.

It's a data point, and I thank you for that, but it's not exactly a complete refutation of contrary findings by others. It's also kind of beside the point in exactly the same way as the OP.


To clarify: your point is that the question of whether or not he's right is irrelevant; he shouldn't have said what he said, because what he said is abhorrent and/or dangerous?


No, that's a total misrepresentation of what I said. I'm saying whether he's right on that one point is irrelevant, because he tries to make a hundred others that are just as bad. But thanks for showing how Damore's supporters are just as guilty of "virtue signaling" as they accuse others of being.


If you want people to understand you, you should avoid attacking them when they try. I will not converse further with you.


Good. If you had wanted to engage constructively, you wouldn't have led with a strawman. The response - not attack - was no more or less than such a non-contribution deserved.


What disturbs me most about this incident is how many people's first instinct, when faced with views they strongly disagree with, is to try and suppress those views and the person speaking them. Not to engage with the argument or to try and argue against it, just to shut the other person down. It's a totalitarian kind of response.


In my experience, most people who act like that lack the intelligence to make valid points in an argument or there are no good arguments that support their point of view.

I think a lot of this has to do with parenting. When crying always gets you everything, you don't learn to work hard or have a debate to get what you want. There's a whole generation of full-grown babies.


If the reason that people get enraged is because they lack the intelligence to dispute something, what are google and news agencies doing hiring such people?

I'm not sure whether it's lack of intelligence or a desire for self-gain/self-promotion (seeing as how loads of people proudly plastered their pictures and names in the ensuing twitter debates, trying to paint themselves as brave crusaders for whatever movement they want to lead).


>desire for self-gain/self-promotion

This often involves being deceptive, which would explain both of your points. For many people, status is everything and it doesn't matter how they get there. Selling yourself is often more important than having the actual skills required for a position.

And let's face it: Not everyone at Google needs to be a rocket scientist. We've also seen how shallow Google's hiring practices are.* Ticking check boxes is more important than correct answers, which perfectly fits with everything we're currently seeing.

* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12701272


I thought that way too for a bit, and was generally in favor of Jon Haidts interpretation (blaming helicopter parenting). But I've noticed there are plenty of people well into their 40's and 50's who actively encourage this kind of thing. I don't know what to make of it.


> most people who act like that lack the intelligence

That's not true. _Everyone_ acts like this, including me and you (except we don't notice it when we do). The key factor is whether or not there's emotion involved in the beliefs that are challenged when presented with facts to the contrary, which then provokes cognitive dissosance. Look up "the backfire effect".


It's amazing how much personal experience affects how we interpret messages. I read the original document and, while I thought it was stupid that he was suggesting roles based on gender or genetics, I did think he brought up important issues on the culture of suppressing view points and having segregated groups, classes, and programs. I know that those are the issues I focused on because of who I am. I also think that having discussions is crucial in understanding other viewpoints. I really think we need to have more discussions and listen to everyone's perspectives, both minority and majority groups. That is how different groups will come to understand each other and work together to solve social problems. There is so much prescriptive advice, toxicity, and dismissal of viewpoints on all sides.


You follow different people than I do. I saw people engage with the arguments. Google's official responses explained how diversity was essential to their company.


> I saw people engage with the arguments.

That doesn't invalidate what I said. I said "What disturbs me most about this incident is how many people's first instinct..." I never said that literally every single person's response was like this. Are you trying to argue that there weren't a lot of people doing what I said?


Well, yes. I didn't see anyone try to suppress those views. Quite the contrary, they were widely shared. And then criticised.

He wasn't silenced in any way. His message reached way more people than he probably ever imagined.


Did you see hate, insults, name calling, claims that people shouldn't be allowed to discuss such topics, or should be punished for doing so? What about comments about how wrong it was to do something to incite a culture war (as if that was the memo author's intention. And presumably such commenters don't consider opinions they agree with to be 'inciting a culture war')?

I didn't say anything about literally preventing someone from expressing their views. There were lots of views expressed that equated to saying it was wrong to even try to discuss certain matters.

And let's not forget that he was fired, and many people were approving of that. That's creating, and celebrating, an environment where you should be afraid to express unpopular opinions


It's hard to avoid hate and insults these days. It seems to have been normalised by the recent political shift to the far right.

However, the main criticism I've seen directed towards the author of the manifesto, is that he contributes to creating a toxic work environment where women feel less welcome, which makes it hard to keep him employed in a company that wants women to feel welcome in engineering. Also that he doesn't understand the need for diversity in modern companies, that he doesn't understand the need for empathy and interpersonal skills in engineering, and that he's wrong about many of his assertions about gender differences (many gender differences are the result of cultural bias, for example).

> I didn't say anything about literally preventing someone from expressing their views.

You said:

> many people's first instinct, when faced with views they strongly disagree with, is to try and suppress those views and the person speaking them

The views weren't suppressed, they were spread, and then criticised. No doubt there are people who want to silence people they disagree with; that is nothing new unfortunately.

Whether his firing was justified or not depends primarily on whether this manifesto indeed contributed to a toxic work environment where women feel less welcome. Many people think it did. And if it did, then it's kinda hard to Google to keep him employed.

That's really the core issue here: is his manifesto intolerant of women in engineering, and does it contribute to intolerance of women in engineering? There's a vital difference between merely expressing an unpopular opinion, and expressing intolerance towards your coworkers. He's not merely supporting an unpopular sports club or liking unpopular music, he is talking about his coworkers. And that changes everything.


> The views weren't suppressed, they were spread, and then criticised.

I didn't say they were suppressed. I said "try and suppress". Big difference. Also, what you say is equating "suppress" with "silence". They're not the same thing. I have read literally hundreds of comments, across HN and other forums, where people have made comments designed to suppress views they don't like (I've already given examples of the kinds of things I'm talking about, so won't repeat them here). Lots have literally said that people should not be allowed or should be punished for daring to even talk about such topics.

> Also that he doesn't understand the need for diversity in modern companies

If you've been reading these threads on HN, you'd know that many people would dispute that. Lots of people have argued that the memo is pro-diversity.


Some people may have reacted that way. I think you're very intentionally trying mischaracterize people rolling their eyes the same way they always do as some sort of ignorant knee-jerk reaction.

I read the memo entirely. It was half-baked, ideologically, but also creepy. I've heard what it had to say a million times before and it's still stupid.


You're basically doing it yourself. Trying to dismiss it with adjectives as "half-baked" or "stupid".

The point is, it's neither and I think it deserves a proper dismissal instead of ad-hominems and insults.

Surely there is someone that can perform a point by point analysis and disprove the memo? I have not seen one comment doing that. Not one.

So no, you don't get to say it's stupid and call it a day. Prove it.


I like this comment, though it seems a bit lacking in completeness - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14969178


> I think you're very intentionally trying mischaracterize people

That's a pretty strong accusation. What is your evidence for that claim? Show me what I wrote that attempts to do that.


W.. what? Literally your post. I'd have to quote the whole thing. "many people's first instinct". It wasn't many people's first instinct.

Again, I read the article, many others read the article and wrote detailed responses. It's not my job to point these out. Someone making a stupid argument does not obligate anyone to engage or correct them. A massive popular backlash against a shitty idea isn't "trying to shut it down".

If I submitted an internal memo advocating pedophilia or something everyone would rightfully dismiss me. No one would be obligated to engage with my dumb ass, and you're all acting like that would be some kind of tragedy or moral failing on the part of everyone around me, rather than me for writing a stupid memo in the first place.

You should just say "I think women are inferior" rather than trying to dictate how people approach an incident adjacent to your agenda, just like white nationalists should just come out rather than being coy and hiding behind "free speech" issues.


> It wasn't many people's first instinct.

There were many people doing exactly what I said in the HN comment threads, and, for another example, in the comments under George Takei's Facebook post on the incident.


> A massive popular backlash against a shitty idea isn't "trying to shut it down".

If the backlash is devoid of logic and facts, consisting mainly of character attacks and shaming....ya, that's "shutting it down". And if that's not enough, how about being fired from your job?

It's amazing how differently people perceive the very same facts.


The backlash is not devoid of logic and facts. Again, a shitty argument does not merit a thesis on it's shittyness from everyone who dismisses it, and there are plenty of in-depth critiques that you would've sought out if your agenda was to actually look into it and better yourself.

Also, Google firing him did not shut the argument down. He can happily draft more memos or expand on it. Google Docs is free.


> there are plenty of in-depth critiques

I'd be interested to read a few if you could provide some links. This assumes they exist of course, from the reading I've done on the topic I haven't seen any substantial rebuttal linked anywhere, but I've heard more than one person complain that the only rebuttal they've seen is "sexist!".

I have no particular horse in the race so if you do have content to back up your assertion I'd love to read it.


[flagged]


Please stop violating the guidelines by posting uncivil, gratuitous provocation. You've been doing this a lot and it leads to us having to ban the account.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Thanks for the article, but it is far from a substantive rebuttal, at best I would call it an opinion piece, with its "proof" based on logical errors and assumptions.

> There's a "chicken or the egg" question that needs to come with every assessment of behaviors of groups vs societal expectations and pressures on those groups. People in power, like yourself presumably (despite your insistence of having "no particular horse in the race) will always pretend that things are the way they are because of divine or otherwise pre-determined reasons. It's silly that people who consider themselves so rational are unable to comprehend how obvious this is.

You are mistaking your imagination for reality. You cannot read my mind. Regardless, you are the one advocating social engineering, not me, the onus is (or should be) on you to prove sexism is the cause of gender imbalances at companies. If sexism is so rampant, why is it so difficult to produce any evidence, and why is the "evidence" so commonly produced the equivalent of "bro-culture" conspiracy theories. That this is considered "evidence" only further illustrates how differently the human mind can perceive reality.

> Also lol @ programs for underrepresented groups “increase race and gender tensions”. Get fucked, dude.

What does this refer to? And please refrain from profanity and personal insults. If you have the moral high ground, as you seem to believe, no need to use filthy words and personal insults, your superior ideas should suffice, no?

