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I’m an Ex-Google Woman Tech Leader and I’m Sick of Our Approach to Diversity (medium.com)
791 points by 317070 on Aug 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 420 comments



"In the name of diversity, when we fill quotas to check boxes, we fuck it up for the genuinely amazing women in tech."

Precisely. This goes directly to the core of the issue and what I had brought up on the thread recently about the Google employee who got fired. Specifically, if companies were truly interested in fairness, the only mandate for the interview process would be to hire the best person, no exceptions. By doing this you treat both sexes fairly and give everyone an equal chance. Otherwise, you end up with "reverse sexism", which the author does not explicitly say, however she does essentially admit to in her description of the hiring loop:

"After some rounds of low to no success, we start to compromise and hire women just because we have to"

The only logical conclusion that can be drawn from that is she hired at least a few women over men which she thought were better candidates simply because "we have to". That's a problem.

Overall, though, I thought her piece was well written and she seems to get at the real issue and even has a possible solution that doesn't involve just hiring women for purposes of optics only - fighting the battle far earlier and getting girls interested young so that they choose to enter these fields at a higher rate than they currently are doing.


I hear you when you say,"the only mandate for the interview process would be to hire the best person, no exceptions". It just sounds like an HR platitude.

If you know how to do that, I actually think you have a multi-$B idea! Unless you mean "cultural fit", or "went to the same school I did" as the best person, I'm doubtful you have one though. I've done enough interviewing and worked with enough people to know that even the best hiring managers turn away good candidates and get a few duds.

Once you're into real hiring statistics you have to be very careful of confirmation bias and "I just like this guy"ism even after the fact... they look and act like your successful hires. It's hard to even say, unless you're personally looking at their work on a regular basis and know what direction they're being given.


> I hear you when you say,"the only mandate for the interview process would be to hire the best person, no exceptions". It just sounds like an HR platitude. If you know how to do that, I actually think you have a multi-$B idea! Unless you mean "cultural fit", or "went to the same school I did" as the best person, I'm doubtful you have one though. I've done enough interviewing and worked with enough people to know that even the best hiring managers turn away good candidates and get a few duds.

Well, make me a multi-billionaire, I now present to you:

BLIND SOURCING AND HIRING

I should only share the details in private, you say it's a multi-billion dollar idea and I'd hate to tip off the competitors.

In all seriousness, though, I know this is challenging. Especially at Google, there's still an opportunity for trouble after you've been hired but not yet assigned; though I doubt it would be enough of a problem to trash the whole system.

The only reason not to do blind hiring is if it produces results which are indistinguishable from standard hiring.


> The only reason not to do blind hiring is if it produces results which are indistinguishable from standard hiring.

Or the fact that it's not really possible. Right now, most software engineering jobs are pretty communication heavy. Almost all company cultures contain a non-trivial amount of verbal communication, so with that premise, it's reasonable to have candidates verbally describe technical things or even make technical arguments.

Once you're listening to real voices, it's difficult to pretend that the hiring is blind.

The famous study involving auditions for positions in an orchestra worked really well because you could hide the person behind a screen and judge an entire work product without knowing anything about the instrumentalist.

Now, if most software jobs include a heavy remote work component some day, it might be more reasonable to throw a somewhat detailed spec at a candidate, have them code up a solution, then show the code (and only the code) to people evaluating the work product. But most devs don't have a day-to-day that looks like implementing textual programming problems for strangers.


You can setup interviews with text chat and screen shares at a large company without including someones voice or picture. Some places also remove names and other details from resumes.

Most companies don't do this in part because text chat introduces other biases, but also because most people ignore their own bias.


> Companies don't do this in part because text chat introduces other biases, but also because most people ignore their own bias.

Mostly likely it is because it doesn't mirror how they work. (Text chat is SoP for remote-first work, but remote-first is far from the norm.)


> The famous study involving auditions for positions in an orchestra

And even there they had to put carpet down / remove shoes to hide the difference in shoe sounds when they walked to the performance area.

https://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2013/oct/14/...

"the telltale sounds of a woman's shoes allegedly influenced some jury members such that aspiring musicians were instructed to remove their footwear"


> Once you're listening to real voices,

Use a voice scrambler.


People have tried that... specifically to show that women were being discriminated against, but guess what happened when it was implemented?

They found that contrary to their initial hypothesis, women with voices modulated to sound like men were still not getting hired at the same rate as the men masked to sound like women. Not only that, but they found women modulated to sound like men did worse than unmodulated women, and men modulated to sound like women did better than unmodulated men:

http://blog.interviewing.io/we-built-voice-modulation-to-mas...


One very interesting finding of the study is that woman and men are faring equally once the attrition is removed.

It seemed to me that the natural conclusion was that woman have lower confidence and thus performed worse at interviews.

And this is a deep realization for me, because it pushes me in the direction of current diversity policies. You see, if there is perceived bias against you, then you lose confidence. So we must, for a while, try our best to remove that perfection. That might mean hiring more woman even if they don't seem to perform as well as men, because, once we have done that for a while, woman will feel more confident and the good candidates will appear.

In any case - whether my last paragraph makes sense or not - the conclusion of the experiment interviewing.io did is that only removing gender perception during the interview process isn't enough, for woman may already have been affected by the bias and thus will perform worse than men during the interview.

So we come back to the conclusion that we must invest to bring woman to tech early - during college or even high school - and fight biases there.

It's a long road anyway, isn't it?


thats what i was thinking. Everyone should be made to sound like darth vader and now we've an interview process to die for :P


Maybe Donald Duck


Double blind. We do it in science, then do it hiring.


Double blind hiring famously does not result in gender balance (and even less in ethnic balance). This is called the funnel problem.

So that wouldn't solve matters.


> The only reason not to do blind hiring is if it produces results which are indistinguishable from standard hiring.

This will possibly result in less women being hired. See: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-30/bilnd-recruitment-tria...


Then there's either something wrong with how they introduced the trial, or there are just fewer qualified female candidates. Either way, I really didn't understand why they backed off on the trial.

If you can reasonably assess that your process is fair, I don't think anyone should care how the numbers bear out.


> If you can reasonably assess that your process is fair, I don't think anyone should care how the numbers bear out.

Because it goes against the results they wanted to arrive at.


Odd how that Idea never occurred to the person to whom you are replying.

