This is the reality of business. One does not simply create a PR disaster for the company, with no positive return, and still maintain their job.
By firing him they made him a hero to enormous groups, and doubled down on this discussion. By doing it in an anti-science, anti-evidence way they legitimized almost everything he said, and it makes them look reactionary.
They could have simply said that they were taking punitive actions and kept him in the fold.
To a small, vocal group.
> By doing it in an anti-science, anti-evidence way
There were good reasons for doing it that had nothing to do with science or evidence.
There are women working at Google who do not need to be reminded of the genetic and biologic differences they have from their cishet male counterparts.
If Damon had issues with the policies at Google there were many other channels open to him that didn't involve circulating a manifesto. He brought it upon himself. Once word of that memo leaked there was nothing for Google to do but fire him.
I'm a white male. I know that the average Asian has a higher IQ than the average white man. This means positively nothing when comparing me with a given Asian, however.
That is the root of this discussion that so many so profoundly miss. The average Google male is not the average male. The average Google female is not the average female. He was not saying that women who work at Google are at a biological disadvantage, in any way, and that is a perverse misreading. He was saying that on the whole there's a biological reason when you roll the dice enough that more males are suitable for that work. In the scientific community this is utterly indisputable, in the same way that there are far more exceptional males (and autistic males), just as there are far more mentally handicapped males. That doesn't preclude handicapped or exceptional females, it's just less common.
I don't understand what you said there, can you elaborate? What is the difference between males being more biologically suitable and females being at a disadvantage? From my perspective, you just contradicted yourself, can you help me understand why it's not a contradiction?
What the memo proposed is that it's "possible" there are fewer women in tech right now because of the biological differences. He may not have claimed it as fact, but he implied it. The problem I have with the implication is that it's obvious that evolutionary forces are not the primary causes of the current distribution, because the distribution of women in tech has changed drastically in the last 50 years faster than evolution's say in the matter. It's not possible that the current distribution is primarily caused by biological differences, and it's exceedingly likely that it is caused by social issues. But he suggested it is possible, and followed that by suggesting we should stop treating it like a social issue because it's possible.
And all of this so far is ignoring that the memo unironically takes the opposite stance on the minority group of conservatives.
So what is the root part that I'm missing?
The IQ distribution of men and women is slightly different, and this is essentially settled science (it really is, however much we might pontificate -- our genetic past rolls the dice more with males). The male curve is slightly fatter, yielding larger numbers of exceptionally high and exceptionally low members. This means absolutely nothing if you have a male with an IQ of 140 and a female with an IQ of 140, however. Nor does it mean a 100 IQ male should be working at Google because there are slightly more high IQ males born.
We are smart enough to understand the difference between set probabilities and individual traits. Right?
because the distribution of women in tech has changed drastically in the last 50 years faster than evolution's say in the matter
Obviously there are social factors. That is indisputable. But at a point the gains in leveling the sexes for some domains become harder to get because there are confounding factors. Women in engineering has stayed virtually constant for several decades now.
How different? Can you source this claim? Are the means & medians at different places? How far apart are they? Are they far enough part to justify a male/female ratio in the tech workforce of 4x? I'm not arguing with you, but you are contradicting the article at hand.
"the mainstream view is that male and female abilities are the same across the vast majority of domains — I.Q., the ability to do math, etc."
> Women in engineering has stayed virtually constant for several decades now.
Which decades are you talking about? Which countries are you talking about? Please source this wildly inaccurate claim.
"According to studies by the National Science Foundation, the percentage of BA/BS degrees in engineering awarded to women in the U.S. increased steadily from 0.4 percent in 1966 to a peak of 20.9 percent in 2002"
That's a factor of 40x in 40 years. That doesn't sound super constant to me. How fast does evolution work again?
"Only 9.6% of engineers in Australia are women"
Interesting. Does that mean it's likely that Australian women are biologically only half as engineering capable as American women?
>Please source this wildly inaccurate claim.
I said for several decades. You cite the change for over five decades.
From 1990 to today -- closing on three decades -- women in engineering has stayed virtually unchanged in the US.
You seem to be taking the shotgun approach, and seem wholly ingenuine in discussing this rationally, so I would say this discussion is done.
Can you either source this or summarize, assuming that I genuinely want to know? How big is the difference in mean & median? Do you believe the difference is primarily responsible for the difference in distribution?
> I said for several decades. You cite the change for over five decades.
You're going to nitpick over 3 vs 5? Are you saying that the distribution of women wasn't in a steady state in the 1970's but it reached steady state in the 1990's, and that now the distributions are primarily reflective of innate biology and not social causes?
The distribution of women in computer science is quite different than the distribution of women in engineering - very roughly 2x as I understand. Do you think that computer science is significantly and measurably more prone to being affected by our biological differences than engineering?
I'm think I'm bringing up reasonable points, is it really a stretch to ask about different countries and different disciplines? The memo's reasoning should reasonably apply to all women in all businesses in all countries, not just engineering or tech. He even cited gender discrepancies that are cross-cultural, this is absolutely fair game.
> You seem to be taking the shotgun approach, and seem wholly ingenuine in discussing this rationally
I'm sorry that it's getting tough for you. I'm very genuine and very serious. I disagree that I'm being irrational, but you are entitled to your opinion.
I'm just hearing defensiveness about the claims stated as fact being true. I willingly accept that there are biological differences between men and women. What I don't see clearly is a rational justification for ignoring cultural sexism.
Claiming defensiveness when you are being intentionally dense in the discussion is a transparent, tired tactic.
"What I don't see clearly is a rational justification for ignoring cultural sexism."
Absolutely no one is promoting "cultural sexism", so you're now contriving canards.
So if we assume that the US tech sector hires only above-average people, the difference in variance could lead to some difference in mean IQ, for certain subjects, in theory.
The question of what social factors bias IQ measurements is ongoing, but the top-line summary is that general intelligence is believed by many to have no sex difference.
Is that accurate?
I am cherry picking this one, but it's one of the most directly relevant studies cited here, and I find it interesting:
"Stoet and Geary concluded that sex differences in educational achievement are not reliably linked to gender equality."
I found a paper (http://www.ams.org/notices/201201/rtx120100010p.pdf) that reports a variance ratio of 1.15 for the maths scores of boys vs girls. Interestingly, they showed a negative correlation between variance ratio and gender gap for students in different countries. (In countries where boys have higher variance of maths scores, they tend to do worse on average than girls.)
However, the hypothesis that gender ratios in CS are influenced by the higher variance additionally involves a highly selective environment. So I decided to compute how the ratio changes when a minimum score is imposed. Python code below.
gender_ratio_to_population_ratio = lambda gr: gr/(1+gr)
from numpy import sqrt
variance_ratio_to_standard_deviation = lambda vr: sqrt( 2*gender_ratio_to_population_ratio(vr) )
from scipy.stats import norm
ratio_above_threshold = lambda thresh, vr: norm.cdf(-thresh, scale=variance_ratio_to_standard_deviation(vr))
male_female_ratio_above_threshold = lambda thresh: ratio_above_threshold(thresh, 1.15) / ratio_above_threshold(thresh, 1/1.15)
male_percentage_above_threshold = lambda thresh: gender_ratio_to_population_ratio(male_female_ratio_above_threshold(thresh))
In steps of one standard deviation above the mean:
Would you be willing to walk me through the steps? Specifically (I'm sure this is a dumb question) what is gender ratio to population ratio?
And in the male_female_ratio_above_threshold function, why is the female part scaled to 1/1.15? Shouldn't that value be 1.0? You'd have to skip the ratio_above_threshold function and factor in a norm.cdf call directly, but I don't see why it makes sense to compare normal distributions of 1.15 and 1/1.15, it should be comparing a 1.15 times normal to a 1.0 times normal, right?
If I replace the 1/1.15 with 1.0, I get that the 80/20 split happens at an IQ of just over 195 (6.44 std devs). If I'm right, this would mean that for IQ to explain the 80/20 split completely, tech people would have to be in the top ~0.000000006% of the general population. BTW, just for perspective there are 45 such people in the entire world.
> I don't think programmers have to be quite that smart.
So, correct me if I'm wrong, but programmers would have to be that smart, it would still have to be absolute IQ of 165 or above (or maybe >195). If we assume the average programmer has an IQ of 125, the 165 threshold is ~2.6 std devs above the norm, rather than ~4.3 std devs above the norm, right? We'd be talking about the top 0.5% of the programmer population, rather than the top 0.001% of the general population.