> edit: came across one of the ones I read before from a recently ex-Google employee: https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/so-about-this-googlers-man... super good and worth a read

It opens with an outright lie: "You have probably heard about the manifesto a Googler (not someone senior) published internally about, essentially, how women and men are intrinsically different and we should stop trying to make it possible for women to be engineers, it’s just not worth it."

Absolutely fascinating.

EDIT: After reading that, my conclusion of how you find these sorts of articles compelling is that they are rebutting a twisted strawman of the original manifesto, where the author is imagined to be making a whole bunch of assertions that he really isn't. I think that explains quite nicely the breathtaking difference of perception.

For what it is though, it is absolutely brilliant, extremely well done, and I mean that completely seriously. I'd bet big money that person will absolutely dominate in the corporate world.


Good luck.


If you find yourself having similar problems with numerous people, you might want to consider the possibility that perhaps you should consider viewing the world from a different perspective. It's not easy, but it's possible.


Would you please stop posting personally condescending remarks toward people you disagree with? Regardless of how wrong they are, or seem, you're degrading the quality of the site by doing this.

Admittedly there is a whole lot of degrading going on in the current conflagration, but you've done this a whole bunch of times and it's definitely not helping.


Ok, I shall try to adopt a turn-the-other-cheek approach going forward.

I am somewhat curious why you've singled me out though, considering the specifics of the conversations I'm involved in.


Thanks—that's just the approach we're hoping for.

If you're thinking it might be because we secretly disagree with you, I assure you that (sadly for us) everyone always thinks this. It's an artifact of randomness: we see a mostly-random sample of the comments here, since there are far too many for us to read. HN's moderation principles are consistent, but because of this quantity it's impossible to apply them across the entire corpus of posts, so you're always going to see examples of people getting away with worse in the neighborhood.

Also, I post most of these moderation comments and happen to have been dealing with an extraneous emergency (two in fact) during the exact period of the recent flamewar hurricane. Them's the breaks. Am ramping back to normal now, so the moderation comments will soon be thicker and faster.


That seems reasonable. These topics do always tend to degrade to chaos, human nature sometimes overpowers intention.


He did also comment on and0's post as well.


I can think of plenty of rooms I could walk into right now (or throughout history) and not have anyone agree with me on something I care about. I don't consider this a problem, in most of those scenarios.

I'd recommend you take your own advice. You didn't even try to read anything I posted, and you sure as hell aren't applying the same critical thinking to shoot down the insane ramblings in the original memo.

Enjoy your privilege, enjoy your current power. Make sure anyone who questions the order of things that grant you all this do so only in a manner you find agreeable, not that it would change your mind or anything. I'm not going to pretend you're doing this in good faith any longer.

Fuck, why do I bother on this site?


> there are plenty of in-depth critiques

Can you link to one?


TIL science is creepy


[flagged]


The problem with this thinking is that many of us are not extremists and genuinely want to know what the scientific truth is.

And if someone prepares a text which is logically sound (but remains to be seen if scientifically sound) supported by references then it's completely a different game.

And when journalists and other people criticise that text with ad-hominems, jokes and invectives but ZERO arguments, that's no longer enough.

I'm afraid that the critics of this manifesto will have to put in the hard work and prove that it's wrong. The tactic of shouting the author down, as they do with typical trolls won't work in this case.

But the really bad news is that it never did work. Those people that were shouted down continued to hold the same ideas except they hid them and acted silently.


> Those people that were shouted down continued to hold the same ideas except they hid them and acted silently.

This same phenomenon happened just this last election. Only one candidate was allowed to be publicly supported. Publicly supporting the other carried the risk of being shamed, labeled (bigot, fascist, etc.), or even being fired from your job.

By all metrics Hillary was winning. But the silenced portion of the population didn't change their minds after being shouted down and shamed; they, as you said, "hid [their ideas] and acted silently"


Firing this guy was just a PR move in order to keep things under control. The memo was accurate and I know that Google is going to learn from it even if the guy has been sacrified.


Private companies are not free speech zones. Not firing this person would have been a Title VII violation and opened them to lawsuits.


>Not firing this person would have been a Title VII violation

I disagree. His manifesto is pretty clearly core political speech protected by the First Amendment, so Title VII would be unconstitutional as applied if it operates to force Google to suppress such speech. Unfortunately there is no precedent clearly establishing this, so the mere threat of lawsuits (and accompanying legal expenses) may have been a factor in Google deciding to fire him.


Not firing this person would have been accused a Title VII violation and opened them to lawsuits.


Googlers got a very clear message: comply or you are out. The diversity crowd grabbed power and asserted it.

I don't see anything good coming out of this.


This is correct. There is a lot being made about Google trying to enforce ideological purity, and not enough being made about why Google feels obligated to have this company culture in the first place.

I speculate (without much evidence) that Google's intention is to manage PR and deflect attention away from their actual lack of diversity. http://time.com/4391031/google-diversity-statistics-2016


I think it's important for us to gain some kind of perspective here. Whatever current science (or "science") says on the matter, that's not the point. These arguments seem to be of the following: women are inherently less capable of being good engineers, therefore they should be underrepresented in engineering.

Okay, now let's extend that argument out from the engineering sphere.

Using the same logic, the following attitudes should be accepted: 1. physically disabled people are inherently less suited to being mobile, so we shouldn't put in effort to allow them to be as mobile as non-disabled people 2. Men are inherently less suited for child care, so we shouldn't put in effort to help them be as good at child care as women

I wouldn't be surprised if some of you endorsed the attitudes I've just presented, but that would make you immoral by modern standards, so you could then assume that you're being immoral on the gender diversity issue.

This whole thing comes down to a fundamental lack of empathy. If you're not going to have empathy for women in tech, there's no reason that anyone should have empathy for you in areas that you're not suited to. So, if you accept one, accept the consequences of the other.


>women are inherently less capable of being good engineers

The article doesn't say that at all. It just says that on average women have certain traits that mean they are less likely on average to want to go into an engineering job.

>Men are inherently less suited for child care, so we shouldn't put in effort to help them be as good at child care as women

But men are inherently less likely to want to go into child care, for obvious reasons. However nobody is saying that they shouldn't be allowed to do so.

I think the main problem with the memo is this line:

"Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race"

I don't see any problem with those programmes myself, and I think he would have gotten more empathy and less hostility if he hadn't advocated removing those programmes to help women.


>women are inherently less capable of being good engineers

The memo never argued that, no one defending it argues that. I urge you to read the original document.


No matter how you debate the validity of the science, I hope people pay attention to one suggestion the 'manifesto' author made: that his company should do more pair programming.

Pairing has always struck me as a great way to get programmers communicating better. Without addressing any other points in the manifesto, I think he's correct that encouraging pairing would be a good way to make development environments more collaborative.


From below (I wanted to make sure this didn't get hidden under a downvoted comment):

>I fail to understand how a memo calling for MORE diversity can get headlined as "anti-diversity memo" on all big media outlets. Do journalists even do independent research anymore or are they just regurgitating whatever reuters send their way without scrutiny?

The author is referring to psychological diversity, in other words, Google should be more receptive to diverse viewpoints. This is both true and not true. Yes, we should listen to others and understand, but that does not mean we should accept and value everyone's viewpoints. To invoke Goodwin's Law, perhaps we should be more sympathetic to the viewpoints of Nazis? How about white supremacists?

There are viewpoints that do harm people within society, and this is one of them. Strip this down, this is the basic "woman's nature" argument that was used for years in the past to keep women barefoot and in the kitchen. The underlying claim that women are bad at tech is ridiculous. As mentioned below, the early programmers and data entry workers were women as it was considered "office work". I'll also throw out names like Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace. Read a site like Godel's Lost Letter, and Lipton always points out women who have made contributions to the field. I even recall an article about a house wife who researched new fractals. Women have been engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math (and medicine) since the beginning. They were male dominated because people held the viewpoint the author does, which is essentially, "It's not a woman' place". Bullshit, plain and simple. This memo does not call for more diversity. It may cite scientific research (yes, men and women are different physically and psychologically), but it calls for the same status quo that initiatives like the ones the author lambasts are trying to overcome. Are they perfect? No. but they are a step in the right direction. We need to understand these difference and adapt to them not use those differences as a way to exclude.


> perhaps we should be more sympathetic to the viewpoints of Nazis? How about white supremacists?

Practically no one is saying that. We should cast out the tiny minority of Nazis.

What people are saying is that the views in the memo are not of a tiny minority. They are accepted by a significant part of society, by reasonable people. They are considered factual or at least debatable by many scientists. And many of the core principles are accepted by conservatives, i.e., a large wing of US politics.

What will happen to society if we aren't willing to listen across the political aisle? And if we aren't willing to listen to reasonable scientific debate?

> This memo does not call for more diversity.

It literally does call for more, including of gender and racial minorities:

> I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more

You can disagree with its practical suggestions - I do, I think many of them are harmful - but it's unfair to say it's not calling for more diversity.


> To invoke Goodwin's Law, perhaps we should be more sympathetic to the viewpoints of Nazis? How about white supremacists?

There's a movie on Netflix at the moment, a German movie called "Er Ist Wieder Da" ("look who's back") about Hitler returning in modern-day Germany. It's part movie, part documentary - the actor playing Hitler travels around the country and talks to people about politics and the like, and finds there's a lot of people agreeing with some of the standpoints.

The nazis crossed a huge number of lines and had some batshit people at the helm, but I'm sure you could find some points that a lot of people would agree with even in these days. Same with white supremacists, some of which have toned down their racism and become more politically correct.


So...we should value the opinions of Nazis? Are we really at that level?


It depends what the opinion is about. The National Socialists boosted Germany's economy massively, so a discussion of their economic policy might be useful (this is a simplification, in actuality the economics of post-WW1 Germany was boosted by a multitude of factors and the Nazis were not the only major one, but my point stands -- they legitimately did a lot of good to Germany before WW2). A discussion of their opinions on racial purity is definitely not going to be useful to anyone involved.

If you found out that the barista at your favourite coffee shop was racist, would that change whether they make good coffee? Is the value of the coffee inextricably linked to their views? If someone has a disgusting view in one aspect of their life, their other views appear to be tainted even if they are entirely orthogonal.


>To invoke Goodwin's Law, perhaps we should be more sympathetic to the viewpoints of Nazis? How about white supremacists?