In comment after comment, the possibility that there is no bias is considered literally impossible. The blatant and unrecognized bias in this conversation is absolutely fascinating. (I also notice HN has introduced a throttle, presumably to reduce the volume of incorrect messages.)


HN has always had a throttle for comment threads that go more than a few deep. The deeper the thread goes, the longer the delay gets.


From my observations (without access to the code one can only speculate), not in this case - depth is not the cause (nor is recent downvotes, or excessive volume). I've never before hit a limit of being able to participate in a back and forth debate at far higher volumes and depth than today, but now I would be completely unable to have a conversation. Something major has changed, I'd bet money it's a flag assigned to a user by a moderator.

That said, it's not super hard core militant censorship, there's plenty of other people saying politically incorrect things in today's discussion as well, so my censorship may have been due to "not adding to the discussion in a meaningful way", rather than my particular point of view. Hopefully there's an appeal mechanism for when I decide to straighten up my act, I'm working on it.

But as they say, freedom of speech does not require someone to provide you a stage to speak on, and private companies are free to censor whatever speech they see fit.


> From my observations (without access to the code one can only speculate), not in this case - depth is not the cause

It might be depth within a certain timeframe then. I've noticed similar delays previously in non-controversial topics when trying to reply to non-controversial comments.

I don't think there's anything sinister going on here, there's just a mechanism in the comments to prevent people from speaking past each other in quick succession.

Edit: For reference, this comment took 9 minutes before a reply link appeared, and it is the 9th child of a top-level comment. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. Try replying to this comment and timing how long it takes before a reply link appears - my guess is 10 minutes.


It was waaaaay longer than that.

An alternative explanation is the universe was punishing me for being a dick, which wouldn't be that unrighteous.


All fair criticisms. I'm not a hiring manager and my experience with hiring processes is limited.

What I had in mind is the mandate of hiring the best person for the job and any/all other policies are designed with that directive in mind. This is analogous to how the court system is supposed to be designed to be the discoverer of truth and the entire legal process as it relates to court proceedings is to further that search for truth.

What would my suggestion in reality look like? Similar to a company I once worked for. They had an interview process where all candidates were interviewed by at least 5 individuals. This was required to be done separately in one-on-one 30 minute sessions. Each interviewer scores the candidate in a combination of numerical and written feedback which is presented to HR. HR is also required to be one of the interview sessions. HR is also the pre-screener of all resumes unless an internal employee has a recommendation. After that, it boils down to a consensus system where HR reviews the feedback from everyone and determines who has the highest overall rating. This obviously required specific traits and requirements to be detailed in advance prior to the interview that were specific to the position. Some obviously overlapped like "communication skills" and others were very specific to the individual role and required work history and experience.

They also used a very similar process for their performance evaluations (you first two line managers had significant weight in the performance review, but you had to also get feedback from no less than 5 other colleagues. And your manager had to approve who could provide feedback on you so you couldn't just choose your best friend at work who would write a glowing review. That process was super-annoying and time consuming, but I think it did a pretty solid job. I never felt like I was ever treated unfairly or got shafted in any way. And the reason HR played a key role in the process was to make sure the rules were being followed and if there was any discrimination or unconscious biases, it would show over time and HR could take action if they saw fit like restricting a possibly biased individual from interviewing anyone who fit into a certain category (women, racial minority, disabled, etc.).


You're describing the German court system in which the job of the judge is to search for the truth. The US system is adversarial, the two sides present evidence, the Jury is the finder of fact and the Judge is the finder of law. If the two sides do not wish to search for the truth, it will not be found. This is common when the prosecution refuses to consider alternative theories and the defense merely wants to get off without having the resources to find the true criminal.

Also, fwiw, that process sounds like it would be pretty good at filtering candidates to be good at the job, but broad categories like "communication skills" cover an awful lot of territory. Imagine someone from quite a different culture with wildly different (but effective within their culture) communication styles that people in your company thought was weird. That person would probably be barred from working and integrating into the corporate culture.

I'm not saying you guys are bad people, or that I would have the guts to make that call myself, but I just want to point out that process as a fig leaf for distilling conformity is just that.


Agreed, bias would and does plague us in every field. We can however strive to reduce its influence by being conscious of the bias in our decisions specific to the task. However to completely give up the evaluation on the candidate's aptitude for performance and resort to hiring the remaining women candidates to fill up a quota simply cause the recruiters might've missed some excellent women candidates cause of some sexist bias is analogous to pouring oil on the bonfire. The resulting overall performance of the hired candidates 'may' be worse than if bias was allowed to operate unchecked. Instead one slightly better solution (within the quota system) would be to address this at the grassroots, instantiate more programs/workshops that cater to women candidates during their academic time-period allowing them to showcase their skills and learn how the company wants them to be. At least this way you've the option of choosing from a much larger pool of women candidates thereby increasing the probability of not missing out the better women candidates. The results would also speak for themselves for other future employers who're looking to recruit women candidates for a similar job profile.


When you are hiring do you really need to know if your candidate is a man or woman? How about further developing non-face-to-face "blind" (written or mediated?) interview methods where the the hiring decision-maker does not know the gender or race (all he knows is a gender-less detailed operational profile) and only the go-between facilitator who relays the information would know such thing. Part of the process could be handled by an AI with no gender/race in-parameters, etc.


So because we'll make small mistakes anyway we should

a) switch to outright discrimination in hiring

b) like it

I submit this would not be an improvement.


> she hired at least a few women over men which she thought were better candidates simply because "we have to". That's a problem.

I don't have any problem with people having arbitrary standards which guide their hiring process. They could be hiring the worst candidates, and I don't care, it's their business, may be they want to do charity or whatever.

The problem I have is with the "have to" hire such and such, and when they start painting all of that bs as being some sort of scientific thing where if you don't follow suit not only doing what they say, but also agreeing with them, you are the scum of the earth.

The statistics probably are sound, but the conclusions drawn from them are another matter. Anyone that have been exposed to statistics to some degree know that statistics fallacies abound, people that inject their own prejudices to explain out the numbers also exist, and that analysing things with lots of variables is not easy.

For example, they claim "it's just fair" if they hired as much women as women graduate in IT related areas, and otherwise it means people hiring are biased against women. Well, that's just non-sense. What if women perform actually worse? If not so, what if most women don't want to work at Google, I've heard lot of "interesting" stories that don't make me that amused if that was the case. What if women want to work in other areas that aren't as prominent in Google and go to other places instead?