Relatively speaking, the threshold isn't as far above the average programmer as it is above the average person, but the 80/20 split depends on the absolute threshold, yes?
> To fully explain 80% men in a profession using only higher variance as the criterion
And we'd better qualify that this is assuming 1.15 is the right number globally, and that 1.15 is valid for subjects other than math, and that using only the higher variance means that percent of women in tech ratio is 100% dependent on IQ, which in turn means that hiring and job performance and ability all correlate 100% with IQ and nothing else, and finally that IQ itself is free of social biases.
Right? Even with a better understanding of what it might take, we're still pretty far into an imaginary land built on a long series of assumptions, some of which we know to be iffy at best. Not to mention that if any other factors are involved (and we know there are) then the IQ threshold is even higher.
The variance ratio was calculated in the paper as (variance of the boy's scores)/(variance of the girl's scores), and the most natural way of computing the effect of a threshold is (men above threshold)/(women above threshold). But we are usually more interested in the relation of individuals to the overall population. So I needed a helper function to change the male/female ratio into a male/(male + female) ratio.
gender_ratio_to_population_ratio = lambda gr: gr/(1+gr)
from numpy import sqrt
variance_ratio_to_standard_deviation = lambda vr: sqrt( 2*gender_ratio_to_population_ratio(vr) )
from scipy.stats import norm
ratio_above_threshold = lambda thresh, vr: norm.cdf(-thresh, scale=variance_ratio_to_standard_deviation(vr))
male_female_ratio_above_threshold = lambda thresh: ratio_above_threshold(thresh, 1.15) / ratio_above_threshold(thresh, 1/1.15)
male_percentage_above_threshold = lambda thresh: gender_ratio_to_population_ratio(male_female_ratio_above_threshold(thresh))
> Relatively speaking, the threshold isn't as far above the average programmer as it is above the average person, but the 80/20 split depends on the absolute threshold, yes?
I actually hadn't thought to put it in relation to the population of programmers, but what you are saying makes sense (with the caveat that the standard deviation of programmers might differ from the general population). However, it seems that the 80/20 split isn't just at Google, but also close to the industry average and to enrollment in CS majors, which definitely don't just include the top programmers.
> And we'd better qualify that this is assuming 1.15 is the right number globally,
Actually, 1.15 isn't the right number globally: in different countries, the variance ratio was as low as 0.9 and as high as 1.5, so it isn't actually very stable. In the US, you have the choice between 1.19, 1.11 and 1.08, depending on the test and the year of testing. 1.15 is just the average over all countries and tests.
> and that 1.15 is valid for subjects other than math,
It probably isn't, but if you have no numbers, you just take what seems closest and run with it. Another caveat is that this number was for elementary/middle school students, and it could be different for adults, either higher, because the students were not fully developed yet, or lower, because the students were in different stages of development.
> and that using only the higher variance means that percent of women in tech ratio is 100% dependent on IQ, which in turn means that hiring and job performance and ability all correlate 100% with IQ and nothing else,
If there were some other normally distributed property, e.g. "programming ability", you could use that to make a similar argument, but it would have to fulfill these requirements to be the only explanation. Modeling the hiring process as a binary threshold is also quite simplistic, but I don't think I could compute it for anything more realistic.
> and finally that IQ itself is free of social biases.
You only have to assume that if you want to make IQ (or something else) the only explanation and claim that social bias is not involved. It would absolve Google of immediate responsibility if they simply administered an IQ test to candidates, but there would still be ways bias can influence the outcome.
> Not to mention that if any other factors are involved (and we know there are) then the IQ threshold is even higher.
Don't you mean lower? There are a whole bunch of other factors that make women less likely to go into CS, stay as programmers, apply to Google (like social bias) that would lower the remaining difference the "higher variance" hypothesis would have to explain. Of course that would leave it with little overall influence, but it might be the case that all individual factors are only able to explain a small part, and it's their interaction that causes the huge difference.
I see more clearly the issue with 1/1.15 that I was worried about, and what I missed was the gener_ratio_to_population_ratio inside the variance_ratio_to_standard_deviation. I was worried the variance ratio was being double counted, but I see now that it's not, you just made it symmetric.
> It would absolve Google of immediate responsibility if they simply administered an IQ test to candidates
Isn't there a very high probability that this would implicate Google rather than absolve them? I'd be really pretty extremely surprised if Google had managed to hire tens of thousands of people that are all at least 165 IQ. If they prove the average IQ is 130, they then potentially have to take responsibility for the remainder of the discrepancy.
> Don't you mean lower? There are a whole bunch of other factors that make women less likely to go into CS
I did mean higher, but you're absolutely right to call BS on that. Any factors that alone would result in a lower female ratio than 20/80 would push the IQ threshold lower. Factors that alone would result in anything higher than 20/80 would raise the IQ threshold. My assumption was that, being at a very extreme end of the spectrum more than 4(!) standard deviations from the general population, almost all other factors would be closer to 50/50 than to 0/100, and would thus raise the IQ threshold. But that is my assumption and belief, not any established fact.
Since the actual ratio is 20/80, and I believe that IQ is at best a small factor, then for my hypothesis to be right, some other actual factor must be closer to 0/100 than 50/50. That means I'd better accept your suggestion that what I really meant to say is other factors would push the IQ threshold lower not higher, because there's evidence for that. You've done me a favor. ;)
Thanks again for engaging at this level.
so if we select only people with very high IQ, we get more men
Does 60% of Americans being overweight today mean that it's likely that 60% of people are naturally and biologically incapable of maintaining a healthy weight?
There are genetic differences among underweight and overweight populations, so it is "possible" that the distribution of healthy weights to overweight people is natural a result of those genetic traits, and not the result of advertising and availability of high calorie foods.
We should stop treating obesity as though it's a problem, right?
Nature vs nurture is completely the point here, Damore argued that nature is the primary force, not nurture, and therefore we should stop nurturing women in tech.
>> I don't understand what you said there, can you elaborate? What is the difference between males being more biologically suitable and females being at a disadvantage? From my perspective, you just contradicted yourself, can you help me understand why it's not a contradiction?
This was in response to the parent that said Damore had not singled out any female google employes. The overweight example was an attempt to clarify that even though statistical averages say something about a group, it does not say something about the individual, i.e the google females should not feel singled out by statistical averages.
As for the nature/nuture point in the memo: yes the memo is making a biological claim backed by sources. It does not suggest that current distributions are correct. No, the memo is not saying that nature is the primary force, only that it might play a part :
"Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership."
Right. And what I've been trying to say is that the statistical averages aren't the offensive part. That's a straw man.
Google women don't feel offended when they're told they're a minority, they already know that; but they sure might reasonably be concerned when someone suggests they're a minority "in part" "possibly" because women aren't biologically as able to engineer as men.
> No, the memo is not saying that nature is the primary force, only that it might play a part :
Sure, the memo didn't say it explicitly, but it did imply that. Everyone keeps defending the exact wording as if implication and misleading statements don't exist. Suggesting it's a "part" suggests it's a measurable and large part, comparable to social causes. Pointing out that women are more neurotic (which is a clinical term with very negative popular connotation, so extremely easily misunderstood) might be a part of why Google has so few women is leading the reader to conclude it's a major factor.
This argument is cherry-picking the science in favor, and completely ignoring the contrary evidence that suggests that social issues are much larger than anything we could possibly measure about innate biological ability. For example, that different countries have very different distributions of women in engineering, or that the distributions have changed wildly in the last 50 years.
Let me use another example: The NFL has no rules against women playing. None. Yet 100% of players are male, because biologically the exceptionally large and athletic tend to be male. I'm male, so does that mean that I could be an NFL player? Of course not, and I in no universe am in that realm.
That is a more extreme example, but patronizingly suggesting that it's all just social is utterly laughable and just outright ignorant.
"This argument is cherry-picking the science in favor, and completely ignoring the contrary evidence that suggests that social issues are much larger"
At this point you've reached utter lol territory. You are outright being dense about actual science, and then casually waving your hands and claiming that is more authoritative.
Well you did pose the question, I just answered it, so it was not to erect a straw man, and I was not really trying to contradict the rest of your claim by that example, maybe I should have been clearer on that.
> Sure, the memo didn't say it explicitly, but it did imply that. Everyone keeps defending the exact wording as if implication and misleading statements don't exist. Suggesting it's a "part" suggests it's a measurable and large part, comparable to social causes.
Yes, he certainly does imply that biological causes has a measurable effect, and a large enough effect that it should be taken into consideration for measures (that he also suggests) in order to change work practices so as they might better fit females and thus increase diversity.