Honestly, I would argue yes (with a big asterisk on your word choice of sympathetic). You need to engage with people and discuss their views in order to change them. Most people when attacked will double down on their views. If you can engage with those people, present evidence, and change their opinions then you are doing something meaningful to remove a piece of hate from the world.


Seems like a lot of the controversy around these types of discussions comes from the consequences of bayesian inference.

If you know that men and women differ in a distributional sense with respect to some trait, that gives you a prior to work off-of when you meet a new individual. This is rational from bayes theorem, so simply saying "you should treat everyone as an individual" is not nuanced enough.

However, as you acquire more information about a particular individual (such as passing a difficult google interview, or knowing that they've succeeded in a reputable CS curriculum), this should quickly "swamp" the prior, causing it to contribute very little to the final inference.

The problem is the humans are not great at adjusting like this: we're not perfect at applying bayes theorem in our heads. We tend to overstate the influence of various priors when there are stronger signals at hand. Nevertheless, incorporating prior distributional information is NOT irrational, but generally overdone.

Therefore, it seems like the approach of some is to shout down information that would suggest biological distributional differences, to try guarantee that people don't overuse prior information.


I don't think many people have a problem with any of the science or the statistics. That's not the problem with the 'manifesto'.

The author of the 'manifesto' seems to think that no one else reads these studies. I can assure you that everyone who is working on these issues has already read and understood the studies. The people in charge of these programs agree with them. He presented absolutely nothing of value. There is not a single new idea in what he wrote.

All the manifesto showed was that he thinks he you can just apply studies to your coworkers. He took a bunch of women he works with and turned them into statistics, into a problem that he alone can solve. It's incredible ignorant and arrogant.

The science, or understanding of statistics is not the problem, it is his approach to solving it that is the problem.


I'm surprised greater attention is not focused on the fact the "science" is in the midst of a reproducibility crisis. This is a big issue in the hard sciences; I can only imagine what it's like in the squishy science of gender behavior.

Tying your reputation to such a soft foundation is just inviting trouble.


The people-things orientation has an extremely large effect size for social science. The Su et al. meta-analysis from 2009 found an effect size of 0.86 with N > 500,000 participants. Lippa (N > 200,000) found an effect size of 1.40.

http://sci-hub.cc/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00320.x

If you don't believe the research is solid, please post some convincing counter studies.


> If you don't believe the research is solid, please post some convincing counter studies.

It sounds like you don't understand the reproducibility crisis: It's not up to me to produce counter studies, it's up to you to produce replications of the already published work, using the exact same methods and techniques.

So far, the reproducibility in the psychological sciences has been pretty poor. Nature summarized the original test a couple of years ago: 61 out of 100 replications failed in the test.

https://www.nature.com/news/over-half-of-psychology-studies-...


I think you might not know what a meta-analysis is: it's actually a summary of replications and duplicate studies on some topic. Generally (I have not read this particular one!) they are specifically designed to detect potential publication bias and other effects that would imply non-reproducibility.


> it's actually a summary of replications and duplicate studies on some topic. ... they are specifically designed to detect potential publication bias and other effects that would imply non-reproducibility.

Not quite right: Meta-analyses combine several studies to improve the statistical power of a given topic. They do not address reproducibility, because the individual papers forming the basis for the meta-analyses make no attempt at reproducing prior results before introducing new ones. I'd go so far as to say part of the necessity for the original reproducibility study of 100 seminal psychology papers was because meta-analyses fail to address reproducibility.

The repercussions of 61/100 papers failing to reproduce are still not as widely understood as they should be.


I'm sure for every article like this one there are solid arguments coming to the opposite conclusion: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/differences-between-men-women...


Why is it that nobody wants to fix the gender gap in nursing?



There is money in tech so women have an interest in playing victim to gain advantages. There are also a few males who hope to gain status for themselves and securing their own position by taking the women's side (while keeping other men down).

Men who play (or are) victims on the other hand are generally ridiculed or ignored, so there is no advantage in doing so.

Behind ideas there is usually self interest.


Scores lower on goodwill points. Diversity is often used as a marketing tool.

Mind you, that industry needs a lot more men - nurses move people around, people are heavy, and nobody's denying that generally, men can lift more weight than women. That's a much more obvious biological distinction than in the more brainy areas like STEM.


Greed, people want a piece of this boom.


How about female coal miners? Female construction workers? This isn't about fairness it is all about browbeating people from a perceived moral high ground so that wages can be lowered for all (more supply of programmers = lower cost). The "useful fools" here likely have the best intentions but are being used by people without good intent.


Or social work, education, etc.

A: money


Because programming pays higher. That's the response you eventually get from the feminist folks. I do believe this gender gap thing is good intentions, but there's just an enormous huge colossal amount of ignorance in the general effort itself and its perpetrators. The emotion-drivenness of the online audiences is not helping either.


So, this is science too:

Inmate Gender - Male: 93.3% Female: 6.7% [1]

"In view of these overwhelming results measures must be taken to remove men from jobs where their predisposition to crime may have negative repercussions on society."

[1] https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_gende...


I think science is a bit hyperbolic a term for this fiasco. More like mere statistics at best and we know how statistics can work out.

Calling psychology or psychiatry a science is a generous proclamation. None of the above practitioners, including a neuroscientist, neurologist, or a cognitive scientist, can explain completely why someone can look at a shot of whiskey, know it is an expensive whiskey, know how to balance the shot to their lips, then prepare for the burn, and then swallow it while hoping they will get "lucky" tonight but feel lousy tomorrow all at the same time.

We're not there yet when it comes to classifying humanity into "phylums" or categories via science.


Was horrified to see this flagged. Why would anybody flag a scientific viewpoint from a credible source with citations? Refute and discuss it, sure, but why flag it?


Why would anybody censor the viewpoint of a woman scientist in this particular debate? How much cognitive dissonance is too much?


This stuff is going all-medieval, with witch hunts and pseudo-rogues. People are going back to emotionally responding to facts and following who shouts louder. Fixing gender issues is one thing, suppressing facts yo dislike is another.

We wouldn't have a percent of liberties and developments also in the anti-patriarchal quest without science and rationalism.


Some additional data taken from the National Center for Education Statistics (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_318.30.a...)

Bachelor's degrees by sex from 2013-2014:

Mathematics, general: 43.9% earned by women (7,420 out of 16,914) Chemistry, general: 47.7% earned by women (6,556 out of 13,730) Physics, general: 18.7% earned by women (1,124 out of 6,002) Computer Science: 14.5% earned by women (1,914 out of 13,220)

It seems like all of the gender differences pointed out about women in the diversity memo would apply equally to Physics and Computer Science as they do to Mathematics and Chemistry, but they gender ratio of Mathematics and Chemistry degrees is much closer to 50/50. So why the big difference?


Anyone who wants to use "science" in this way needs to read "The Golem" by prominent sociologists of science Collins and Pinch. It's a short, enjoyable read. One of the things you'll learn is that science can only ask the questions humans want to ask, and science often says exactly what people want it to say.

https://www.amazon.com/Golem-Should-About-Science-Classics/d... online link: http://cstpr.colorado.edu/students/envs_5110/collins_the_gol...


Thanks for the piece. Sadly never came across it.


My experience has been that i get about 10-1 resumes from men vs women. Is it possible that they are being unfairly filtered by head hunters before i receive them? Could be.. i wouldn't think so, but i don't know. Of the candidates resume's i receive, the candidates that are women tend to be good, probably better than the average male candidate i get. But they are not 10x better, so at the end of the day, following the natural course there wouldn't be an equal base of candidates.

Being just one sample, mine, it is completely statistically irrelevant. But it's the only thing i personally can go on. I want good candidates, if you can find me more good women candidates, that would be great.


This defense of the "manifesto" is flawed just like the others. It picks out a small subset of the claims made in the document, discards the context and all the other claims, and then harangues us for having a problem with "science". I could argue "water is composed of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule, so women are bad at software development", and my argument would just be a difference of degree worse than hers.

We can talk straightforwardly about what makes the document problematic: whatever the validity of the "scientific" claims it makes about gender differences, there is no support (and likely no validity) to the connections it then makes to software development work. Despite that unjustified leap, the document goes on to suggest strongly that women working at Google are less qualified than men. There is no science Debrah Soh can cite to back up that assertion, however much she might want to.

Anyone can wrap an incendiary statement up in a pile of banal sentiment and ambiguous appeals to social science. When challenged, refocus the debate on the truisms and the footnotes and pretend you didn't write the nasty stuff you hid in the middle. And, as we can see, plenty of very smart people will fall for the trick.

Gender equity has been improving in the United States for several generations. As that has occurred, female participation in STEM fields (and in the professions, like medicine and law) has expanded dramatically. Many science fields are now approaching parity. Most have more than twice as much participation as computer science. That includes the field of mathematics, which is closely related to computer science and is certainly more intellectually challenging than "computer science" as practiced in the industry.

Among all STEM fields, computer science is distinguished for losing the participation of women over the last 10 years.

Unless the women of 1950 are somehow biologically different from those of 2017, the author's theory will somehow have to address the fact that her argument would have predicted the fields or law, medicine, biochem, mathematics, astronomy, statistics, accounting, and actuary would all be bereft of women over the 20th century --- obviously, the opposite occurred, despite the sexual revolution that was immediately to come.

The author of this article discusses a correlation between increasing gender equity and decreased STEM participation that does not appear in the evidence. There's a reason she does that: if you don't stipulate that correlation, the argument against gender bias in computer science has to confront another damning fact, which is that gender disparity in the field isn't global. Unless women in Asia are somehow biologically different than those of the US, her argument needs some way to address the fact that women make up the majority of STEM majors in many of those cultures.

Reading this article and then this thread, I find that there's really only two aspects of it that HN finds persuasive: the headline's appeal to "science", and the footnote observing that the author is a female scientist. That's not enough. Everything in between those things is wildly off.

In discussions about gender parity in CS, the word "preference" is a coded appeal to the Just World Hypothesis. There is a yawning chasm between neuroscience findings about "agreeableness" and "stress tolerance" and suitability for any particular kind of white-collar symbol-manipulation work. Ms. Soh must intuitively understand that, but mentions it not once in her piece, instead pretending that observations about the kinds of toys children play with allow us to reflect participation statistics directly into real preferences about work. Shenanigans.