As I said, saying it's just bias is just a premisse disguissed as conclusion. Just shows the bias of the people coming to those conclusions.


> fighting the battle far earlier and getting girls interested young

I can think of two major obstacles towards that. First, boys from average age of 15 enter a society where their attractiveness and social status is directly correlated to how much wealth they have. As such there is a strong incentive towards getting a job as early as possible or focusing studying towards specific high paying professions like tech. In order to girls to get the same incentive society would need to put similar pressure on them or stop putting the pressure on men to get wealth.

The second obstacles is a gender neutral phenomenon that I have seen several studies reflect on. When a student fail a exam at a university level, the risk that they will switch program is several time higher if their gender is a minority in their class. This factor also don't seem to go away as they advances in the course, but rather seems to grow stronger. One study also included data from when the graduates enter the work force (which share similar gender segregation), and based on the data they speculated that the first few years has the exact same effect, and the phenomenon only seems to go away after people been in the profession for many years.

I don't know a good solution to either of those, and for what I know, there isn't that much research into it.


> When a student fail a exam at a university level, the risk that they will switch program is several time higher if their gender is a minority in their class.

Belonging interventions can have a startlingly large impact this kind of failure mode.

Instilling "college is hard for people - they work hard, get help, and succeed" reframes difficulty from "I guess I don't belong here", affecting outcomes at scale. http://gregorywalton-stanford.weebly.com/uploads/4/9/4/4/494...

Two Brief Interventions to Mitigate a “Chilly Climate” Transform Women’s Experience, Relationships, and Achievement in Engineering http://gregorywalton-stanford.weebly.com/uploads/4/9/4/4/494... is interesting - two different ways of improving outcomes, with very different secondary effects.

The many questions of belonging. (2017, book chapter) http://gregorywalton-stanford.weebly.com/uploads/4/9/4/4/494...

More on http://gregorywalton-stanford.weebly.com/research.html and http://gregorywalton-stanford.weebly.com/papers.html .


Interesting, the first study suggest that a single general session to prepare students can reduce the problem by 31-40%. If such single session training could be pushed down the ages, say around the age of 18, it could have a noticeable effect on gender segregation. The 31-40% effect is in regard to the demographic that already had picked a program/direction, but it seems to have potential in addressing one major cause of gender segregation.

The second study only look at half the population, only during the first year of college, and the result they measure were GPA. Those are severe limitations if we are looking for a general solution to a problem that both genders suffer from. That said, social-belonging intervention in education seems useful in particular since bullying is still a major issue at all levels of education, and stress management also seems useful in a place where stress is creeping down the ages.

Thanks for the book. The summery was in particular a good read, highlighting both success and failures in prescribed solutions. If there is a one failure mode of physiological experiments that often seems ignored, it is the effect of false hope and empty charades. The recentness of the cited references implies there is a lot of more work to be done in the field in finding general solutions.


> fighting the battle far earlier and getting girls interested young so that they choose to enter these fields at a higher rate than they currently are doing.

I encourage you to try, but grand social engineering projects have been devoted to this exact specification in Sweden (and probably elsewhere), and the ratios don't seem to budge. I hope we won't all get so upset if it turns out nothing reasonable can be done.


I actually live in Sweden, and I can tell you that there hasn't been any social engineering projects at a large scale. Sure, there has been some adjustments to teaching and elementary school, but gender norms are very much alive and well here. It's not nearly enough to change a few things in school to actually make a dent, there's still soooo much influence from media, advertising, role models, friends and most adults.


I won't be upset at all. My opinion is simply that is the only reasonable/ethical way to go about it if we choose to do so.


So, from the context of Google, you are implying that is not what Google does (hires only to the bar). However, that is exactly what Google does. To get hired you have to pass the 5-interview in-person panel. Period.

What the original memo author was railing about, incorrectly, is the perception that spending more time widening the recruiting funnel for "diversity candidates" was lowering the bar. That is not true.

The reason is simple, Google doesn't hire people to fill positions, we hire people who are awesome/pass the interview bar. If there are 10 awesome people, we hire them. If there are 11, we hire them. There are always more positions than qualified candidates.

If you want to talk about if the bar is the correct measurement, etc, that's a completely separate conversation and wasn't part of the little "anti-diversity memo".


I think you may have misread what I wrote, or perhaps what I wrote was a bit confusing or vague. I didn't mean that any of this was part of the anti-diversity memo. I meant that what this woman wrote was very similar in content to my own comments on that thread about the Google employee. I agree with you that what she has written is very different than what the Google employee wrote. And I wasn't making specific comments about Google's hiring process. I have never worked for Google and have never interviewed with them. Only thing I know about their hiring process is that it's supposedly one of the best and very difficult. My comments were about diversity in general and not specific to Google.

Hope that clarifies my thoughts a bit.

EDIT: grammatical mistake.


Thanks for that illumination. That was helpful.

I think you should be aware your words imply that you believe Google is doing quota based hiring or different hiring bars based on 'diversity'. You said, exactly quoted:

"This goes directly to the core of the issue and what I had brought up on the thread recently about the Google employee who got fired. Specifically, if companies were truly interested in fairness, the only mandate for the interview process would be to hire the best person, no exceptions. "

The first sentence talks about Google. The second sentence you talk about how "companies" should hire the best person, no exceptions. Implying you believe Google does not do that. Because even though they are separate sentences they are part of the same chain of thought. So the second sentence seems to apply to Google despite your use of "companies" (which includes Google, since Google is a company).

So just be aware, if you raise A then B, then people are, naturally led into thinking that A and B are related in your mind some way.

This is why you can't write a memo like the original anti-diversity one, you are conflating too many issues. You can't dispassionately discuss how to change the diversity programs to be more inclusive in the same thought body that says "effectively lowered the bar for diversity candidates". That signals to people that you think these two things are related. Given that he has been embraced by the alt-right, and he has encouraged that, it should be giving people a pretty clear sign that the original 'anti-diversity memo' wasn't actually argued in good faith.


She pointed out directly what she was doing, as the hiring manager, in order to sway the 5-interview panel and subsequent committee:

She wrote appeals to the committee. Quote:

> to make cases for cross-functional candidates who would be great assets to Google, even though a (typically) male dominated software engineering interview crew did not find these candidates up to snuff.

It worked, too:

> I had a 90+% success rate changing the hiring decision for these candidates.

Given that appeals exist and managers writing support for a particular candidate having such a success rate does mean that (what we all sort-of knew already) Google's hiring process is nowhere near as "clean" as advertised.