> Pointing out that women are more neurotic (which is a clinical term with very negative popular connotation, so extremely easily misunderstood) might be a part of why Google has so few women is leading the reader to conclude it's a major factor.
I agree that it is unfortunate that neurotic is easily misunderstood, but if he didn't use the correct clinical term he would be critized for not being scientific enough, which you are already critizing him for.
> This argument is cherry-picking the science in favor, and completely ignoring the contrary evidence that suggests that social issues are much larger than anything we could possibly measure about innate biological ability. For example, that different countries have very different distributions of women in engineering, or that the distributions have changed wildly in the last 50 years.
I don't agree with you that science has concluded that biological factors don't play a role in what professions people go into. I saw an interesting Harvard debate between Steven Pinker and Elisabeth Spelke on this . The two examples you present does not explicitly contradict that it might be part biological reasons , the provided link has a fascinating discussion in the comment section that gives you both sides of the discussion.
> I don't agree with you that science has concluded that biological factors don't play a role in what professions people go into.
I don't recall saying nature isn't a factor at all, and if I did I take it back. But I do personally believe that right now nurture, which includes social and historical gender issues plus all forms of implicit and explicit social biases and discrimination, is the biggest factor. And enough bigger that it doesn't make any sense to talk about nature yet.
I didn't really intend to contradict the possibility of any biological factor, what I'm saying is that social issues appear to me to be a far larger influence than, say, any discernible difference in IQ. The memo either disagrees or ignores that.
Given that social factors were >99% of the distribution discrepancy less than a century ago, and that we're still working through huge social issues, and that workforce distributions of women both locally and globally are far from settled, I find it pretty hard to accept the idea that we should look at anything other than social factors.
It is possible that biological differences explain some of the workforce distributions. It's also possible that nature's effect on the current sex distribution of women in US tech is not even large enough to be measurable. It's possible that should we eradicate social gender inequality globally, biology's role will even out to a 0.0001% distribution discrepancy. It's also possible that Sabine Hossenfelder is right, and that once we have equal opportunity, "the higher ranks in science and politics would be dominated by women". https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14976028
I will check out the videos, thank you for the links.
This whole memo thing has certainly led me down the rabbit hole. Not being an actual scientist with insight into both biological and social factors, I find it hard to be to sure of where I stand on the issue, and the current political climate is certainly helping to muddy the waters.
> Damore argued that nature is the primary force, not nurture, and therefore we should stop nurturing women in tech.
No, he argued that nature in part, may explain the gender mismatch. That really cant be denied. It was also specifically talking about interests rather than capabilities of working in tech. Saying you might not be interested in programming software does not mean you're not able to.
The memo also never said we should stop nurturing women but that we should use different tactics that are more of match to their common on average biological traits and avoid any other discrimination based on race/gender, instead treating everyone as individuals.
This is a pretty heavy implication that these programs do not in fact have any value and that diversity is not valuable. I can agree that a perfect 50/50 split is unattainable and the wrong goal, but there are studies that show diversity confers an advantage. And as Yonatan points out, I think the author has a misunderstanding of what is valuable from an engineering culture perspective.
Yonatan's response was an emotional tirade, refusing to debate any of the cited research and using a different context of empathy. Nobody is debating the value of empathy in engineering (and it's good to have for any job and life in general, nothing specific to tech), but empathy in setting policy is completely different.
Rules should be set based on rational analysis instead of feelings. We argue for science/math-based policies in government so asking for the same in such a large corporation with regards to such a sensitive subject seems perfectly logical.
> Philosophically, 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 principled reasons for why it helps Google; that is, we should be optimizing for Google—with Google’s diversity being a component of that. For example currently those trying to work extra hours or take extra stress will inevitably get ahead and if we try to change that too much, it may have disastrous consequences. Also, when considering the costs and benefits, we should keep in mind that Google’s funding is finite so its allocation is more zero-sum than is generally acknowledged.
In general I agree that a rational analysis and science based approach is valuable. In fact, I think research into diversity actually does support the idea that it provides benefits. But it's not simply as black and white as science good, empathy/moralizing bad.
For instance, it may be objectively better for a company to do a lot of things that we consider immoral or harmful to society. For instance, how much does maternity and paternity leave cost a company in productivity, time, and the expense of providing a replacement worker? In fact, it might just be more profitable not to hire women of childbearing age at all, which actually was socially accepted for a long time. But these days our society has come to the general conclusion that this is actually morally unacceptable, and the benefits to parents and society outweigh the costs to the company. A very similar argument could be employed regarding the hiring of employees in the reserves or national guard.
I think you have to look at things holistically, as an entire system, and yes, morally.
2) "IQ" (or math ability, or whatever) does not measure if someone is an effective engineer, which is what Google actually wants.
3) Women are also underrepresented throughout software engineering, at places far less rarified than Google. You don't have to be a genius to write a CRUD app--but somehow it's still mostly dudes. I wonder if there could be any other effects that would discourage women from taking those jobs?
4) Have you ever asked a women in tech--any woman, grab the nearest one--if she's had negative experiences in tech? Say, being dismissed, ignored, talked over, harassed?
Your third point again is based on a bogus premise. To get those CRUD jobs the developers often went through a gauntlet of CS (or shining independently through projects, etc), hiring selectivity (everyone hires the "top 2%", etc). Even if the job is banal, the road to get there is often very demanding.
As to your fourth, I have no doubt that many women in tech have negative experiences. Having said that, many males in tech have negative experiences. I'm a fairly outgoing, obstinate, outspoken type of person and I know in my career I've left a wake of male coworkers who were dismissed and talked over. This industry tends to be hierarchical, and when it's a male that's life, and when it's a female that's sexism.
Quite frankly: many people do. Some of them are at Google. James chose to run headlong into this discussion without any practical knowledge of the discourse. His point was poorly delivered precisely because it leaves open such radical room for misrepresenting it.
Discussions of social issues MUST be informed by the social discourse they enter, even if armed with science and evidence. To suggest otherwise is obviously wrong.
No one owes James a charitable reading. And if you think the "mobs" of liberals are misrepresenting his point, you should see where MRA/goreans are going with it.
A charitable reading isn't something that's owed. It's something that almost universally helps discourse. Communication is hard.
We're always willing to give Us a charitable reading, and it's a damned shame people are so unwilling to afford that to Them, regardless which side of anything you're on.
I certainly did my best to ignore it. It was poorly informed, poorly considered. His firing was inevitable and possibly even what he wanted. Certainly I can't imagine a more effective way to get fired at Google.
Since James didn't do the courtesy of being informed, it seems odd to demand that everyone offer him the courtesy of finishing his argument for him
Progress isn't made when both parties refuse to cooperate. And one side isn't absolved of responsibility just because they believe the other side to be not worth their effort. This is petty.
I'm not here dropping links about stereotypes and pointing out trivial logical errors in the discourse because it's good for my heart or my psyche.
I'm on Twitter hiatus, but I still end up wrapped in these fruitless conflicts. But please, continue arguing that what I'm doing is deleterious. I'm not friendly on this subject, but you can hardly accuse me of not engaging openly and being responsive to the dialogue.
I recognize that giving a promise this vast in scope was a bad idea. However, I feel obligated to keep it.
I'm bored to death of men with almost no conception of the topic at hand demanding deference and respect just because they think they know how to program a computer. And yet, here I am keeping my promise.
You seem to think my intent is malicious. It's really too bad.
Nope. I think you're acting out of pain. I think you're in pain because you yourself said that your current behavior on the forum is "costly" and bad "for my heart or my psyche." Again, you're reading something that was literally never written. Hence, cognitive dissonance.
addendum: Irrational people misinterpreting a text is precisely that. Surely you can't be saying that a text having a fairly high bar for intelligent interpretation and discussion is reason for that text to not exist?
Reading a text is a dialogue. If the writer did not appropriately express the intent, then they invite the reader to finish the thought. And this even rational people can arrive at different conclusions.
To suggest every reading you don't approve of as "irrational" is a predictable, even classical tactic. Many words exist for it, but in the end the notion of blaming the reader for finishing an incomplete thought is an exercise in futility. The reader has no choice.
If you want to talk about how the memo was poorly written, talk about how the memo was poorly written. The readings of others certainly can supplement your analysis, but you haven't provided that analysis.
The memo begins with it's intent, and even has a TLDR after the opening three paragraphs.
Also, while the memo was mostly trying to assess the current state and factors of the gender imbalance in tech and Google particularly, it does provide several, literal, conclusions. Here are just a few:
>We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration.