Consider the Medium piece she cites:

https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/so-about-this-googlers-man...

Point #1: "I’m not going to spend any length of time on (1); if anyone wishes to provide details as to how nearly every statement about gender in that entire document is actively incorrect,¹ and flies directly in the face of all research done in the field for decades, they should go for it. But I am neither a biologist, a psychologist, nor a sociologist, so I’ll leave that to someone else."

In other words: "I have no relevant expertise, but I just know it's wrong."

We would never tolerate that from "the opposing side." I can point you to other articles that do the same.

This is the rallying point for a lot of people, and it's the wrong place to take a stand. It's worth pointing out.


You haven't so much responded to my comment as used it as a coat rack to hang an unrelated argument on. I didn't cite Zunger's blog post and don't really understand why people like it so much. I'd prefer not to discuss it here, and thank you in advance for not demanding I do so.


If that's what I did, I didn't mean to. I was primarily addressing your opening paragraph:

> It picks out a small subset of the claims made in the document, discards the context and all the other claims, and then harangues us for having a problem with "science".

I'm claiming that the reason she does this is because it is the number one point cited by many of the detractors, and it prevents us from getting into the more interesting and relevant questions.


If you want to suggest that Debrah Soh blundered by expanding a rebuttal to Yonatan Zunger's piece into a broader defense of the very dumb "anti-diversity memo", I am prepared to stipulate that. Like I said: while I may be on the same side as Zunger, I found his blog post shrill and unpersuasive. He had the facts on his side, but didn't know where to look for them, and waved his hands instead.


Thank you for this great response. I think you've covered why the 'manifesto' cannot be supported on a scientific basis very well. There's another issue with the manifesto that I don't think is talked about as much. And that's the human element.

All the cited science in the manifesto is irrelevant in my opinion. As an engineer you work with other people. You probably spend 40 or 50 hours a week with them. They may or may not become your friends, but they will have a huge impact on your life, and you on theirs. Many of these people will be women. They are REAL people that you interact with everyday. What he did when he decided to share this manifesto at work is show that he thinks of these women as statistics, and that on average they are not as capable as he is. He has turned the women he works with everyday into a technical problem that he can solve with his intellect. That is incredibly insulting! He's shown an incredible lack of empathy and understanding towards the women he works with. He's turned them into numbers. He's shown he does not care about them as individuals. This is absolutely unforgivable.

If he had simply released this as a research project or something on the internet then it wouldn't be a problem. But he didn't do that. He didn't make a distinction between the general population and the women he works with. He shared it at work.


I understand the arguments about how valuable interpersonal skills are to software development, but I don't like talking about them for a couple reasons:

1. The effect sizes we're talking about are tiny. A randomly selected cohort of men and women can routinely be expected to produce more women innately skilled at math, or more men innately skilled at negotiation. It's one of the more galling aspects of the debate about this stupid "manifesto", which at one point redraws a well-known chart about the overlap in ability between men and women to exaggerate the difference between the sexes: at no point do any of the advocates of the "manifesto" address effect size compared to the observed disparity in the field.

2. Very little about computer science as it is practiced in the industry is tied with any rigor to any particular skill. For the most part, software development is a standard white-collar symbol manipulation job in which productivity is defined mostly by meticulousness and generic learning and pattern matching. Attempts to break down aptitude by gender tend to imagine computer science in terms of compiler theory and algorithm design, when in reality 90% of all software development is repeated iterations of "wire this database column into this UI table".


> Attempts to break down aptitude by gender tend to imagine computer science in terms of compiler theory and algorithm design, when in reality 90% of all software development is repeated iterations of "wire this database column into this UI table".

I think computer scientists tend to apply the same skills and techniques to social issues that they do to compiler theory and algorithm design. And that's how you end up with these 'manifestos'. I don't think that many people are offended by the science. They are offended that he has turned women in tech into a technical problem that he can solve with his logical reasoning.

It appears that he thinks he's the only one who's read the studies. It's arrogant. Everyone interested in the issue has already read those studies. They also have enough interpersonal skills to know that you can't just apply studies to your coworkers.


Well said, it's a massive leap to go from biological gender differences to differences in aptitude for engineering.

The gross oversimplified claims from the document that attempt to make this leap are textbook stereotypes.


> massive leap to go from biological gender differences to differences in aptitude for engineering

For the n million-th time : the memo said nothing about aptitude for engineering, just preference.


I agree that the document blurs the line between preference/aptitude and is not totally clear which is one of the reasons overall it is a mess.

Nonetheless, many of the statements in "Personality differences", "Men's higher drive for status", and "Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap", especially the stuff about women being more prone to anxiety, liking part-time work, caring more about people than things, etc. speak strongly to aptitude for engineering, given the context of the document.

EDIT: Also, I reject the implication that the claim "women have less of a preference for engineering" is not in and of itself a harmful stereotype.


For the n-million+1th time:

1. The memo uses the word "preference" without ever establishing whether it's talking about free choice or choice after discouragement, and so is flagrantly begging the question.

2. It's simply false that the memo makes no connection between supposed preference and aptitude, as it builds to a section about the "harms of diversity" that includes a direct claim that women in Google's workforce are less capable than men.


> It's simply false that the memo makes no connection between supposed preference and aptitude, as it builds to a section about the "harms of diversity" that includes a direct claim that women in Google's workforce are less capable than men.

I have been confused why you and others have been repeating this, but after re-reading the section "The Harm of Google’s biases", I think I see your point now.

Damore does not say that all women who work at Google are unqualified, but he does imply that there are fewer women who are qualified, and that by trying to mine that population too heavily, Google is hiring women who are, on average, less qualified than the men are, on average. Do I have that right?


Damore is smart enough not to come out and say directly that he believes all women to be less qualified; instead, he just strings together a series of assertions that leaves reasonable people with only one conclusion, which is that the women at Google are beneficiaries of a lowered bar that results in the women at Google being on average less qualified than the men.

I have very little patience with arguments rooted in "but that's not exactly what he said", because I have been on message boards for approximately the entire literate span of my 40 years on this planet, and the technique of couching inflammatory assertions in half-hearted hedges and deliberately ambiguous abstractions is the oldest trick in the book.

He allocated a whole subhed to his point, and the whole document builds to it. The subhed is: "the harm of Google's biases". The biases he's referring to are towards women and against men. The harm he refers to is "a lowered bar". His point is plain.

(I'm confident people aren't going to like this comment, but it is what I honestly believe, after what I believe to be pretty significant consideration, and no part of this thread is made better by me pretending otherwise.)


Oh, so you know what he is actually thinking even though he doesn't say it and says things that are contrary to it. I see.

This, too, helps me understand the outrage. Thank you for being honest.

(I do hope the 'thank you' above can be read by people in a calm, snark-less voice. It is genuine. I appreciate Ptacek being forthright. I learned from it. It really does make the thread better and furthers the conversation in a productive way.)


For what it's worth: your thanks might be intellectually honest, but your summary of my argument is not.


> For what it's worth: your thanks might be intellectually honest, but your summary of my argument is not.

I am very open to being corrected.

When you said, "Damore is smart enough not to come out and say directly that he believes all women to be less qualified", I took it to mean that you think Damore actually believes that all women are unqualified and arguing about populations is a just a smokescreen for what he is really thinking. This is helpful to understand because it means that you don't think the memo is actually about population-level differences and so exploring that argument is a waste of time.

But if you didn't actually mean that, I misunderstood and apologize.


> The memo uses the word "preference" without ever establishing whether it's talking about free choice or choice after discouragement, and so is flagrantly begging the question.

Of course it's talking about free choice. Introducing "discouragement" in the equation is itself begging the question : it's an extra hypothesis which is unnecessary in presence of a simpler, more fundamental explanation (like this one https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166361/ ). Occam's Razor 101.

> includes a direct claim that women in Google's workforce are less capable than men.

Citation needed.


All you've done in this reply is beg the same question.


One of the bizarre things about this controversy is that even if you grant all of the memo's assumptions (something that I won't do except hypothetically), it still wouldn't follow that _Google's_ policy was bad for Google. Google is a big company but it only employs a small fraction of software developers. They could very well decide that it's good for them to have more women represented regardless of whatever the "global" distribution is.


This is what I don't understand in all these HN threads. How can some kind of vaguely related science paper(s), albeit perhaps accurate per se, make people so absolutely sure that there's some kind of _causal & scientific_ cause to the issue at hand - as it requires a really long jump. I assume it's just confirmation bias wreaking havoc. Thanks for a good summary too.


>the argument against gender bias in computer science has to confront another damning fact, which is that gender disparity in the field isn't global. Unless women in Asia are somehow biologically different than those of the US, her argument needs some way to address the fact that women make up the majority of STEM majors in many of those cultures.

There is research finding that the more advanced a country is in terms of gender equality (by generally accepted metrics), the more pronounced the occupational gender gap actually is in most fields.

One proposed explanation is that women in advanced economies are freer of constraints and higher up in the Maslow pyramid of needs, and can afford to go into jobs they actually like, rather that whatever they feel is their duty/more lucrative/otherwise rewarding. Kind of like yuppies (of either gender) dream of exiting the corporate world to set up an organic food shop. That would certainly explain the very different STEM gender gaps in the US/Sweden vs India/China, for example.

I don't have the reference handy, but if someone can provide it, please do !


It's 1950, in a parallel universe differing from ours in exactly one way: scientists, using methods inferior to ours today but aided by good fortune, have generated essentially the same results about innate psychological preferences Debrah Soh cites in this piece, results we will stipulate as accurate.

We can predict the next 50 years with perfect clarity, having lived through them ourselves.

According to Soh's logic, as gender equality increases dramatically throughout the next 30 years, we should see reinforcement of "preferences" to avoid science fields. And yet the opposite thing occurs.

Why has Soh's hypothesis failed to predict? Why is it more trustworthy today?


This explanation is put forward for example in the Norwegian science documentary series Hjernevask, see episode 1 (The Gender Equality Paradox), available on YouTube. I don't have the time to hunt down the references right now but you should be able to find them through that one.