I read other places that the initial reaction to the diversity problem consisted of having the committees work without knowing names, ethnicities and/or genders and this actually made the problem worse, not better.


You are dead wrong in regards to what the memo author was railing about.


Diversity hires in no way mean that less qualified DI candidates are hired over others. There is so much bias in hiring that I can't even see straight. From people giving pref treatment to nation of origin, sex, schools, political affiliation, etc.

The easiest, fairest, more productive solution is to post the job where MORE DI candidates will see it. The next one is to craft positions that aren't built entirely out of "tech-stuff" that are bullshit metrics anyways, the CS Olympiad questions that don't work.

The need for diverse (in all senses of the word) is necessary for successful products.

Where I work, the majority of folks got hired directly out of college, they don't know any other src of truth. They have never had a blue-collar summer job. They came from rich to upper middle class families and their view of the world is similarly filtered. I can immediately tell when someone has "life experience" after 30 seconds of talking with them. To me, this is the bigger problem.


I noticed this problem too. Teams can fail because of lack of empathy and emotional maturity. This is a much harder problem that doesn't have any simple solution.


fighting the battle far earlier and getting girls interested young so that they choose to enter these fields at a higher rate than they currently are doing.

It's your time and energy if you want to do that, but you should probably recognize you're still treating women differently in that case.

Why do you want to pressure or influence people to do something that all the evidence indicates most of them aren't particularly interested in doing?

Shouldn't we be pleased that in an advanced society people have the opportunity to seek out and perform the work they find interesting and fulfilling?


To counteract pressure and influence that's already present in the other direction, dissuading some people from doing these things even though they would actually enjoy them.


Does it matter if they don't end up doing something they'd enjoy if they end up doing a different thing they enjoy? People talk like writing software is the greatest, most fulfilling job in the world, and if someone misses out on that it's some great detriment to their life.


> Overall, though, I thought her piece was well written and she seems to get at the real issue and even has a possible solution that doesn't involve just hiring women for purposes of optics only - fighting the battle far earlier and getting girls interested young so that they choose to enter these fields at a higher rate than they currently are doing.

That is exactly what Google's diversity programs (the ones that James Damore advocates eliminating) are intended to do. They are internship programs designed to get girls into computer science at the high school and college levels.


I don't know much about Google's diversity programs, how do they advertise? I'm mainly asking because it seems like if someone is pursuing an internship then they're already indicating an above average interest in the subject than their peers.


The central point is proven unconsciously bias, which makes "hiring the best person" only possible with blind hiring, and blind marking in University which isn't likely to happen any time soon - to see unconscious bias ignored or passed over is discouraging since it is the problem.


What evidence do you have for this?

What I have read is that the "hiring a lab manager" experiments actually only found an effect for candidates that were (a) mediocre and (b) identically qualified. For exceptional candidates, they did not find bias. If there was a clearly better candidate they did not find bias.

Furthermore, the most commonly cited study on this was hiring for a position in a Psychology department. A discipline that is majority female. Other studies have shown that grading tends to be biased towards the gender that is less well represented in a particular field.

And of course there's the Ceci-Williams study that showed a 2:1 advantage for women in STEM tenure track hiring.


I always assumed the hiring disparity was due to previous steps in the pipeline being biased in some way, as in this PG essay:

http://www.paulgraham.com/bias.html


Also more recent research showing that trying train or educate away such bias doesn't work.

I would have dropped a reference except I thought this was so well known it could easily be found. If not, start here: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/why-is-...

Meanwhile, thanks for the downvotes on spec - maybe save your downvotes for when you have a bibliography, peeps.


Good sources for this?


If you tell your recruiters to look harder for one kind of candidate than another, I don't see how that's messing up fairness, because the search/recruiting process isn't part of the evaluation process.


>"reverse sexism"

This phrase is itself a loaded non-thing, as it implies that all of this is taking place in a vacuum that was laboratory-generated by white-coated technicians.

But, instead, it's a grimy, imperfect world in which we know that women and other groups have been systematically disenfranchised and continue to be so. So, yeah, maybe someone else whose history does not bear that incredible burden will finally themselves miss out on an opportunity here or there. To those who complain of unfairness, I say "welcome to the world experienced for generations by the very people you now resent because you have to walk in their shoes for a few steps".

>the only mandate for the interview process would be to hire the best person, no exceptions

"Best" by whose standard? People aren't binary or discrete. They exist on a continuum with different strengths and weaknesses. Divergent skillsets, experiences, and perspectives matter, as well as cultivating a culture that at least somewhat reflects your customer base and the wider society in which your business operates. There is actual value to diversity that goes beyond daily LOC output.

Yeah, that may sound cliche, but it is a.) true and b.) vastly underappreciated by many who frequently express their lack of appreciation with statements about "hiring the best person for the job" and the like.


> To those who complain of unfairness, I say "welcome to the world experienced for generations by the very people you now resent because you have to walk in their shoes for a few steps".

I've always had a big problem with this often said bit. It's basically revenge. You're saying "people X were disadvantaged by people Y a long time ago and you are decendants of Y so you should pay."

It's frankly crazy and I can't understand why there is still a small minority of people who actually believe this "revenge for your older generation's mistakes" madness.

> cultivating a culture that at least somewhat reflects your customer base

Bad point. Let's pretend that hiring people on a merit that they are like your customers is a good idea for a sec, then for a lot of tech companies whose customers are more likely white and male, we should hire tonnes of white males! It an invalid reason.

> it is a.) true and b.) vastly underappreciated by many who frequently express their lack of appreciation with statements about "hiring the best person for the job" and the like.

We just established it's most often not true? And any sources for this customer-employee-demographic-matching hypothesis you're claiming is "true"?


Has nothing to do with "revenge" or otherwise seeking to harm others. My point was about the harm we cause with phrases like "reverse sexism" that seek to provoke anger against the very people who have been harmed to a far greater extent.

In general, your arguments here are so facile as to make any attempt to respond equally as absurd. If you're genuinely interested in the topic, I'd suggest you research further vs launching into fallacious reductio ad absurdum-style arguments on comment threads.


> the only mandate for the interview process would be to hire the best person, no exceptions.

Yes. But, how did said person even get to the interview stage. It has been documented that people will recommend their peers for positions a their company — peers that often look like they do.

Unfortunately, I think it's rather complicated....