>Women on average are more cooperative [...] Allow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive. Recent updates to Perf may be doing this to an extent, but maybe there's more we can do.
>Make tech and leadership less stressful. Google already partly does this with its many stress reduction courses and benefits.
If you actually read the memo, and have actual problems with what was actually written, then talk about that. There's certainly plenty to discuss and to rationally disagree about, but you have yet to say anything substantial about the thing you're criticizing.
Which does little to excuse the subsequent content. Why would it? Impact matters far more than intent. Asking for someone to read a paragraph in a light quite opposed to it's content in this era of Poe Principle Supremacy is essentially asking for an act of faith.
I possess no such faith. And why should I? The implicit suggestion here is that James's memo had value or novel input. Even if I fastidiously follow his intent statement, it appears misinformed and to misinterpret some findings, offering a solution I have discussed as inadequate and insulting many times on this website.
> If you actually read the memo, and have actual problems with what was actually written, then talk about that.
I have at length. I am now talking about the discourse at hand. Please find someone else to make demands of. I'm not your conversational sparring partner and even this reply is only a courtesy. Please do not exhaust my good will.
The only thing I could find that begins to be a direct reference is "In this memo's case, perhaps you're mad at someone for saying you're genetically predisposed to be less capable of individual action (e.g., don't worry I am sure if we set up pair programming that will make it fair for you social women types)." The only thing I found in the memo that could be interpreted as women being less capable in something regarding tech work was, "This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading." Granted, I did not interpret "having a harder time" as meaning "is less capable of," but I do see how you could think that. However, that statement is analogous to something like "black Americans in the 50s generally had a harder time running businesses, getting quality education, and finding quality housing." Empirically true, and has nothing to do with capability.
Another point of confusion I can understand is while it mentions the fact that men and women have biological differences, it never says anything at all about what those differences are. Further, he goes on to say "many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions." Now I certainly agree that raising the topic of potential biological differences, only to instantly drop it, is poor writing, and if you justly continue reading the memo expecting more references to that topic, you could be left with a certain level of confusion.
It's fine to not agree with something or someone. It's also OK to be wrong about something, or misunderstand a given piece of material. It is not OK to dismiss out of hand perceived others or to take an emotionally vested interest in your misunderstanding when it's been pointed out.
This is a discussion board. pharrington literally and solely exists to discuss things with KirinDave (and any other accounts posting on this site).
I'm uninterested in James, his feelings, his emotions, his needs, his wants, his _intents_, and his plans. I've met him in passing, and he did not hold my attention anymore in person.
I've been much more focused on the flaws in the discourse here than his memo precisely because of this.
Your ultimate strategy across multiple threads appears to be: "paint this person as an irrational creature, fraught with emotion, that cannot respond rationally and therefore should be dismissed."
If you think this'll work, good luck. If the karma numbers I can see are any indication, my opinion is not being received in the light you're painting it it. If your opinion of the overall HN community is that folks here are an irrational bunch with cognitive abilities to base to catch the pitch of reason, then what sort of motivation (rational or otherwise) are you finding to stay?
And I'm also enjoying watching the numbers pop back up after a sudden depression. Why is that, I wonder? It continues to happen on some threads long after they're open.
> Another point of confusion I can understand is while it mentions the fact that men and women have biological differences, it never says anything at all about what those differences are.
This is simply untrue.
It's boring. Please, stop.
How can you be sure that it's the average Asia, as opposed to the average Asian in the US? IMO a better example would be to use Ashkenazi Jews... or are they too white to count?
Of course Asians in the US are smart. There is a high bar for foreigners entering the US.
This is the genius behind "Give me your tired, your poor". We actually end up taking the hard working, wealthy ones who've gotten into college by passing tests in their second language at the same age as we go to school.
Lets face it. They have resources to both cheat and get tutoring on the ways to pass an exam. Lets see how everyone does cold turkey when all of the outside factors like money and resources other than race and gender are held constant.
What are the results of a study like that? That would be a more interesting test than saying X or Y is genetically more suited to this field.
Most if not all of that line of reasoning is based on 1000 year old social constructs...and the mountains of "research" that was later made up to give it credibility when people started to question these social constructs.
It's impossible to completely separate biological from environmental factors. They're interdependent.
I agree that better research would be the proper way to attack this problem. It seems we will be stuck perpetually debating nature vs. nurture  for as long as we exist.
This includes Japanese, Chinese, both Koreans, Taiwanese, and Mongolians. Commonly, anyone with epicanthic folds.
In this case, I don't think the OP was talking about biological differences. It's widely known that the aforementioned cultures (especially Japan and China) are very big on having their careers and studies at the center of their lives.
In this case, it would be nurture giving these groups an advantage over their Western counterparts. Who, ignoring the top-tiers, on average are not known for their industry.
That's part of the problem.
Lots of people associate Google with research and discourse akin to a college campus without realizing that, unlike a college campus, they and their free discourse are not protected in any meaningful way.
"Let's be open and transparent and have an open and transparent culture... but don't say things that might hurt our shareholders."
Google is beginning to remind me a bit too much of the 'Bright & Shinys" from the movie 'Bubble Boy'. Happy go lucky do-gooder cult that holds that image until you cross them. Things get darker after that point. That initial positive image is all that matters.
I agree with your broader point though. Different companies are more or less tolerant of free-wheeling discussion that may not reflect an official company position. But, at the end of the day, if you cause embarrassment (especially as a non-exec, non-critical employee) at most companies, you're expendable.
Do you see how ridiculous that sounds and why a university could not in good faith legitimize the proponents of that theory? Now I'm not saying all issues are as black and white as that, but it's clear to me that there is a line that needs to be drawn somewhere. Any particular issue probably has differing opinions on whether it crosses the lines. But anything that is abusive towards women, minorities, trans people, etc. as people is dangerous ground and I can't argue with not supporting that.
Words are not going to hurt anyone, actions will. Students (and all people) should absolutely be protected from harmful actions but we cannot stop discourse just because it sounds offensive to someone, no matter the subject.
Even the conservatives and alt-righters admin this, which is why they're so upset about people using politically correct language, even by their own free choice. "Happy Holidays" anyone?
I, for one, would find it pretty disadvantageous in my studies to attend classes at an institution that endorses (even silently) a viewpoint that questions my right to the pursuit of happiness, to marry who I want, to be the correct gender, or even to exist. Organizations can and do limit that speech in certain environments that they are responsible for.
That said, the first amendment is hugely important, but limited in scope in the consequences that it protects you from.
Of course, it _is_ important to not simply refuse to hear or allow speech that you disagree with. There is a balance to be struck there.
Who cares if I'm a minority or conservative? Who cares what speech I'm upset by? That's the point, being upset is not something we need to defend against.
Speech is speech, if you don't like it then ignore it. And yes, there are consequences. Most of the time it's the other side yelling back which is fine. Only when it turns into (harmful) action should be people be defended but until then it's paramount that anyone can say what they want.
I understand that only the government has protected speech. Private groups and institutions are free to invite or exclude at will and I support that as well, however public spaces and institutions should absolutely not be closed to anyone who wants to speak their mind and protecting people's feelings will never end well.
So I don't think it's quite as simple as protecting people's feelings over all else. Frankly, I even have mixed feelings and unease about the fact that I think limiting speech is warranted sometimes. But there it is.
This article from 2013 is an example
“What we try to do is bring the same level of rigor to people decisions that we do to engineering decisions. Our mission is to have all people decisions be informed by data.”
Damore's memo may look idiotic to people who work in "normal" workplaces, but it is consistent with Google's previous rhetoric on what sort of company it wants to be: namely, one that isn't normal.
Of course we can't reasonably assess how large these groups are, when we are all - liberals and conservatives alike - being told not to express our opinions by leaders in universities, media, and tech companies.
It's like Sundar declaring that most employees supported him - after he fired someone for questioning management.
Did he really expect honest answers?
Was that necessary? A) The women working at Google are predominantly also cishet and B) gay guys can be misogynistic too (sometimes even more, as they dont need women in any way).
Anti-science way? Do you realize how subjective this is and how impossible it is to prove that today there are no other influences at play than biology? And that we've maxed on the number of woman in this field and we're now at an equilibrium determined by biology?
I would have been far more convinced if he noted a dwindling amount of harassment and reported bias using studies.
>Do you realize how subjective this is and how impossible it is to prove that today there are no other influences at play than biology
He never claims there are no other influences at play -
From the memo; note the works "in part" and "may explain" -
Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these
differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men
and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why
we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.
> And that we've maxed on the number of woman in this field and we're now at an equilibrium determined by biology?