Scott Alexander posits a theory which addresses why programming has a high gender disparity but law, medicine, biology and (undergrad) mathematics don't: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagger....

Doesn't address why the number of women in programming has fallen since the 80's though...


This piece is fatuous. Alexander perpetuates the "women like people, men like things" trope that is common to every message board discussion of CS gender disparity. He then explains away the fact that women excel in science fields by saying "what do women do with math degrees? They become teachers." He ignores that the effect remains in graduate-level math studies (women do not get math PhD's to become high school teachers) and in other STEM fields (women do not get biochem masters to become high school teachers).

He's contrived a just-so story that appeals to his audience. Which is par for his course.


[flagged]


1. I quoted from the middle of the article. I've read it multiples times.

2. There is a reason that particular argument is banned by the guidelines ("Please don't insinuate that someone hasn't read an article"): it's inherently uncivil.


Apologies for the incivility, but his article contradicts what you wrote and cites the relevant data.


Just to respond to a few specific points:

>Despite that unjustified leap, the document goes on to suggest strongly that women working at Google are less qualified than men

Can you elaborate on this? Just because FEWER women may be qualified to work at Google doesn't mean that the ones that are are any less qualified than the men. The fact that fewer women are tall doesn't mean that tall women aren't tall for example.

>I could argue "water is composed of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule, so women are bad at software development", and my argument would just be a difference of degree worse than hers.

I fail to see how the science discussed in the memo is as irrelevant as you make it out to be. Is it really that far fetched that psychological makeup (as expressed in big-5 characteristics) and interests play a role in what people choose to pursue and what they like to do? Because software engineering is different than other occupations (such as law and medicine), it makes sense to think about what might attract one to one profession over another. Many intelligent women I know chose careers such as medicine over cs. And why not? It pays better and doesn't involve staring at a computer all day (something that not everybody enjoys). The same could be said for law and finance (investment banking, private equity).

>Among all STEM fields, computer science is distinguished for losing the participation of women over the last 10 years.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/truth-women-stem-ca...

If you scroll down to the two bar charts in the link above, you'll notice that while the % of bachelor degrees earned by women in CS has gone down, the % of PHD degrees earned has actually gone up (looks to be about 40% higher compared to 1991)! I think you would agree that earning a phd in CS is much more difficult than a BS, and I think this actually shows that women are being given more opportunity to excel academically in the subject.

As for bachelor degrees in CS, it seems like it has converged more to the % awarded in engineering. Speaking more on the differences between CS (i.e Bachelors level CS that leads to SWE jobs) and Math, I would say there is a qualitative difference between the two, and certainly one can have personal preferences. Software engineering is much more about creating systems that work and solve real-world problems. It also involves a lot of programming. Pure math (and theoretical CS) is more about investigating an abstract world and looking into interesting patterns and connections. It actually has a lot of similarities with philosophy in this regard. Some of the female math/science majors I knew actually didn't really like programming and ended up being highly successful in other fields even if they went into industry (medicine/finance/business).

>There's a reason she does that: if you don't stipulate that correlation, the argument against gender bias in computer science has to confront another damning fact, which is that gender disparity in the field isn't global. Unless women in Asia are somehow biologically different than those of the US, her argument needs some way to address the fact that women make up the majority of STEM majors in many of those cultures.

In fact, people have done cross-cultural studies. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23179757_Sex_Differ...

"Regression analyses explored the power of sex, gender equality, and their interaction to predict men's and women's 106 national trait means for each of the four traits. Only sex predicted means for all four traits, and sex predicted trait means much more strongly than did gender equality or the interaction between sex and gender equality. These results suggest that biological factors may contribute to sex differences in personality and that culture plays a negligible to small role in moderating sex differences in personality."

From my personal experience (which I agree is less convincing than the numerous empirical studies that have been done on the topic), I'll say that many women in asian countries are pushed into studying cs/programming even if they don't like it, because those fields often provide a straightforward path to making a decent income.


I think it is unfair to call this "the Google manifesto".

If I state here that it is scientifically expected to see more foos than bars on HN, and then get banned because of it, that wouldn't become HN's manifesto, either.

I fear that, a few years from now, people will say it represented Google's official standpoints (which it doesn't) or those of a significant portion of its employees (which may or may not be the case, from what I know)

"Google employee's manifesto" or "James Damore's manifesto" are better names.


By firing him they took ownership.


Or they firmly distanced themselves from the author, just like what happened to both sides in Donglegate.

Not sure if the author can sue the company though, I mean on what grounds was he fired?


He has already filed a complain with the NLRB and is intending to sue.

http://fortune.com/2017/08/08/google-memo-legal/


This is not rational science. Without specific measures on every single person in Google, and a 'bar' and methodology that meets scientific rigour no can can rationally make any claims about 'lowering the bar'.

Speculation not from a social scientist as their job but a worker within Google apart from being grossly misplaced begins to sound eerily similar to the ravings of self obsessed supremacists cherry picking science. This is what hostility looks like.

And women then should be rightfully wary of all these fragile men who will watch them like hawks looking for any excuse to confirm their bias.

Google should send a memo explicitly stating anyone who thinks women or any group lower the bar should leave. This is not a place for bigots. It's a place for mature educated well adjusted adults to work together.

Anyone who supported that letter should in good conscience leave the organization which is 'lowering the bar', a definition no random individual not suffering from extreme hubris is 'qualified' to set and the prerogative of the organization and experts qualified for it.

If you are obsessed with diversity lowering the bar you can become a 'measuring the bar expert' and invest the time required educating yourself to become an expert before presuming to speak with authority you do not possess about a scientific field that does not trade in certainties.


This article would be a lot more worthy of a discussion if it actually discussed the actual issues.

How much is nature vs. nurture? (many of the behaviours the manifesto attributed to genetics are actually purely environmental)

Should that even matter? Shouldn't hiring processes be purely meritocratic?

The fact that the author of the memo argued for affirmative action for hiring more conservatives shows that he doesn't have anything against discrimination, as long as he profits. If he wanted a science-backed solution, he'd have supported motions to remove the topic of gender, race, political affiliation entirely from the hiring process. (Anonymous job applications can help with that).

Many of the sources were also quite misleading, or links to blogs instead of papers. The memo wouldn't pass peer review at any journal, and can, frankly said, not be called science.

As we also just had a big discussion about this topic on HN, this article is misleading and from an outlet that previously has published hit pieces on diversity policies[1], I flagged it - this discussion belongs into the recent megathread, not as its own onto the frontpage again.

[1] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/will-trump-make-amer...


It's a memo, not a scientific study. Goal is to point out issues for discussion.


This is actually a great scientific read.


Google says they want to hire a diverse collection of employees, so that the solutions they build in the future aren't one-dimensional, possessing only the stereotypical white male's mindset and approach.

The fact that they stated this very desire proves that they believe that women are different than men, and that women might theoretically approach a problem or solution differently than a man.

But if someone writes a manifesto which points out that, "Hey, maybe men and women are different, with different traits and mindsets (when considered across the whole average)", suddenly that person is sexist.

Google wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want to pretend there are no tangible difference between the way males and females work and think, but they also want a diverse culture that can benefit from the different ways how males and females work and think.


Does it matter? Ask a woman you know, preferably one in tech, to read the memo and tell you how she feels.

The women in tech that I've asked felt somewhere between offended and furious and, more importantly, would not feel comfortable working with someone who wrote such a memo and distributed it to his colleagues.


Why can't the memo be both sexist and science? Arguing that there are differences between genders that make one gender unsuitable for a task can be as scientific as you want, it's still sexist.

It's no different from doing the same but replacing gender with race - it's racist no matter how carefully and scientifically you worded it.

It's almost as if the person writing this article believes that if the manifesto is factually/scientifically correct then it must somehow not be sexist. As if sexism consisted of lies? I don't get it.


You are confused about what sexism is. Sexism is a prejudice based on lack of evidence and reasoning. Saying that women are inferior to men is a sexist remark.

Saying that on average, women prefer working in people oriented roles whereas men prefer working in mechanical/technical roles is not sexist, because this is a fact supported by real evidence.

The author's point about societies with the most gender equity having bigger gender gaps really drives this point home. In societies where there is gender equity, people aren't compelled to behave a certain way and instead gravitate towards the roles they really want to take.

Real, verifiable, reproducible truths are not sexist or racist. They are truths. The fact that the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalenjin_people#Sport dominate sprinting is supported by empirical evidence and also science.

So to be clear, racism and sexism are terms used to describe prejudices, lies and falsehoods about a gender or race. These terms shouldn't be used to describe real, empirically shown gender or race differences.

We as humans are all equal in worth, but that doesn't mean we are all the same.


> Sexism is a prejudice based on lack of evidence and reasoning.

That's not a definition I have seen anywhere.

The usual definition is that it's "prejudice, sterotyping or discrimination based on someones gender".

If we have different definitions of sexism to begin with, of course we aren't going to agree on whether X is sexist.

So if I don't use the controversial S word: I thought his post was stereotyping and coming out against anti discrimination efforts.

> So to be clear, racism and sexism are terms used to describe prejudices, lies and falsehoods about a gender or race.

Same again: something being true doesn't make it not racist (or sexist). The falsehood/lying isn't a necessary condition.


What on bloody earth are you talking about? Take a moment and listen to yourself, because what you say is exactly the hate speech that we are having today, where people take words of someone else and completely flip it around and claim something terrible which did not happen.

> something being true doesn't make it not racist (or sexist). The falsehood/lying isn't a necessary condition.

Of course it is! Seriously listen to yourself! If I say "The average 20 year old healthy person will be able to climb this mountain faster than the average 80 year old healthy person" then it is a fact based on science and DOES NOT make me a ageist, or does it? Now apply the same logic to the previous topic and listen to yourself again.


I only said that something being factually true does not necessarily protect it from being racist or sexist when used in argument or action.

I only argue that there are (or could be) examples of scientific facts being used in racist discourse where an argument or action is racist regardless of whether it's supporting facts are true or false.