"the only mandate for the interview process would be to hire the best person"

The problem is, that hiring only "the best persons" will not create the best company. Diverse viewpoints and experiences create the best products.


But no one seems to care about hiring people with diverse viewpoints and experiences. The only diversity we care about is skin color and reproductive organs. I don't see anyone trying to fill their quota of people with an IQ of 90. I don't see anyone trying to fill their quota of people over 65. I don't see anyone trying to fill their quota of computer illiterate people.

Those types of diversity are much bigger than the difference between male and female computer geeks, they would have a much bigger impact on product design and yet no one is scrambling to implement it.


Some of the reasoning in this post is very weak.

It's not very long, and its kernel is an anecdote about how her son is interested in programming and her daughter in photoshop. My daughter is also more interested in art than my son (who is more interested in video games). Both would make exceptional programmers, and both have a latent interest. Both are setting a course for STEM careers, but, like all 18 and 16 year olds --- let alone 9 and 7 year olds --- neither has any clue what they're really going to end up doing.

The piece culminates in a recommendation that we focus our diversity efforts on college admissions and earlier stages in the pipeline. But that's a cop-out. We should work on all stages of the pipeline. It's unsurprising that a Google engineer would believe that gender balance can't be addressed without fixing the college pipeline, but the fact is that virtually none of the software engineering we do in the industry --- very much including most of the work done at Google --- requires a college degree in the first place.

Most importantly, though, the only contribution this post makes to the discussion is to add "I'm a woman and I agree with one side of the debate" to the mix. Everything in it is a restatement of an argument that has been made, forcefully and loudly, already. Frankly: who cares?

Edit: I added "some of the" to the beginning of the comment, not because I believe that, but because I concede that there are arguments in the post that can't be dispatched with a single paragraph in a message board comment (through clearly there are some that can.)


>, and its kernel is an anecdote about how her son is interested in programming and her daughter in photoshop.

Fascinating how different readers take away different salient points. For me, her main buildup was hiring women to meet a "diversity goal" resulted in pressures to hire some women who couldn't do the work. This creates a perverse feedback loop that unfairly taints future women candidates who could do the work -- which ends up undermining the whole point of diversity. Imo, the biological stuff about her son and daughter is more of a side note.

To restate her text, we could say that yes, there are talented female computer scientists like Grace Hopper and NASA's Margeret Hamilton.[1][2] However, if companies lower the bar to hire women who are not competent like them (because diversity is valued over skills), it will inadvertently make it harder to hire future Grace Hoppers and Margeret Hamiltons.

I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with her but her Google observation is getting lost in her boy/girl preferences sidebar.

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

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Hamilton_(scientist)


Because the piece isn't very well written†, it's unclear whether the "infinite loop" of mediocrity she's referring to is something she actually observed, or something she surmises is possible. She is clear and specific, presenting numbers, when talking about things she was personally involved in.

Since the cycle of increasing mediocrity has a prominent float in the parade of horribles conjured by the "anti-diversity" (for lack of any better term) side of this debate, I'm left assuming she didn't see that occur. But she could also clear that up easily.

Finally, an obvious point: evaluation of the performance of an individual software developer is one of the great unsolved problems of software engineering. Virtually all performance evaluation done today is at root subjective. Subjective performance evaluations are easily tainted by prejudice; in fact, you have to work hard not to taint them.

If you think that's different at Google, re-evaluate: Google also runs one of the most famously capricious hiring programs in the industry. Despite constant rituals and genuflection towards data-driven decision making, Google continues to thrive based on its status as a premiere destination for new software developers, despite running a hiring process renowned for the quality of the people it has alienated. There is ample evidence of Google having scaled broken processes.

99% of what I write isn't well-written either, in case this sounds like a jab at the author, who I am not familiar with.


> Finally, an obvious point: evaluation of the performance of an individual software developer is one of the great unsolved problems of software engineering.

I don't think it's obvious at all. That an experienced engineer or manager can correctly evaluate a software engineer is one of the ground assumptions that runs through our industry and its thinkpieces. (Though it is borne out by the studies that, e.g., even Google has done).

> If you think that's different at Google, re-evaluate: Google also runs one of the most famously capricious hiring programs in the industry. Despite constant rituals and genuflection towards data-driven decision making, Google continues to thrive based on its status as a premiere destination for new software developers, despite running a hiring process renowned for the quality of the people it has alienated. There is ample evidence of Google having scaled broken processes.

This is a significant point: Google's hiring process is legendarily bad. While I would work for them (I think their ethics are solid, their engineering is excellent, their benefits suitable for adults, and reports of internal culture are generally good - a rare combination), the hoop jumping they ask you to go through is... quite amazing. I just don't have enough of a taste for doing an independent study of my upper division algorithms class to have aggressively tried to get hired there.

It's also evidence, I think, that broken hiring processes do not inherently break a company - or at least a sufficiently profitable one.


> It's also evidence, I think, that broken hiring processes do not inherently break a company - or at least a sufficiently profitable one.

Also, it's possible that the hiring processes were broken in her chain, but not everywhere. Her experience doesn't seem to align with what either Google or Damore say (he felt all his female coworkers were equally capable and deserved to be there).

> Google's hiring process is legendarily bad ... the hoop jumping they ask you to go through is... quite amazing

How does having a high standard implicate any other hiring practices? "Bad" in one sense doesn't mean "bad" everywhere, and certainly "bad" for you doesn't mean "bad" for everyone. All that said -- I personally don't wish to go through an interview in which I'm grilled in detail on all the algorithms I reviewed in college. Hence why I don't work at Google.


Let me just leave this here:

"We [UrbanAMA] try hard, but again find ourselves with a 98% male candidate pool. You should know that we are an early stage startup that cannot afford market salaries. Despite that, we paid premium salaries to bring a few women who did well in our interviews. But, they lacked the energy to put us into overdrive. Worse, they were starting to drain the energy from the rest of the team. Eventually, we had to do the right thing for the company and let them go. I’m now back to being the only woman on the (tech) team."

I'm not sure what it says about the situation that 98% of the candidate pool is male or that she had to fire specifically the women for draining energy.


She clarified in a comment that she fired men as well as women for "lacking the energy to put us into overdrive." She says:

"Yes, we invest in mentoring and training all our team members and we did with the women we hired as well. We definitely found a few men and women who were either unwilling or unable to take on the role. We did end up losing the men who didn’t as well. On that part, it wasn’t a gender thing really — sorry that the post made it sound like that. Basically we had fewer women to begin with. And as luck would have it, these women did not end up having the desire to do what it takes."

https://medium.com/@hellovidya/yes-we-invest-in-mentoring-an...