There is no such claim of this whatsoever. Your comment is a great example of the problems with this debate.
What am I missing? This is the topic he explores the most in his memo and I don't see anything analyzing social effects.
While his paper is nuanced, he basically only focuses on the biological argument and seeks to change company policy as a result of this.
One of these being... to end the diversity goals. Yes I did read the memo.
He argued to change their diversity goals and implementation, with an intention to do a better job of getting a _more_ not less diverse company, including more woman and minorities. He did not argue to end all diversity goals outright, again that appears to be a mischaracterization.
No time was spent exploring inherent biases in history or how they may affecting things today. This is why those policies were put into place so why not make it the meat of the discussion.
Though the implication may be that his approach will create a setup in which there will be more diversity that is highly debatable... again the reason why these policies are there in the first place. I don't feel the argument was so strong.
Does he have other examples in history when a minority group allowed the free market to dictate things after a long period of bias and things quickly adjusted overnight?
From the memo:
I hope it’s clear that I'm not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that
we shouldn't try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of
those in the majority.
He's saying that the inability to get to a 50/50% split on gender lines may be unrealistic. He makes no comment on if the 20/80 split that currently exists is fair or not. Just because he doesn't go into the history of all bias that did exist in the past, doesn't mean he discounts it and unworthy to be addressed. Further, at what point does a society atone for past biases? If you are even trying to correct the injustice in the past, should you not have an idea on what normalization might be like? Perhaps and this is his question, an exact 50/50 is not what a idealistic lack of bias would create in the first place. And the thesis is that it would not be created in that fashion because women self-select to enter different professions for biologically based reasons. Now all those items might be false - its a hypothesis, not a universal truth - but it appears the research from social psychologists backs up his claims as valid. Now perhaps they still want to argue between themselves, and fine I'm ok with that go for it - but it appears he's done with with good faith.
And even if you think his arguments are poor, or he's naive, or anything else, that's fine too. The problem is - and this is where my main issue and the root of all of this - is that he should not have been fired for this. This appears to be a betrayal of liberal free speech values that many people claim to support.
Sure that's fair. I say that as a woman - I have no expectation to reach 50/50. However it's debatable if these policies are not useful yet. My mothers generation had some crazy stories to tell and that wasn't that long ago.
"And the thesis is that it would not be created in that fashion because women self-select to enter different professions for biologically based reasons."
This may be partly true but I disagree that it forms a substantial influence given my personal experience. I would give it a 1% weight anecdotally but much more if you count that many women want to be full time mothers.
The much bigger picture in my personal experience is a slew of other things including poor information, societal and parental expectations and visions for their daughters, engrained belief systems, intimidation due to biases, sticking to comfort zones or what is more familiar and so on.
I totally agree this is a discussion worth having and at some point this policies will need to be phased out. I think here the channel in which it was broadcast to the entire company was pretty uncomfortable given its such a touchy and controversial topic.
Thanks for the discussion
First of all, the original memo said nothing of the sort.
Secondly, I'm pretty sure GP is not saying the reaction to this memo is anti-science merely because it opposes the position taken in the memo. Rather, it's anti-science because they threw all rational debate out the window and fired the guy without even trying to address the points he made.
They did not fire him because they didn't believe in the studies he linked. Obviously that's very much mischaracterizing things. This is a complicated issue with ample studies to link to from both sides. And anyway, I truly question studies on such broad topics.
Because that portion of the essay was meant to counter what the author perceived to be Google's current position on the matter: that societal factors are the _only_ factor resulting in a lower percentage of women in tech.
From the memo:
> For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.
Followed by a section titled:
> Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech
The author isn't saying that biological differences are the _only_ factor; only that that they are _a_ factor, and that Google has been completely neglecting that factor with the current implementation of their efforts to improve diversity within the company.
This is true, but as /u/taysic pointed out elsewhere, Damore dedicates the majority of his memo on this this one factor and wishes to change corporate policy because of it.
> ... and that Google has been completely neglecting that factor with the current implementation of their efforts to improve diversity within the company
Perhaps Google is evaluating more factors than Damore? Perhaps Google concluded that social issues and gender bias play a larger role in workforce disparity than biological issues, and therefore decided to prioritize attacking the larger problem over the smaller problem?
Right. I explained why that was in the previous part of my comment.
> Perhaps Google is evaluating more factors than Damore? [...]
Perhaps so. They made no such claim in their response to Damore's essay though. In fact, they didn't address any of his points at all; they just fired him, thus proving the main point of his essay:
> People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow, which is why I wrote this document. Google has several biases and honest
discussion about these biases is being silenced by the dominant ideology. [...]
> Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.
Google's firing should be seen in the context of how it affects their workplace. This notion of "anyone can say anything" does not stick in a social gathering like a workplace. Free speech is relative, in this case relative to the workplace. This memo challenges that and that was addressed by google. This is similar to firing someone making a "I will gut you if you send me a poorly constructed pull request" threat. That is not free speech. That is unsettling a social gathering. The person making the threat may be right on his intentions, but context and how he puts across matters.
If Google has done the research on it, I'd really like to see because it is likely to be much more extensive than what this one guy has collected in his free time. That said, I suspect bias was simply assumed as the major factor by default, since that has historically been true in lots of professions (some of which are now dominated by women).
Almost everyone I know/interacted with believes that Damore is wrong though, if not for the viewpoint, then for his approach to trying to create a dialogue in a suboptimal fashion & its negative effects on his former colleagues.
Very few had the courage to talk against that trend, one of them was Michael Moore and check how accurate he was when compared to "mainstream": https://michaelmoore.com/trumpwillwin/
Yes, anyone looking for ulterior motives behind the manifest will be able to find something as demonstrated in the bit of prose above which goes so far as to include references to "raping children". Going to such extents to prove a point actually weakens it considerably.
What makes it so difficult for some people to accept an open discussion on these 'touchy' subjects? What are they afraid of? If those programs which the writer questions are in fact valid and worthwhile they would stand on their own merits, if they are not they should be cancelled unless there is a 'political' reason to keep them in place in which case this should be made clear to all involved parties - employees, stock holders and regulators.
Stop the witch hunt, it didn't help Salem and it won't help Google.
In the sense that it's an argument both sides want to have. The left want to argue for better workplace treatment of women, while the right want to argue for speech without social repercussions.
Instead, Google's leadership decided to take an ideological stance with relatively little regard to immediate PR. The result is further churning and an intensified reaction of the public and media.
This is either a good or a bad thing, depending on a person's perspective. But surely it's a reaction which will perpetuate the intensity of drama.
But they didn't. That man's argument was not science. It wasn't. There was absolutely no scientific evidence behind his argument. He misrepresented studied, and he cherry picked what he wanted. For more on that, check here: http://blog.goldieblox.com/2017/08/open-letter-james-damore-... It's an article from a female engineer who read the manifesto, and takes issue with the conclusions drawn from the studies.
The ones claiming that his manifesto was "scientifically sound" are those who are anti-science and anti-evidence.
"They could have simply said that they were taking punitive actions and kept him in the fold."
No, they couldn't. By keeping him, they would be legitimizing his views. And by doing that, they would be further alienating all of their female employees, and a lot of others, both current and future. Just about no woman would want to work there, knowing that they endorse those viewpoints.
I want to follow up on this, can you give an example? From what little I know, it's essentially settled science that men and women have statistically different interests, and those interests exist across all cultures (implying a biological cause).
So yes, across humanity there are statistical gender differences to the choices people make. The flaw in the logic is that that doesn't means Google shouldn't act on bias in its selection and retention policies. What it may well mean is that Google may need to mitigate the cultural biases both internally and externally if they are going to make more than a small dent in the imbalance.
Similarly, it doesn't follow from the argument that humanity is what it is to a position that Google shouldn't attempt gender equality. It does mean that it'll be tricky for a company their size. But whether they should or not should be a question about what's in the best interest of the company as a whole.
BTW there is often the assumption that something like gender equality is purely a political goal. And quite often it is. However, there is a very good argument that the tech pool for high potential people is quite shallow given the current and expected demand.
In my org we are taking steps to try to widen the pool of intellectually able people we can select from. One area that we are targeting is women. Another is geographical areas where we don't have traction (mainly eastern Europe and Africa). This isn't political per se. This is so we have a wider talent pool to choose from. I would be genuinely stunned if this type of thinking wasn't in part what Google senior management are also looking at.
That reminds me of something I read recently:
For each of these changes, we need
principled reasons for why it helps Google; that is, we should be optimizing for Google—with
Google's diversity being a component of that.