Just like libel/slander law in many (most?) places doesn't care whether a defamation is factually correct or not. (In US that's not the case though)

I'll quote an oxford writer:

> Take a simple example. Imagine there was an imaginary newspaper, let’s call it the Mail Daily, which only cited certain facts about immigration – let’s say negative facts. True facts. Facts which might have to do with crime, for example, or housing shortages, or the abuse of the welfare system. Imagine that the Mail Daily never gave any positive facts about immigration – never emphasized any of the enormous benefits that immigration brings.Would it be fair to accuse the Mail Daily of being racist in its coverage of immigration? That’s a rhetorical question.

http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2013/08/can-facts-be-ra...

His point (which is counter to Dawkins - who holds your position) is that this tabloid is racist while only reporting facts - simply because of how facts are filtered in res publication and which arguments are made with them.


I think the problem is that 'sexist' and 'stereotyping' are loaded terms which imply bad behaviour.

Imagine I'm creating a basketball team and I reason that height is an advantage for players and men tend to be taller than women, so I will not aim to have 50% women on the team. By your definition I'm being sexist, but my attitude doesn't deserve the opprobrium that that label implies.


You are reading things that are not written there, take a breath and read it without bias. It talks about predisposition and how when you look into a collective you observe differences.


Right: I explained what I meant in another reply.


Science by definition can't be sexist. In science there is no place for prejudices, beliefs and biases - only facts. It's human attitudes interpreting these facts that can be sexist, racist and so on. Second, the author didn't argue there are differences between genders or sexes that make one unsuitable for a given task. That's one of the most gross and unfair misrepresentations of the memo.


> Science by definition can't be sexist.

Of course. But depending on context the use and quoting of it sure can. I'm sure there is plenty of evidence of physical difference betweeen races, and there are reasonable ways to use those scientific results - and there are racist ways of using them. Doesn't change that

> Second, the author didn't argue there are differences between genders or sexes that make one unsuitable for a given task.

Wow I read the whole thing (which is rare) and that was what really jumped out. I wonder what I misunderstood.


As one commenter pointed out, it may be something like the gold-and-white vs blue-and-black dress thing. It really behooves each side to try as hard as they can to read the other side's interpretation.


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As it has been made obvious I other parts of this thread, people even disagree on what sexism or racism is. Some argue that falsehood is required, for example.

I use the definition that includes prejudice, stereotyping or discriminating based on gender, and irrespective of whether something is factual (I.e I do not subscribe to the idea that facts can't be sexist/racist).

I apologize for reading the "unfit" between the lines - what jumped out at me as stereotypical was remarks such as women being more neurotical and having lower stress thresholds.

I'm not going to argue the truth of it, and I won't argue whether that's sexist (for the reasons outlined above) - but it's definitely stereotyping women - fact or not.


He mentioned Neuroticism as a characteristic which has been observered higher on average with women and cited it with a link to wikipedia which also makes the exact same statement, which again cites other scientific resources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroticism

Does that make Wikipedia sexist?

Which one is sexist to you, or do you find both sexist:

"Women have less stress tolerance"

"Scientific studies show that Neuroticism, a personality trait which is related to less stress tolerance, is on average more common among women than men"

There is a huge difference and if you don't see it, then I think all educational material, books, research, science, really anything is lost on you


Again: science and facts aren't sexist- the arguments and actions using those facts can in some cases be. That's why a single fact quote from the memo can't be sexist, but the memo can be, depending on who it's sent to, what arguments are made. Nothing will be racist or sexist without context. That is, for example why it's not racist for a black person to say something to another black person that would be racist if a white person said it.

We are completely agreeing that facts alone are never sexist or racist. I'm not even sure what it would mean for a fact (or Wikipedia - which is a collection of facts) to be racist. It's not making an argument or action of any kind.


So why exactly is it sexist? He argues that's google's method of achieving diversity is counter-productive and unfair, and he proposes some alternative ways of increasing diversity, which may work better. Doesn't really sound sexist to me.


> Second, the author didn't argue there are differences between genders or sexes that make one unsuitable for a given task. That's one of the most gross and unfair misrepresentations of the memo.

The memo wrote that women generally have a harder time leading. His cited sources don't back that up. How is it a misrepresentation to say he said women generally are not as good at certain roles, like leading? That statement is word for word in the memo,

"This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading."


Sexism relates to prejudices, discrimination. It's a negative word.

And no one argued that an entire gender is unqualified for a task. Where do you come up with all this stuff?!?


OK: let me rephrase - he argues that women (for example) have lower stress tolerance and are more neurotic, and that could be a reason for the lack of women at the top. He never says outright that these properties actually make women unfit for those jobs, however.


Your analogy to race is wrong.

There is no research (to the best of my knowledge) claiming that there are biological differences between the same sex of different races.

But there is enough research about biological differences between sexes (and some differences are obvious, such as different hormones, etc) to at least warrant a debate.

"Sexist" is one of a handful of words that have become absolutely sacred in the US, at the expense of scientific discovery (or common sense, or both).


> There is no research (to the best of my knowledge) claiming that there are biological differences between the same sex of different races.

I mean it's not controversial to argue that on average caucasian men are taller than asian men. I can't find a quotation for that exact fact right now but let's just assume it's true for the sake of argument. It's a toy example anyway.

If it's scientific doesn't mean I can argue without repercussion that I should be allowed to cut before asian men in the line in the cafeteria because as tall people we are always hungrier. Even arguing that would (rightly) be considered racist.

I tried to make a toy example but you get my drift - the use of a scientific fact in argument can be racist.

Even if you don't agree with my toy example (either the made up fact or the toy argument) - would you agree that IF scientific argument is found that e.g. one race has less cognitive ability than another that might be "good science" (although ethically questionalble science) - that most uses of such facts e.g in arguments would in fact still be racist? Or do you still insist that scientific facts make all arguments and actions based on them non-racist?


> If it's scientific doesn't mean I can argue without repercussion that I should be allowed to cut before asian men in the line in the cafeteria because as tall people we are always hungrier. Even arguing that would (rightly) be considered racist.

Suppose that height is an advantage in basketball and we thereby discover that asian men are underrepresented in the NBA. Are you claiming that is racist and something we have to do something to change?


I don't. However, it's a fine line. Pro sports is a bit special, but it might be racist to not let a player try out because of an asian name, quoting that "thanks for your letter, but asian men are on average so short that we don't want to see you". Context, and what precise actions are taken is important here.

The underrepresntation of black people in tech isn't "racist" though there are probably a lot of racist actions taken place that led up to it, and of course tons of structural racism that cause it long term. But the discrepancy isn't "racist" in itself. It's just a discrepancy.


> Pro sports is a bit special, but it might be racist to not let a player try out because of an asian name, quoting that "thanks for your letter, but asian men are on average so short that we don't want to see you".

Well of course it is, but it's inaccurate to suggest that the gender disparity in tech is entirely attributable to companies turning away female applicants on account of their gender. And if the suggestion was for some hypothetical company that was doing that to stop, there would be no objection.

The problem comes when the portion of the gender disparity that isn't attributable to discrimination is attributed to it anyway, and then employers are continually lambasted for something they didn't actually do.

It distracts from addressing the real problems (especially at the high school level) that could actually improve the gender ratio going forward.


> it's inaccurate to suggest that the gender disparity in tech is entirely attributable to companies turning away female applicants on account of their gender.

And that's why no one makes that argument I hope!


Then what was your claim supposed to be an analogy for?


>There is no research (to the best of my knowledge) claiming that there are biological differences between the same sex of different races.

Actually there are numerous observed differences in physical ability that are attributed to race, such as Tibetans having better adaptability to high altitudes than most other groups[1]. Physical differences are relatively uncontroversial, the problem arrives when we start to discuss mental differences.

I see not reason why a difference in environment would not cause various mental adaptations to form along the course of natural selection of geographically separate groups of people. This is an inconvenient idea and has been vehemently suppressed in the scientific community whenever it is brought up [2]. Instead of pretending such differences cannot exist we should instead focus on overcoming these differences so that everyone can participate according to their own unique ability.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-altitude_adaptation_in_hu... [2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lynn#Reception


Reality isn't sexism.


> Why can't the memo be both sexist and science? Arguing that there are differences between genders that make one gender unsuitable for a task can be as scientific as you want, it's still sexist.

http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/21/against-murderism/

Definition by motives vs. definition by belief.


So, as a male, should I sue someone who (correctly) points out that I cannot breastfeed for being "sexist", and for "perpetuating gender stereotypes"


Are you using definition by belief, as anybody probably ought not to do?


Funny that she calls it "the Google manifesto", as if it were endorsed by Google.


There was a joke in communist times about the 5 commendments. I guess James Damore just learned them:

1. Thou shalt not think

2. If thou thought, thou shalt not speak

3. If thou spoke, thou shalt not write

4. If thou wrote, thou shalt not sign

5. If thou signed, thou shalt not act surprised.


So I read this article and do not see any merit or value.

The article mixes up genetics with what people end up doing in life.


> In fact, research has shown that cultures with greater gender equity have larger sex differences when it comes to job preferences, because in these societies, people are free to choose their occupations based on what they enjoy.


It seems to me that we are moving from gender equality, i.e. equal rights, to "gender sameness".


551 points, 23 hours, and this is already not on the first 5 pages of HN.

Can someone please tell me, why?


The base of her argument rests on this:

"In fact, research has shown that cultures with greater gender equity have larger sex differences when it comes to job preferences, because in these societies, people are free to choose their occupations based on what they enjoy."

Jim Flynn's study has unequivocally proven that raising the standards of modern introduction and access to equal education, living standards, and nutrition show increases in overall propensity for cognitive achievement. Though, if you talk to an anthropologist the nature of the term "intelligence" and "cognitive ability" is used in the mixed usage term but says nothing of the nature of intelligence.

Nevertheless, the entire debate is whether we are actually in an egalitarian society to begin with. The nature of even measuring cognitive ability with the g-factor is that it is derived from relative populations. Gender differences might indeed be more amplified in these type of societies but the debate is whether we are already there and to what degree sectors of our large country have access to that.

I would argue, as others have, that the distribution of equal treatment, based on the evidence of exodus from the field of technology speaks far larger volumes about the industry as a whole than it does about biological differences.