I think that her "infinite loop" theory was her perception of the anecdote around hiring at her own startup. It does seem conceivable, but yeah obviously data is light here.

Good point on how the whole interview process is a crapshoot anyway. Hadn't really thought about that aspect, but obviously is a huge opportunity for subliminal bias since it is how it is.


Another weird attribute of her theory about setting the bar and paying premiums for talent is that her engineering team, according to LinkedIn, is in India --- which is a radically different market for software talent than SFBA. In particular, the gender distribution of CS grads and programmers in India is very different from what it is here.

One possible interpretation --- and there are probably equally credible others --- is that this founder found it difficult to compete in the (overheated) SFBA market for talent, irrespective of gender.


That makes it even more weird. The percentage of women programmers there is higher.

https://m.cacm.acm.org/magazines/2015/5/186026-decoding-femi...


Oh interesting. Where did you find this? (My cursory check didn't show turn up any info on that)


I used the following advanced sleuthing techniques (don't share outside HN):

1. I went to LinkedIn

2. I searched for "Silverlabs"

3. I found the page for their company

4. I clicked on the link labeled "14 employees and former employees have LinkedIn profiles"

5. I observed that all the engineering profiles were in Hyderabad.

I'm being a little snarky but also it's good to know how superficial this "research" was so it's not at all unlikely that I'm totally wrong about this.


Even in her anecdote she doesn't actually come out and say they lowered their standards until they ended up hiring women who "couldn't do the work", at least in terms of technical ability. Her only description of these women is:

"But, they lacked the energy to put us into overdrive. Worse, they were starting to drain the energy from the rest of the team."

What exactly does it mean to "lack energy"? Were these women unqualified or otherwise incapable of doing the work? If so, why not say so explicitly? Because otherwise, in the context of startups I would be inclined to interpret that sentence as meaning "they weren't willing to work 80 hour weeks like the rest of our team so we fired them".


Yeah, these are the kinds of vague, subjective terms that are sometimes used to target people whose actual performance is unassailable.


Besides that, a manager/leader/founder needs to take ownership of their team's motivation (within reasonable limits).


>Subjective performance evaluations are easily tainted by prejudice

This is vastly under-acknowledged. Implicit biases affect even the most well-intentioned of us, which then persistently and negatively impact the targets of our biases (see the movie Get Out for an exaggerated, but entertaining take on this).

For an "out-group" in any particular environ, their very status as a historical out-group itself fuels the perceptions that perpetuate their disenfranchisement.

So, the remedy to this has not been to psychoanalyze every hiring manager in an attempt to navigate these murky, subjective waters; but to set objective goals that seek to counter the equally objective under-representation manifestations that we can actually measure.


> For me, her main buildup was hiring women to meet a "diversity goal" resulted in pressures to hire some women who couldn't do the work. This creates a perverse feedback loop that unfairly taints future women candidates who could do the work -- which ends up undermining the whole point of diversity.

Wow, that sounds terribly unfortunate! Did this happen while she worked at Google? Or while working at her startup? What are the mechanisms behind this? Do the diversity programs at Google have lower hiring standards than the normal hiring track?

(In case it's not clear, my point is that she appears to be describing a hypothetical scenario. The claim that diversity programs result in hiring unqualified women is a very strong claim (not even one that James Damore makes in his memo), and needs to be backed by actual evidence.)


Yes. A lower-quality 'Diversity hire' just to fulfil quotas are not how you achieve equality. But...

> there are talented female computer scientists like Grace Hopper and NASA's Margeret Hamilton.

...it's funny how you point to two quite exceptional people as the standard for women to meet.


There is also Amanda from online services on the 3rd floor, but you don't know her. I swear she is good but at the same time worst than Grace.


I found the anecdotal information about her children confusing. The only way I could rationalize it, in the context of her broader argument, is that she is suggesting that there are less women in tech simply because girls don't like to code. And given this natural reason for less women, having quotas actually harms the women who do want to code. I'm not sure though.


> For me, her main buildup was hiring women to meet a "diversity goal" resulted in pressures to hire some women who couldn't do the work.

I've learned to be especially leery of arguments that sound reasonable and logical, but lack something concrete to prop them up. The post says her company paid premium salaries -- despite allegedly not being able to afford market salaries -- to women who then "lacked the energy to put us into overdrive" and "were starting to drain the energy from the rest of the team".

Even if I were to disregard that the post seems to be basing its argument on a single company's set of anecdotes, I would still need an explanation of just what the heck is meant by "energy to put us into overdrive" and how you "drain" that energy from the rest of the team.


No, the core of the article was pointing out that setting arbitrary quotas for female hires and then sacrificing your standards in order to meet those quotas does more harm than good. Fundamentally there are two issues that need addressing, firstly trying to get more qualified female applicants which is why she recommends focusing on early education and college STEM programs. Secondly there's the issue of how to address sexism and bias in the industry which results in wage gaps (they're a lot smaller than most of the media makes it out to be, but they do exist), and more importantly in passing women up for promotions or skipping qualified candidates. The later happens rarely thankfully, but it does happen and needs to be addressed, but setting quotas does not fix that problem!

One thing that could potentially help I can think of is encouraging hiring of women in more junior roles (and I mean hiring junior level candidates, not trying to shove a more senior female developer into a lower level position). If we're not seeing qualified female senior level candidates it could be because they're not getting opportunities to learn those skills in lower level positions. I know from experience it can be hard to make room in a team for a junior employee, but it's something that the industry needs to get better at doing if we want people to eventually have the skills to fill those senior levels roles.


> No, the core of the article was pointing out that setting arbitrary quotas for female hires and then sacrificing your standards in order to meet those quotas does more harm than good.

Is this actually occurring at Google due to the existence of their diversity programs? If so, that is quite a strong claim and needs to be backed by evidence. But she doesn't appear to be actually making that claim.

> Fundamentally there are two issues that need addressing, firstly trying to get more qualified female applicants which is why she recommends focusing on early education and college STEM programs.

Isn't this literally what Google's diversity programs do? The ones that James Damore advocates eliminating? I thought they were internship programs designed to encourage more minority groups to get into computer science?