Can you guess where I read that? (Hint: It was written by James Damore).
Now it just so happens that I disagree with that opinion, because it appears to remove the corporation's decision making from any moral considerations, leaving only profit. But it appears to be a point where you agree with the memo author.
And I don't get your point on profit. He didn't mention it nor do I think that's the part of the culture he wants to retain particularly. I didn't mention it either. I want my company to succeed, I am a shareholder after all. But I also want it to be a good place to work as I spend a reasonable chunk of my week there.
I also happen to be a father of a daughter who wants her to have every possible opportunity open to her. Assuming this is one dimensional doesn't really fit the facts.
I had the opposite impression when I read it: there should be major change at Google (away from "echo chambers") and he absolutely does not like it the way it is.
Here's another breakdown: https://www.quora.com/What-do-scientists-think-about-the-bio...
Basically, all of them say that, while men and women are not purely identical, the differences between them are nowhere near as great as the manifesto makes them out to be. The purely biological differences have little to no bearing on coding ability, and the bigger issues are societal. Like the effect of having something like this coming out on young women who hear it as being told that they're not welcome in tech.
Everyone wants to be a victim. Damore isn't a victim of anything but bad judgment. If he's hero of the mob, so what.
By and large the people outraged about this are...people we don't like, whose opinions don't matter, and who I think should be marginalized anyways.
If he's the hero of people we don't like, so what.
But when I see the rabid way people are defending the guy like he wrote the Federalist Papers, who at best is guilty of being unaware that what he was saying is controversial, I don't feel outraged if he got fired in a massive company known for its liberal views. What did he expect?
He's not helping it by making himself a darling of the right wing media. That and lowball jabs at political correctness and Marxism make it a little too obvious where his sympathies lie and if he really wanted an objective debate picking sides doesn't help.
The memo in question would not have affected you, would it? Unless you're saying you were hired to fit a diversity quota and shouldn't be there at all. Even if management had agreed 100% it could only have led to changes in hiring processes, and maybe men turning up to classes and events where they were previously banned. I assume you're OK with that.
Ok women are more likely to like doll houses as little kids - but I don't know many women working with doll houses as adults?
Women are completely capable of doing anything they want to do. Professions like doctors and lawyers are now split 50/50 between the genders and they were long thought not for women.
And it's my experience that the by far and large reason they don't enter tech is because they think it's boring, not for them, don't understand what they can do with it or how it can appeal to them. Coding is just a tool. Period. Biological influences are not compelling enough to comvince me if anything.
I think they are very controversial if they are used to influence company policy - because they are too abstract, tenuous and there are too many other factors at play. On top of all that, I just don't think it's appropriate for a workplace to be going there.
You agree with Damore that the underlying issue is interest, not capability.
You say that biological influences on this are "not compelling enough to convince you of anything". Fine, but you offer no alternative explanation for why men find coding more interesting than women. If you have no better explanation, then the scientific papers that do provide an explanation would seem to take precedence, no?
You agree that women are more likely to like dollhouses than boys as children. But you haven't noticed or don't see the connection between what girls play with as children (dolls of babies, people) and the dominance of primary school education by girls? To me the connection is obvious. Girls are more interested in such jobs.
Finally, you say memos like Damore's are controversial if they're used to affect company policy because the problem it addresses is abstract and with many factors going into it. But this is not sufficient to make a memo controversial. Executives write memos on abstract and multi-faceted topics every day: the nature of the digital revolution, how best to motivate their workforce, etc. These memos are all designed to influence company policy around abstract topics.
So what you really mean when you say that Damore's memo is inappropriate for a workplace to be "going there" is that you wish to ban discussion of any gender diversity policies that are not Google's existing diversity policies. These policies are extreme, quite likely illegal and at the very least unfair to men.
This is why I described your views as extreme feminist. I know it won't seem that way to you, but feeling that nobody should even be allowed to voice disagreement to diversity policies - not even by citing science - simply because you feel it's "inappropriate"? That is to me an extremist position. It is the embodiment of intolerance.
Except when you do care?
So not an open discussion at all, then.
If you so blindly believe in the diversity of skin color or gender while neglecting the diversity of ideas, I am rather sure that says a whole lot about you as a person and as a company. That, in my opinion, is the only PR they deserve.
His essay is not scientific, or evidence-based. It's ten pages of micro-facts, followed by his biases or misunderstands, followed by enormous leaps of logic to macro-conclusions. It wouldn't pass as a bloody undergrad essay. 
(It is a poster child of a techie looking at a complicated problem that they don't understand, and saying 'I'm smart! This is easy! You guys are all wrong!')
At least a few psychology professors [seem to disagree with that assessment]:
> Graded fairly, his memo would get at least an A- in any masters’ level psychology course. It is consistent with the scientific state of the art on sex differences.
I'm sure you can probably find lot of opinions on both sides of the debate though, and that's fine. As the memo stated:
> Of course, I may be biased and only see evidence that supports my viewpoint. In terms of political biases, I consider myself a classical liberal and strongly value individualism and reason. I'd be very happy to discuss any of the document further and provide more citations
Instead of "discussing the document further" though, they fired him.
> argues that cognitive sex differences influence performance in software engineering, but presents no supporting evidence
This is completely made up
The person who posted their thoughts did so in a _closed_ mailing list that was intentionally setup to discuss all this. The document was leaked. At best, he deserved a reprimand. Firing him makes it clear that there is no room for alternate thoughts in Google other than the ultra-progressive view point.
Whether you think it should have been controversial doesn't change what you do when something goes viral; the first thing is to stop the damage.
But since then, there's some evidence that he wanted the controversy - look where he's giving interviews now.
No. His firing confirmed part of Demore's thesis; that Google has monoculture issues and sits in some sort of bubble.
> This is the reality of business.
Is it? If that's true, we need to be much more aggressive about corporate consolidation because the only way to make room for diversity of opinion is to make sure that there's diversity of opinion at the corporate level.
If you quit Google because it's too (insert culture war concern here), which big tech employer is substantially different?
We're missing a large component of the discussion when we pretend that the content of the letter is the principal issue here. The thing the C-levels are thinking about is liability, because that represents the most direct threat to the company.
Allowing Damore to remain on payroll could be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of his letter, which means in a lawsuit, a complainant can claim that Google has already proven itself to accept illegal anti-woman hiring practices by allowing an employee who espouses these things on company time and with company resources to stick around.
It can further be argued that their failure to address this bias constitutes a hostile workplace, and will greatly strengthen any potential argument that a female Googler was intentionally and/or actively discriminated against either now or in the past.
On the other hand, the consequences of terminating Damore are, essentially, limited to bad press, which is not really a large cost in itself. Google can counteract Damore's complaints with the relevant labor boards by pointing out that they are merely attempting to comply with the law that compels them to create a non-hostile work environment for women.
So why are so many CEOs so quick to jump on these diversity/inclusion bandwagons? Because a lawsuit will cost the company millions of dollars in lawyer time alone, and if they lose, potentially many millions of dollars in damages, especially if it's class action.
The factual validity of Damore's memo is immaterial. All that matters is that Google risks much more money, more aggressive regulatory oversight, and puts itself in peril of other onerous legal sanctions by keeping Damore on board, and by terminating him, they don't.
Anyone who is upset about this should look at the root cause, which is not only the set of laws that may compel such specific behaviors, but also the arcane configuration of the legal system as a whole. It is frequently wielded as a weapon, and that should not be a thing.
Then why didn't Pichai predict the blowback from firing Damore?
> People get fired for dumber reasons.
Is that a defense of Pichai and tech monoculture? People get fired for dumber reasons?
Compared to employees and consumers? Yes. There aren't enough options out there to let competition correct for these kinds of cultural problems.
Of course, this might be a problem that solves itself. As expectations for fair compensation trickles through the rest of the job market, maybe transferring to an equivalent job in a medium sized company in Denver would generally be a lateral move.
Google had to decide which they value more: Demore's manifesto, or the contributions of a third of their workforce.
Google had to decide which they value more: Damore's memo, or their legal defense against inevitable discrimination suits.
nb. Large companies are a constant target for litigants of all stripes. There are suits of all types filed against them regularly. They must be careful or, under current law, a bitter employee who was not in actuality discriminated against can successfully claim discrimination and pilfer millions of dollars from the company, inviting follow-on after follow-on. Because the current law is based upon reading in/assuming specific motives to otherwise-valid actions, companies are forced to assume a defensive legal position, such that the other side's lawyer will have a large amount of difficulty convincing a judge and/or jury that such motives were allowed or tolerated.