Indeed, let's even take into account those biological differences that are being discussed here. Just because one has the propensity to behave a certain way in front a social group of men, and different when a female is around (this too has scientific backing), you could argue that the change in behavior over time would be a product of how distributed those groups are (in thought and in numbers). Food for thought.

It's also interesting to note that creative endeavors tend to lead to high correlations of neuroticism as well. If there are biological differences that show that women are, on average, tend to be more neurotic than men, it doesn't really say much about the nature of interaction or the way we behave with one another. Furthermore, to even attempt to use this as reasoning that women may not last within male-dominated environments is insulting in itself. What it really actually proves is that the inequality in both the diversity thought and in numbers only reinforces the problem. The logic is rot with flaws, (I'm paraphrasing several sections with lines of reasoning; i.e. de-emphasizing empathy) "due to the nature of the tendency for behaving a certain way, we should not make attempts at empathizing with one another because of the heightened sensitivity." Not only is this flawed logic, it's not scientific in the least bit. I would've fired him on that alone.

Indeed, you can also conclude from similar studies that creative endeavors have the tendency to being higher activity in the medial prefrontal cortex. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661315...) Due to the nature of mulling over problems, the tendency is that this often is indicitive of a higher threat sensitivity (real or otherwise); hence the neurotism. This doesn't say anything about the gender differences therein, but rather the brain itself when it comes to problem solving in general.

Of course, the greater problem here is about the nature of social interaction. We can take into account how men tend to behave around other men, or in the presence of women, or women around other women, or in mixed groups; we can take into account innate differences (however pronounced or not); we can even take into account the debate over the access to a population which is educated enough to enter the field of study. Even taking into account the meta-analysis study on things-people, it is a bit presumptuous to think that parity is not obtainable or necessary in STEM.

The nature of STEM revolves around the problems that are being solved. One would hope that those problems are about solving them for PEOPLE. One would hope that software engineers employ creativity and artistic nuances when architecting and collaborating with others. The base of that study only speaks about the anthropologic nature of how people behave within those fields. One can speak of the people-oriented nature of mechanics, engineering, and just about all fields of study. I find it a bit simplistic to categorize STEM as a whole as purely mechanics; it's reductionist and frankly insulting.


This could have been one sentence long. "He's right! (I have a PhD.)" No content.


exactly


Please don't flag the article if you simply disagree.

The key to changing minds is understanding the other side. Not shutting them out of the conversation.


I submitted this article an hour and a half before this duplicate submission, and it got flagged to oblivion. Telling. But I'm glad to see it's back now.


IIRC, flagging has a lower karma threshold than downvoting.


Things like these don't belong to a corporate forum like HN


This issue effects the entirety of technology sector which this forum represents a large group.

Simply trying to deny the debate is not how you work things out. If anything that will just annoy the group more so.


I meant to respond to the response someone else made:

It's not a debate to be won. Some people just keep insisting it is with this cloying, sweaty desperation. It's embarrassing, and it's awful that these Silicon Valley ghouls have so much power that we have to consider them at all.

I read the article, it didn't have any real science and made a bunch of insane, half-baked assumptions. The guy is a dumbass and deserved to be fired.


In other words, you're the only sane one in this world full of crazy, stupid, sweaty, sexists, and you have every right to shut them up.

Sounds like a scary place to be, and I'm genuinely sorry you find yourself there.


Personal attacks aren't allowed on HN, regardless of how wrong someone else is or you think they are. Please don't post like this again.


Most people don't agree with the contents of the memo, or it's conclusion. But HN is filled with a specific breed of pseudo-intellectual that I will happily poke fun at whenever possible.


Isn't pseudo-intellectual a middlebrow term in its own right? In any case, commenters who use HN to posture over the rest of the HN community strike a rather silly pose. I hear Twitter is the place to do that for serious.

(I believe we already told you this elsewhere, but) you've been posting such ideological flamebait to HN that your comments amount to trolling whether you mean them to or not. This isn't a question of how right or wrong you are—plenty of your fellow community members are arguing the same positions as you without violating the spirit of this site. If you'd like to participate in thoughtful discussion, you're welcome to keep commenting here. Kindly fix this?

Admittedly these trainwreck threads have been pretty thin on thoughtful discussion, but even so, several of your posts stand out as poisonous.


I flagged it. How many times do we need to have the same repetitive discussion? This topic is crowding out other quality submissions.


Stop flagging articles you don't agree with that discuss science. It's not how HN is supposed to work.

According to the HN guidelines, flagging is for spam or off-topic submissions. This is neither.


The circumstances surrounding James Damore's "google memo" are a fairly clear indicator that we have a growing subculture of absolute ideological intolerance, especially in the tech industry.


How many times do we need Rust vs Go vs whatever debates? HN has quite a lot of repetitive discussions, and that's OK. When people get bored they'll stop voting things up.

"I am bored of this" doesn't seem like what the flagging mechanism is for, actually. Or would I be justified in flagging any story about Go because it happens to not be relevant to me and I think there's enough discussion of it already? Seems wrong.


This adds additional arguments to the discussion from a person who has a Ph.D in the area, and is the of the opposite gender of the original author.

I have also seen articles about legal action being taken which was news to me, also being flagged down.


If people weren't interested in responding and discussing, the article would disappear on its own. The fact that people are paying attention means there is more to discuss. It's really not up to you to decide. Flag all you want but that's a terrible metric to use to make your decision.


Yeah, this is the 8th article about the manifesto this morning, and adds nothing new to the conversation


Crowding out? Hardly. Are you opposed to allowing people to have this discussion?


Welcome to the left. Where we are democratic, and suport free-speech, as long as agrees with our views. :)


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14968871 and marked it off-topic.


Welcome to the internet. Where we make generalizations about large swaths of people.

This could keep up until the end of time. I'm an incredibly liberal person in most regards but I find suppressing unwanted speech to be disgusting at a base level.

I think it's unfair to make that generalization; further, it contributes to the false dichotomy that exists through "left/right" politic.


Generalizations can be useful and many arguments won't go far without them.

As for this specific generalization: I think we wouldn't have this argument if it wasn't legitimate. The political left increasingly consists of hypocrites who advertise free speech and liberalism, but act like fascists.


If a generalization is objectively correct, what is the harm? One could argue that suppressing such comments contributes to sustaining mental illness.


I think you mean "Welcome to modern politics". Suppressing free speech you don't agree with is a time-tested tradition of most mainstream political thought. However, it's most disappointing to see from people you otherwise agree with.


In modern days, suppressing free speech is 90% a leftist thing.


Hardly, it's just that the left are bigger hypocrites because free-speech is ostensibly a core tenant of liberalism, however, conservative ideology rejected free-speech as a value long ago. The only reason these liberal anti-speech protests make the news is because colleges invite speakers to their campuses. Imagine how conservatives would react if Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher tried to give a speech in a Christian church? Imagine the reaction if liberal thinkers spoke up during church sermons to exclaim that scientific evidence conflicts with many contemporary religious ideas. This never happens because they're never invited or welcome to do so, thus conservatives are able to relish the comfort of their safe-spaces while lambasting liberals for protesting openly antagonistic speakers like Ann Coulter on college campuses.

It's a well established fact that conservatives are, at a minimum, just as guilty of hostility to ideas they don't like as liberals.

Consider Megyn Kelly, a celebrated conservative journalist whose career was completely destroyed simply because she asked Trump some tough questions.

Consider Tomi Lahren who was a cherished conservative icon until she came out in support of abortion based on her conservative principles of individual freedom... following that expression of free speech she was squeezed out of her job and destroyed in the conservative press.

Consider Gretchen Carlson who was humiliated and dragged through the mud in conservative circles after she spoke out about her own experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace.

Consider John McCain who is regularly blasted as a RINO because he occasionally takes an action that is not in complete lockstep with the party line.

Consider Glenn Beck who was on the receiving end of boycotts and death threats because early on, he spoke out against Trump in favor of the eminently conservative Ted Cruz!

Consider Ted Cruz himself who was literally booed off stage during the RNC because he dared to instruct the audience to "vote with your conscience" instead of blindly praising Trump.

The list goes on and on, so I have to reject your assertion that "suppressing free speech is 90% leftist" as utter ignorance.


Didn't a republican congressman literally commit a violent assault on a reporter, and then win accolades by the right and get rewarded for it? Do you believe violent assaults chill free speech?


You know what they say about black people leaving the hood?

Well there's parallels for a lot of groups.

Some cops find new careers as politicians and then threaten reporters who ask questions they don't want to answer because that's what cops often do (I know I'm over-generalizing).


That would fall within the 10%.


I didn't say 100%.


And didn't the president promise to pay the legal defense of supporters of his who committed violence on his behalf to intimidate a free press?

It seems you have an odd system of weighting where college kids policing language is weighted very heavily, and elected officials committing and advocating violence to further political goals weighs very lightly.

I'm beginning to suspect your analysis is more driven by how you feel than tangible consequences.


> And didn't the president promise to pay the legal defense of supporters of his who committed violence on his behalf to intimidate a free press?

Not to my knowledge. Are you talking about when he (perhaps jokingly) said:

> So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. I will pay for the legal fees.


> So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. I will pay for the legal fees.

Biden could say that at a state dinner and nobody would blink twice


Nobody has a sense of humor when it comes to President Trump.


This comment is highly opinionated and only further contributes to the left/right rhetoric.


Oh please. Take a look at the constant right-wing rhetoric around banning flag burning, shutting down "unpatriotic" speech, or regulating the free press. And remember that one of Trump's big promises was "opening up libel laws"[1].

Edit: Also who could forget the brouhaha around the Dixie Chicks after they said something bad about George W. Bush [2]. That incident foreshadowed the kind of tactics that are common on the left now.

[1] http://www.politico.com/blogs/on-media/2016/02/donald-trump-...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixie_Chicks:_Shut_Up_and_Sing


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Anecdotally, I've noticed more people from the left of the political spectrum being less tolerant of any view that doesn't mirror their own.

Note that I'm not saying all. And, people can be left on some issues, and even then, the degree varies.


Anecdotal evidence may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases.