For example:

BOLD - https://www.google.com/about/careers/students/bold.html

CSSI - https://edu.google.com/resources/programs/computer-science-s...

Engineering Practicum - https://careers.google.com/jobs#!t=jo&jid=/google/engineerin...


> ...I mean hiring junior level candidates, not trying to shove a more senior female developer into a lower level position...

The word "shove" aside, I wish more companies would hire senior people for junior roles if they want them. One of the big problems with the American (and I presume Western) job market is the unwillingness to train people unless they're straight out of college. It seems that moms (and less often, dads) who take time off to raise the young ones would benefit from a new approach.

Of course, the employer and employee need to be on the same page about day-to-day duties, expected career growth, and so on. But that seems like a solvable problem.


Sorry, I think there's some confusion about the usage of the word senior there, I meant senior in terms of skill level, not in terms of age. Age shouldn't be a factor at all, it doesn't matter if you're a fresh college graduate or a 60 year old so long as you have the skills to do the job. What you don't want to do is take a highly skilled worker and then hire them into a low skill position, they'll get bored/frustrated, assuming they even accept the position in the first place because presumably you're paying market rates so you'll be massively under paying them in that position.


> ...I meant senior in terms of skill level, not in terms of age...

No worries. I understood your meaning. I also meant that. I meant that hiring managers, in my experience, are more likely to give an outright "no" to an underqualified senior person than to offer them a junior role.

If the person took some time off, decided to switch industries, decided to switch specialties, or just figured out they were in a rut, giving them a junior role and letting them work their way back into an expert role should be a consideration.


I know the prevailing sentiment around here is anti-age-discrimination, but the flip side is also bad. We've seen in a few European countries what happens when the unemployment figures for young people are an order of magnitude higher than people with more experience and it's not pretty. Young people need to be given a chance to start their careers and senior people taking junior roles can get in the way of that. The current trend towards people not having the required savings for retirement is going to echo into future generations that have to delay the start of their careers because those jobs haven't been vacated.


The preference for new grads is because it's a lot easier to convince them to work overtime with less pay than someone more experienced with a family.


I always figured that was part of some implicit contract.

"You'll hire me for a job I can't immediately do, and I'll treat growing into my job as the number one priority".

With the job market as it is, it's unrealistic to expect people to hire candidates who can't help lighten the load within a week or two of their start date.

I wish there was a less-risky way to 'try out' candidates. Someone I know works in boutique finance and whenever they bring on someone at a junior level, they're on a 60 day probation and the partners decide whether or not to retain them.

I think it's easier for them to do it because their applicant pool / candidates are predominantly young, white/asian, male, and high-achieving. They've never been sued by a candidate they've let go and they've found some real 'diamonds in the rough'.

I can't imagine that they could say the same if they let go of 40 mothers with children. But it does highlight a solution path - make it less risky for companies to evaluate candidates although I don't know how to do that without eroding worker protections.


One aspect I haven't read much about are the incentives that the big tech companies are offering women candidates.

You mention wage gaps but if the pool of qualified engineers is mostly men and Google (and other tech companies) want to hire women, it seems that salaries for women should be far, far higher than it is for men. The fact that they are close to equal might be part of the problem.


Openly offering different salaries based on gender is incredibly illegal.


You could get around it by advertising a senior position, for which women applicants are sought, and a junior position, where everyone will be considered, with substantially the same responsibilities but different pay.

Would a US court disallow this? It doesn't seem to violate the spirit of affirmative action, or the letter of equality laws.


That's true, I didn't think of that. It does seem like it would be a more direct way for them to increase the number of women that work there though. To me it doesn't feel worse than allowing a numeric quota.

I suppose individual women are free to negotiate a higher salary.


True, you could let the market dictate their salaries, but then you run into the issue of paying one gender more money for the same amount of work, a practice outlawed under the Equality Pay Act of 1963.


This hasn't stopped Google according to the Labor Department lawsuit. http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/04/technology/google-labor-depa...


The lawsuit in that article is about a dispute over Google providing employee contact information to support a Labor Dept audit, not about alleged pay discrimination.


I don't see where the author's reasoning is weak. A female tech lead / founder tried the standard way to get better representation of women at Google: try to hire more women, and found out there weren't enough highly qualified candidates to significantly move the numbers in the desired direction. Then as a founder herself, she tried to hire a higher percentage of women, and found there weren't enough candidates. She compared two approaches to fixing that: lowering standards (with negative effects she outlined), and generating more candidates from colleges. She recommends the later approach. The argument isn't novel, but it's also not made in a vacuum or from an ivory tower as she tried the "try harder" approach down in the trenches more than once, and so suggests "try different" instead.


Again: everyone knows the candidate pool is overwhelmingly comprised of men. There's no real dispute anywhere about this fact. It's not part of the debate; there is no debate about it. Nobody can reasonably believe it's realistic to expect parity in hiring in the immediacy, and all the available evidence suggests --- like you'd expect! --- that Google doesn't expect that either.

That makes that part of the argument in her post a kind of straw man.


> Nobody can reasonably believe it's realistic to expect parity in hiring in the immediacy, and all the available evidence suggests --- like you'd expect! --- that Google doesn't expect that either.

You're clearly entirely unaware of the context of any of the diversity conversations that have gone on in tech in the last 5-10 yrs, including those internally and externally at Google. You're correct that expecting employer demographics to immediately exactly reflect US population demographics is stupid. You're wildly incorrect that it's uncommon.

As just one example of the top of my head, Google released their diversity a couple of years ago and coverage was almost universally: "Google has a serious diversity problem", "Google needs to do a lot better".

The actual gender numbers? Non technical employees were split down the middle and technical employees almost exactly reflected percent of CS degrees by gender.

Something isn't a straw man if it's an argument that's constantly made and carries a lot of influence.


> You're clearly entirely unaware of the context of any of the diversity conversations that have gone on in tech in the last 5-10

tptacek is, uh, not someone those words apply to. He's been involved in these discussions for the last half decade on HN, one of the key industry forums. He's run part of hiring programs at a previous employer, and founded a startup oriented on improving engineering hiring.

Politely, sir, take a deep breath. You might disagree with him, but you might want to be careful with your assumptions there.


Thanks for the context.

I wasn't saying this just as a throwaway insult. It's just that calling something a strawman (as he does downthread) depends on confidently asserting that nobody could ever _possibly_ support such a ridiculous claim. That very much doesn't fit with the experience of many of the people here,including those of us who have worked for Google now or in the past.