I can see not doing that when you are cash poor but Google is paying engineers as much as $600K/year in total comp, they could have landed $10M on Damore and never noticed it.
My personal opinion is much like Brook's - Pichai was pandering to the mob. That's not true leadership in my opinion.
Edit: don't understand the downvote, this is HR 101. Companies don't want this sort of attention and they'll pay to avoid it. I'm very surprised that a cash rich company like google didn't take that route. Are you suggesting with your down vote that it is better for google to be in the news cycle for months/years while this works its way through the courts?
Whoever runs the diversity team should absolutely lose their job for letting this get to this point. Following that whoever decided that flying the CEO back to publicly fire someone and denigrate them was a good idea and the best way to proceed. A CEO of one of the worlds most powerful companies publicly firing and shaming an employee who simply presented an opinion through proper channels is just not a well thought out move.
Staggering amount of poor judgement all around.
What I'm trying to say is that I think the conservative media picked him, he didn't pick them.
So yes, I think he would have taken the money. Google could have made this go away for what was a rounding error to them but retirement money to him. Nobody says no to their retirement even if they don't want to retire. It's called fuck you money for a reason, you never have to put up with a crap job again if you have that backstop.
But either way, if he didn't take the money and went public it would turn out worse for Google, possibly even legally. They really took the only action they could, in my opinion.
Word would get around. Followed by many manifestos worth $10M.
So far as I know, the NDA's mostly work.
If what I'm suggesting seems weird I'd encourage conversations with HR people at large companies. This is part of what a good HR person does, sadly.
It also wouldn't surprise me, given bureaucracy.
They are now publicly vilifying him for expressing opinions that are now being publicly supported by scientists. They have essentially publicly attempted to silence him because they don't like his opinion, validating his initial complaints.
I don't know if Pichai should be fired but a lot of people dropped the ball on this and they have escalated a story that could have been quietly handled in house via a few conversations months ago.
I have no idea if Damore's arguments for biological differences are valid or not, some scientists have stated they are (mileage may vary) but I don't feel that anything he said was stated with malice of with the intent to denigrate anyone. He may not have had the best communication skills but he was trying to start a conversation not a war. Google for some reason responded to his inquiry with the equivalent of scorched earth and are now realizing that perhaps they overreacted.
James' memo created a hostile work environment. And legally, that's all it takes to support terminating his employment for cause.
1) He claimed that biological differences were responsible for the behavior of his female co-workers. Yes, he actually says that in the section "non-bias causes of gender gap in tech." If you can't see why that's offensive, try replacing that sentence with "Biological differences are responsible for the behavior of blacks. Or latinos." Legally, this single section, by itself, disseminated on an internal company board, was enough to create a hostile work environment for his female co-workers.
2) Then he goes on to say that "diversity" candidates get special treatment. They get a lowered bar. His words, not mine. So now he's implying that many of the "diversity" candidates only work at Google because they weren't held to the same standards. And unlike his earlier statements about biological differences not applying to any specific individual women, he doesn't qualify this statement--so he's lumping all of his female and non-white co-workers together. This section, on its own, would also be enough to create a hostile work environment for all of his female and non-white co-workers.
3) Then he goes and says the Left denies science on IQ and sex. And that their behavior has created a "psychologically unsafe environment." This, by itself, would also be enough to create a hostile work environment for all of his co-workers that would define themselves as liberals. (Note: there's a reason that most companies don't allow overtly political activities or expression like this in the workolace--it's to prevent political hostilities from dividing the workplace.)
That's 3 things he said that legally would have justified firing him. It doesn't matter whether science supports the broad statements or not. It doesn't matter whether his suggestions at the end or good or not. It doesn't matter whether Google leans left or oppresses conservative expression. What matters is that he created a hostile work environment for large swaths of his co-workers with these 3 statements.
Instead, Sundar found it necessary to lie in his official statement about what Damore had said. He defamed him by saying that his memo contained things that are contrary to what the memo actually says and that Damore himself would certainly denounce if asked. Because, presumably, Sundar felt it was preferable to appease a mob by acquiescing in their villification of a Google employee.
That is what is this particular post claims makes Sundar a bad CEO. I don't know if that's true - that is, whether it makes him an ineffective CEO, whether his actions were good for Google in the long run; that remains to be seen. But the author of this piece feels that it was a morally wrong action (and I agree).
It could be a lie? It seems more logical that it's a misunderstanding. Neither make Pichai look good, especially since he had no discussions with Damore (according to Damore) to clear up any misunderstandings.
Furthermore, his memo canceling the town hall made things worse when he declared the majority agreed and that some wish he had done more. He didn't acknowledge any of the people internally that disagreed with the firing. He's probably not even aware that he's set himself up to only hear opinions that agree with the firing because others will be too afraid to question it.
Honestly, I want Google to have a third-party set up a truly anonymous poll of all employees and measure how people really feel instead of speculate on how many agree or disagree with the firing. This is a company with expertise in analytics after all.
The memo wasn't a PR disaster; the firing was.
Data point of one: Google has lost, just from my personal accounts alone, $40/mo in G Suite/YouTube Red revenue, and $620/mo in GCE Compute instance revenue.
Not because of the memo; because of the firing. Absolutely disgusting and unconscionable.
By firing an employee just for reiterating the stuff that every undergrad is taught in CogDev 101 and wildly misrepresenting his position?
That's not protecting the company.
EDIT: I forgot to add that from the coverage I've seen, there are also claims that Google management is illegally sharing hiring blacklists (based on a person's perceived political views) with other companies. That would also be very serious.
And let me tell you, while you may not feel that this memo has created a hostile working environment, a lot of other people do. Google would drown in lawsuits if they let him stay on.
I don't see how you can argue that a single guy who isn't in management writing a memo creates a "hostile work environment". Most of the people complaining wouldn't even be working with him at all. They can file lawsuits but would they hold water? After all, management could just tell the lawsuit filers to be more tolerant of others: it's not like Damore was attacking individuals.
So I don't see where Google's obligation to fire him comes from. Unpopularity with other employees does not make a legal obligation.
On the other hand, firing someone who is trying to raise possibly illegal conduct with management does have legal implications.
Employment law makes it very clear that person creating a hostile work environment doesn't have to be a manager. They can be a co-worker, a client, or a contractor.
No, but the the entire point of that essay was to advance the idea that women are less successful because of their biology. 
> It is very unlikely a hostile work environment for not firing him based on this memo would win, though of course Google might choose to settle.
Any employment lawyers want to chime in on this?
 "For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation."
He never claimed that the women in tech are worse at tech than the men in tech. He just claimed that there would be fewer of them.
From my understanding, a hostile work environment is created when a reasonable person would interpret actions or speech as hostile, offensive, or intimidating, and such actions are not a one-time event, but frequent, severe, and pervasive, and they must be so serious as to change the conditions of your employment. Keeping in mind that terms like "reasonable person" are legal terms and we're not dealing in colloquialisms, it's hard to see how this memo could be interpreted by a judge as creating a hostile work environment.
Again, that's not to say people can't try to sue anyway, but in that case, there are plenty of people on the other side of the story Google should be worried about suing as well, since there appears to be some minority of (white, male) Google employees who believe (rightly or wrongly) that they are persecuted due to their gender and race, and they also claim there are written communications at Google they interpret as denigrating them. I don't think they have much of a chance either.
FTFY to better reflect the fact that the memo was about distribution, not success.
Are men less successful in nursing or just less common?
Debatable, the shareholders might not be happy that Google might now become a political target for oppressing views.
However, I agree that given potential liability issues from hostile workplace lawsuits almost forced his hand, which is very unfortunate.
The person who leaked the internal memo to the public caused the PR disaster.
The backlash is mostly about the firing decision itself rather than the person having been fired.
They washed their hands of the uncouth worker. They should be in the clear if that was the source of the outrage.
The disbelief is not that people have strange anti social views (we all have them to one degree or other) it's that a company feels so threatened by dissent that they swiftly want to leave themselves and absolve themselves to present themselves as pristine, unspoiled humanity.
I guess a NYT columnist can say this because click-bait-y titles always help for revenue and Google does not stop giving the ad revenue when news articles are critical of its CEO. This looks like both parties doing their roles well enough.
Google does not come close to that level. If someone needs to be sacked for the diversity memo, it needs to be the author in question. At maximum, you could argue that a VP of HR could be sacked, as to 'shake up' the hiring processes and address any issues in it.
This does not go to the CEO. More damage would be done by his leaving than him staying. He reports to the shareholders, not to the moralists.