Quite a dangerous falsehood to parrot. I am strongly critical of many of the more conservative values espoused by the practitioners of major religions in the US; their view on these matters do NOT agree with my own.

I will, however, fight for their right to express these views and practice their religion in my country (up until the point it infringes on another's rights).


I flagged this comment because it's a low-quality political attack made in bad faith which can only serve to start a political flamewar.


Ive had a handful of previous Democratic voters, whom are classify themselves a Liberal, observe the same actions.

"We support free speech, as long as you agree with the core tenants of Political Correctness, Affirmative Action, Feminism, and Liberalism."

Whereas, Republicans/Conservatives have a much greater variance of ideas. There's the RINOs, the Moderates, the Libertarians, Tea Partiers, and more. Yes, there is infighting.

But in the end, they all acknowledge each other as Republicans. They may have spirited "discussions", but they are all allied with the same goals in mind. Reagan taught them that well.


You talk about Republicans essentially being more inclusive and then trot out "RINOs" as an example. RINO is a disparaging term used specifically to exclude and shame certain Republicans. In what way do you imagine that this demonstrates that Republicans support diversity of thought?


It was the word I could think of that expressed the sentiment. Would you prefer "Moderate centrist Republicans"?

Or... you know, the term everyone knows. Republican in Name Only. There's also DINO as well.


You're just proving his point further. RINO is literally a pejorative designed to marginalize "moderate republicans". Pretty much nobody uses the term DINO. "Everyone knows" the term RINO because conservatives consistently bash anyone who doesn't embrace rigid conservative idealism. Pejorative nicknames are a common rhetorical tactic used by conservatives, "RINO", "SJW", "Feminazi" "Cuckservative"... liberals don't do this. Of course, you'll say that liberals will use terms like "racist", "fascist" "sexist", "bigot" but those are english words you can look up in the dictionary (and it is common for conservatives to use these terms as well when saying that 'liberals are the real bigots/fascists/racists/sexists!!'), whereas conservative pejorative nicknames are invented by provocateurs with the intent to humiliate their intellectual opponents.


does the right differ? Is it non-democratic, against free speech, or happily accepts contrarian views?

I doubt being close minded is specific to any political group.


Left/right is a spectrum. No need to further segregate groups with comments like this even if it is in a half-joking manner.


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Would you please not post ideological boilerplate to HN? Regardless of which ideology is your favorite.

We're trying for a higher quality of discussion here (though admittedly this has been hard to observe lately).


[flagged]


As far as I could tell from the coverage (I couldn't get past the first few paragraphs of the memo), it asks for more diversity in terms of right-wing/conservative thinking, and for Google to stop encouraging women to apply.

On the surface – that's asking for both more and less diversity, however Google rejects the idea that conservative views (that are compatible with Google's HR policies) are discouraged, which would suggest there isn't more diversity needed there.


It's very odd that you admit you didn't actually read the document. Does it cause you physical pain or something?

You then judged it based on a bunch of re-tellings, believe it says something it doesn't and that this is somehow virtuous and worthy of proclamation. Kind of discouraging.

It didn't say Google should stop encouraging women to apply. That's simply not true. It did say it should stop giving women specific non-encouragement based advantages, like letting them proceed even after failing an interview when a man would have been dropped. It also said lots of other things. Why don't you read it yourself, and then judge it based on that?


There is an interview type where gender (or even attractiveness/height/race which can bias folks) is not taken into consideration - when orchestras have auditions with the candidates that perform behind a curtain. Obviously there is some component of interviewing for a technical position where one is attempting to assay the candidates suitability for the work environment that is not compatible with this, but it's a pretty foolproof method (if no one is cheating) of making sure the interview process is gender/race blind at that stage. Off the top of my head, this lead to more women being hired for orchestras.


The problem Google has is not the interviewing process itself (mostly). The problem is recruiters are told to try and close the gender gap. They find various ways to do this that may or may not be legal, but are at least morally questionable, like "reducing the false negative rate" as he puts it by letting women take more interviews despite a failing performance, like active discrimination in favour of women (and thus against men) and so on and so forth.

Even if interviewers had no idea who they were interviewing, which is possible but logistically awkward (Aline Lerner posted some data on this), the recruiters would know, and they're the ones making the decisions around how the recruiting process proceeds.


Did you even read the memo? He explicitly asked to end the programs Google has set up to encourage more women and minority students to study Computer Science because they weren't a good use of resources.

There is no lower bar or quota. All of the diversity programs he mentioned are to encourage more applications.


Yes, I have done.

He actually asked for something different - for programs and classes to remain but for the exclusions based on race and gender (i.e. no men allowed) to be eliminated. He also pointed out that even Google's resources are finite, and thus the costs and benefits of diversity programmes should be judged rationally, e.g. he suggests that mandatory 'unconscious bias' training doesn't seem to have made any difference. So is it worth requiring it? These are reasonable questions anyone can ask.


I got 4-5 paragraphs in and felt that it was just going to make me angry or upset if I carried on, so I didn't think it was worth it.

It's not that I didn't want to read another viewpoint - if well done I like my views being challenged, but this was not that.


I would think the author would encourage women to apply, but discourage making interview pass rates biased towards one group or the other.


Interview pass criteria are not based on the gender/race of the candidate. The criteria are the same for all candidates for the same role. The goal of diversity/inclusion programs is to find more diverse candidates to interview in the first place.

Edit: referring to Google specifically


Damore asserts that it is actually affected by gender.

I used to be at Google. I heard the same thing from recruiters themselves. That a woman could fail an interview but still make it through to the next rounds. Their justification for this was like so:

1. This isn't discrimination because the final hiring decision by the committee takes into account all interviews, so the bar is equal at that point.

2. Our lawyers say this is totally OK.

I heard this many years ago, when I first joined Google and was learning how to be an interviewer. It disquieted me a little but I didn't challenge it - I figured, if the lawyers say it's OK, then it's OK. And the logic that in the end, the final decision was unbiased was something I accepted.

Well, I was young and naive. If men are being dropped and women are not, then more women will make it through to the final hiring decision than would naturally occur, that's the entire point of doing it. This is, in effect, a way to lower the bar for women - literally, men and women can jump to the same height and one will cross the bar and one won't, based on gender.

That's what Damore meant when he said the bar was being lowered by reducing the false negative rate.

Is it illegal? I have no idea. But it's definitely not fair on men.


This is at odds with the claim that minority applications get a second pass. Even in the absense of discrimination, this provides a statistical advantage.

There are also programs to find more applicants, but this isn't critical of those programs.


Unfortunately not, Google does not bias pass rates towards groups, its diversity programs are about ensuring that more minorities apply, which is what the author was suggesting should be ended.


The coverage has been near-uniformly garbage. Read the memo and make up your own mind.


The coverage has certainly been very disproportionate with what was actually written in the paper. Also I have yet to see a news outlet objectively giving references to the COMPLETE memo.


> I couldn't get past the first few paragraphs of the memo

So you didn't read it? Because ... you were offended or because of practical reasons (like you are illiterate) ?

I don't think that the memo asked for "less diversity" just not forced diversity, at least not the way it is forced at google.

> , however Google rejects the idea that conservative views (that are compatible with Google's HR policies) are discouraged

I have a hard time believing that since they already take a hard stance against their conservative users. Also have you seen some of the tweets from the opposite forces at google? I don't think so...


If you are not bisexual or asexual, you are sexist by definition.


Please don't troll on Hacker News. We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14968843 and marked it off-topic.


Your definition is demonstrably unusual. Remember, something is true "by definition" if it's not true for any other reason.


According to Google, the definition of sexism is "prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex."

So if you don't consider dating somebody because of their sex, by that definition you are sexist?


> So if you don't consider dating somebody because of their sex, by that definition you are sexist?

Only if not dating someone is discrimination in some useful sense (it's not).


Let me know when your definition makes it into a dictionary.


[flagged]


> I disagree, so I'd better flag this submission to keep people from reading it and discussing it


Wrong Think ?


I'm very disappointed with Google and no longer hold the company in such high esteem as I once did.


If all this science were the end all be all, the low level engineers would be men, and men with their evolutionary handicap for empathy would be none of the managers, leaders, designers, product managers. That's how it is right?


Independent of the other things wrong with your argument, I find it curious that you think that designers are among those who benefit from empathy. Given knowledge of aesthetics, psychology and the general identity of the target audience, empathy should be all-but-unnecessary for a designer.

(Edited for clarity; namely, the italicized clause is new.)


? Understanding the psychology and thought process of your target is what empathy means.


Sorry I was unclear. I mean the field of psychology in general (or whatever parts of it are useful for marketing), and the general identity of the target market.


No. Try actually reading the memo and learn a bit about statistics and bell curves.


Cognitive differences observed in GENERAL != bad engineers for ALL.

The memo was a rambling incoherent mess.


My company has an anonymous internal forum and I don't even like asking simple HR questions on there! I once complained about my disuse of my dependent care FSA going unnoticed. That's as far as I'm willing to go.

A touchy subject like this from someone with a technical background to a large group of people... I guess Google has a lot of employees and it was bound to happen eventually but seriously, how do you hit send on something like this without some twinge of anxiety?


AFAIU, but I cannot reference, this was sent to a limited group of people, got forwarded and then became viral.


The way it was published does not lead me to believe that story. The link to the document riffed on documents whose authors want all Googlers to read them and fix their broken ways.


According to the interview with the author linked in comments above, he published it internally a month ago. The fact that it only got linked and went viral weeks later would indicate it was originally limited.


> bad engineers for ALL

He didn't say that all (or even most) women were bad engineers.


The sad thing is that people do not even understand why the memo is bad.

The problem: You cannot invoke science to tell somebody: I'm better than you. Period. That causes wars.


I just CTRL+F the entire memo for "better". It was only used in two sentences:

> Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts. > We can increase representation at an org level by either making it a better environment for certain groups (which would be seen in survey scores) or discriminating based on a protected status (which is illegal and I’ve seen it done).

So where again does it say the he is better than someone else? These type of statements is what's causing the huge divide, because people put words into other people's mouth as and when they like just to support their own argument or agenda at the expense of everyone else.

Show me a quote where he actually says what you claim he says.




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