They aren't doing that and it's creating a perception of unfairness.
They have already been doing this...after the election a lot of my conservative co-workers at Google admitted to feeling "harassed" and "targeted." The memes posted on Memegen, the discussions on eng-misc, as well as the terrible TGIF (where the message VPs sent was basically that "Google" supported Hillary and "We" lost and it was going to be "Okay"). The unfairness is already there, this just highlights it even more.
1. Guy has conservative opinion against the current norms = Fired.
2. Numerous posts on Memegen/eng-misc/internal message boards hostile towards conservatives (including posts made by managers) = no action
You don’t make your boss look bad. That’s it. California is an at-will employment state.
EDIT: if you doubt this, just look at the document's title and TL;DR section.
"Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed."
...firing him, at least the way they did it, confirmed that position.
Anyone could read Google's code of conduct and know that Google would fire/reprimand someone for being toxic to their coworkers. Employees are free to debate and cherry pick evidence about their opinions on the world being flat, 9/11 being an inside job, even a fake moon landing.
James decided he wanted to debate about his opinion on his workers being biologically inferior (among other opinions). He had a chance to receive feedback on this from coworkers and change his position, the problem was he didn't and continued to broadcast his opinion which was toxic to his coworkers.
It's a strange hill to pick to die on because nothing is surprising about how this played out, other than how the media is still talking about it.
Can you explain how you came to that conclusion?
You can see it in the paper how he starts with the obvious, "Men and Women are biologically different" and then jumps into observable personality differences, which are not proven to be biologically driven. It wouldn't be so bad if he didn't attribute these "biologically-caused" personality differences (neuroticism, agreeableness, less ambition, etc.) to women being the ones to blame for their problems in tech.
This opinion is toxic to his coworkers, which is a violation of the Google Code of Conduct.
> ...jumps into observable personality differences, which are not proven to be biologically driven.
Some personality differences in populations are supported by some studies. He cites studies about personal interests, for example. It's possible that he goes too far (scientifically speaking) with some conjecture, but he was careful to say that properties of large populations don't apply on the level of an individual or selected group.
Except I didn't accuse James of having racist ideas, I pointed out that his opinions are toxic to his coworkers. I'm not sure what you're getting at.
It's true that he attempts to check himself throughout the paper, but it's contradictory because he then proceeds to take it too far. It's the equivalent of saying, "I'm for diversity, but...." and then demonstrating he's not for diversity by arguing against it.
Which is why this paper is a rambling rant from someone who chose to commit career suicide for his opinion, and it's surprising that the media is still focused on it.
Is "sexist ideas" fair? "Bigoted ideas"? That seems to be the implication when labeling ideas about gender "toxic". The colloquial language around this sort of thing is imprecise. That brings me to my next point:
> ...and then demonstrating he's not for diversity by arguing against it.
The paper seems contradictory because people have definitions in mind for words like "diversity". But not everyone has the same definitions in mind. He can be for diversity of thought and want to encourage that with discussion of structural changes while still preferring a world with more women in tech. This position is not the Google HR definition of "diversity", but it's clearly part of his idea of diversity.
You seem to be reading a bit more into this, which is probably why the media is still writing about it. There's something for everyone to confirm their beliefs in the paper, whether it's to defend or attack it, and you're demonstrating that with the repeated word games.
Then why bring it up if what he says doesn't matter within the context in which they are hiring people. Google isn't hiring people on a population basis. They are hiring people on an individual basis.
This makes no sense as people with different interests would never bother in the first place no matter how much time and money you threw at them. So again I say why bring up the upstream problem to begin with as it being related to their abilities for engineering?
IMO, the only way his text makes sense is if you are someone looking to back up potentially racist and sexist biases by misusing science. It makes me question their ability to work with people different than themselves.
With that said I'm actually torn on the issue of the firing. Google says its a place for diversity of opinion etc etc...So on some level they should stick by it.
However, I understand why the firing may have needed to be done. The fact that a low level employee made the news for being controversial means you have to be fired. You can't send a memo out like that and expect there to be no career consequences at your company of employment. You will never be able to live it down.
Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher
○ This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for
raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences
and there’s overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a
women’s issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men
So Google acknowledges this difference in ability and has a program to counter it. He points out that this is unfairly generalizing when applied to individuals, thus demanding the program to be opened to men as well. I think this is a good suggestion, regardless of what I think about the rest of the memo.
Well, for one, if only 45% of interested applicants are women, maybe 45% female employees and managers is a reasonable goal.
> Damon makes weird ability judgements based on the population.
I remember a lot of talk about interest levels and personality types. Not much about abilities. I also think the point about multimodal distributions fairly address my concerns about possible bigotry and stereotyping. Which ability judgments concern you? And why didn't the part about multimodal distributions vs mean values assuage your concerns?
Maybe it is that I have lived in a country where carrying party cards to work was a step in professional life. But the point that stuck to me was painting the situation along political spectrum.
For example, a host on certain news channel might say, "Is Obama secretly a Muslim? I'm not saying that he is, but why can't we ask the question?"
It's easy to see why people would get upset by that comment (for multiple reasons). The fact that he says he isn't saying that doesn't matter, because he effectively just did.
If he had just limited the paper to inclusiveness as a conservative in a left leaning culture, without dragging the whole women inequality thing into the matter, it probably wouldn't have been meet with such a backlash.
However, the author appears to be completely tone deaf and extremely socially awkward - he has very poor communication skills. And lacking the understanding that there is a current culture war going on - to allow himself to be taken as a champion of some of those groups seems to show he is oblivious to the greater social/political discussion out there.
It does not help his argument to be the white knight for the _actual_ misogynists and racists.
No. See this wired article, his view is not consensus. I do agree that it was pretty poorly made though!
Professor Gina Rippon, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging at Aston University in Birmingham, said it was surprising how much of the research Damore misinterpreted or got wrong. She added that sex differences backed-up by proper research scrutiny were so tiny they couldn't explain the kind of gender imbalance at Google.
"They're assuming a divide that doesn't really exist," Rippon said. "Either its biological or its social and if its biological you can't change it so Google shouldn't be wasting its time with all these high minded equal opportunity initiatives.
"But the key thing is it can be changed – we know that if women have poor spatial skills, which has been demonstrated in the past, then its easy enough to change that by appropriate training – very often its associated with video game experience for example. He seems to be saying there are fixed differences and we're wasting our time trying to gain equality," Rippon said.
They can be left to argue among themselves however just like any other scientific debate. Social sciences are further complicated due to the nature of how difficult their studies are to perform and analyze.
Besides it's hardly fair for us to expect academics who are critical of the memo to speak publically about the issue when the alt-right is currently doxxing people for doing just that.
The passing mention of IQ is interesting, since it has nothing to do with gender, which is the focus everywhere else. He’s presumably talking about race, but he doesn’t want to be branded a racist, so he keeps the reference subtle. So why risk doing it at all? It’s a dog-whistle to the alt-right.
She admits she is _assuming_ his intentions - sets up the strawman, and counters it. BOOM - the guy is now racist.
As for Milo and his ilk - yeah they can go to hell - but what? This guy gets fired for speaking publicly? That seems a double standard.
> As an evolutionary biologist, the claim that these observations are “exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective” is especially painful to read. I would not dismiss the field completely, but many of its predictions have turned out to be wildly misguided.
> All in all, we have no reason to think female software engineers should perform worse at software engineering based on female trait distributions. And there’s a huge amount of evidence that promoting diversity improves the performance of teams and companies.
Note that that was a straw man, but I agree with the denotation anyway.
> We know that negative stereotypes damage people’s performance. We know that unconscious bias influences our judgement of others’ competencies. Consequently, whenever there’s significant cultural prejudice against certain groups, as there is with female software engineers, we expect to see inequalities emerge. So it’s implausible to attribute these differences to biology alone.
This touches on the part where I disagree the most with the memo: he acknowledges that bias exists, but appears to base his recommendations mostly on his non-bias explanations. He would have done better to underline that he doesn't want all anti-bias programs to end, but instead open them to more people where that makes sense. (He mentions a program to help women get better at negotiation, which would also help men who are bad at negotiation, but who are excluded because of their gender.)
Which part of the parent's comment do you believe he "confirmed" by allowing himself to be interviewed by SM?
Verbatim, from the manifesto:
"For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation."
The way he explains it with biology is that he rattles off a bunch of micro-facts, and then uses 'logic' with a big sprinkling of bias, to reach amazing macro-conclusions.
That's not his thesis; that's an example he's chosen to support his thesis.