> Politely, sir, take a deep breath.

Haha, thanks, but I'm not sure where the assumption that I'm worked up about this comes from. The only thing in my comment that approaches impoliteness is assuming that he's not familiar enough with the conversations around tech hiring at big companies, which seemed like the only plausible explanation for thinking that no one could possibly be making the argument he calls a "strawman".

I'm honestly still not sure what an alternative explanation would be.


No, you're relying on a false dichotomy here. The logic in your post suggests that if I believe it's unreasonable to expect gender parity at Google, I must also believe that the current gender distribution at Google is OK. That doesn't follow logically.


The downvotes here indicate logic doesn't always follow where there exists polarity in a belief of "truths". While you may be correct in your assertions, you will still lose the argument because it's not what people want to hear. My own downvotes aside (within 30 seconds, no less) is the point is that some topics become "logically lodged" in a jam and cannot be freed by open discourse.


It's better not to think about vote scores here at all.


Note: The percentage of women in computing is roughly 25%. I don't know how she got the 90% and 98% numbers.


It's in the text next to the 90%

> But I was working with a candidate pool composed of 90% men. Try software engineers with experience in sensors, wireless and hardware stacks before angrily correcting my stats there.


If men changed jobs more often than women [1], or sent more applications to other companies (as a means of getting a raise at their current company), could that anecdotally make it seem like the ratio is more skewed than it really is?

I mean, if men are more often "candidates" for moving between jobs, then it would, right?

If that were true, then an employer wanting a more loyal or longer term employee might seek out more women.

[1] I have no evidence for any of this.


My understanding was that was what she was seeing in the candidate pools for jobs when she was a hiring manager, not the overall percentage of women in computing.


My personal anecdote filtering candidates for three years in the 1990's for a video game studio was 100's of male candidates submitted their resume for programming positions versus three females at that stage. We interviewed two of the women (the third took a job in another industry before we had the chance to interview her) and made offers to the other two of them.


Doesn't that kind of point to an alternate solution, that the entire interview by interrogation coding process is the problem (if the input pool is 98% men of course they are going to get 98% men out) and they should be doing the mentor approach/internship for all junior programmers instead of the rigid pass/fail requirement. One of the problems with their current approach is similar to the college hazing ritual, all the upperclassmen went through it, so they're going to make everyone else suffer through it as well.


And how do you determine who gets to be mentored in an internship?

Unless you take all candidates, you are back to reducing the pool to a more manageable size, presumably using classic interview techniques.

And unless the mentors are biased, this still doesn't change the fact that your hires as a population will be similar to the applicants.


> if the input pool is 98% men of course they are going to get 98% men out

Will they? What if women stay in their roles longer than men? Then, you would less often be replacing women.

If men more often apply to new jobs, that could explain why the candidate ratio is more skewed than the ratio of actual workers.


It's some of undeterminate without data on longevity because on the other hand we could hypothesize that even with equal gender representation initially maybe men would stay longer because women want to spend time raising children and that would skew things. Also, there might be some self filtering as you described in the last sentence where I could speculate that maybe the average man is used to being rejected a lot so they apply more to places that are hailed as hard to get into, though with the 30% figure female representation in CS touted elsewhere in this thread, it leaves the question where are these 30% women going to in CS?


> But that's a cop-out. We should work on all stages of the pipeline.

Only if you believe in diversity for diversity's sake, and it's important to realize that not everyone does. Personally I'm much more concerned about equal opportunity for underrepresented groups than what my coworkers actually look like.

If you really, really care about diversity it's very easy to be involved. I can guarantee you there's a program to teach computer skills to young students (often those who are economically disadvantaged) in your city.


I'm involved in one and I can guarantee you that it's about 1000 times easier to blog about the issue than teach programming principles to kids.

My average student is a 14-year-old black female who wants to learn web dev. It should go without saying, I've not seen even a hint of ability difference based on gender or race. We cover JS as well as HTML/CSS -- this is not a design class, but a real development class where kids are writing native markup and code.

The program is free and held at the public library. All students are there because they want to learn. I thought some might come due to parental pressure, but I haven't seen that.

It's exhausting and rewarding.


Compared to her anecdote about her kids, she spends more space recounting how she tried to hire and retain women with no appreciable success.

EDIT: Also she recommends these at the bottom of her piece:

""" Start a mentoring program.

If you are a manager, make sure women who work for you are properly treated and recognized.

Educate men and women about how to detect and correct subliminal biases.

Find men who are willing to educate other men about this to make the message more effective. """

...the mentoring program could be for girls and young women, but it could also be for women already on the payroll. The rest of the recommendation are for after hiring has already taken place.


>the mentoring program could be for girls and young women //

How is that fair for boys/men if they're excluded from mentoring opportunities (eg in a company that hires them) simply because they're male.

This is "fine" if your objective is "hire more women". As someone who supports equality of opportunity I don't see how compounding more sexism will ever lead to less sexism.

In the UK, overall, young men get poorer school results, are less represented at university, receive lower wages than women (up to the ages when people choose to start families) ... how does this sort of sexist mentoring policy fit in here? Is it really enough to say "well if we look only at this industry segment"?

What's wrong with equality?


I didn't comment on any of her suggestions other than to say I've seen them in place already. So if we're not happy with the current proportion of women in tech, the industry should explain why, say, current mentoring efforts aren't working.

The answer could be "it works, but there's not enough of it" I guess.

I mostly brought it up because tptacek wrote, "It's unsurprising that a Google engineer would believe that gender balance can't be addressed without fixing the college pipeline..." and I thought the recommendations for helping already-in-engineering women pointed to a more complex position. Though perhaps that position wasn't communicated, at least not clearly enough.


It's not news to anyone that the candidate pool for software developers is comprised almost entirely of men. You can't have have hired a single software developer without confronting that fact. Exactly what was interesting about her reported experience hiring?


For better or worse, her credentials (top tech first, high rank, woman ) will lend her more legitimacy in what she's said.

It's not a novel idea, but the reality is that someone who is convinced all men are out to discriminate against women is more likely to listen to her than to a man writing the same post.

So if for nothing at all, her voice matters in that it strengthens the argument that pipeline is a big part of the problem. It is obvious to a lot of people in this crowd but might not be to many, many others.

Plus, it's still relevant to remind people that equal opportunity and equal outcome are not the same


>Plus, it's still relevant to remind people that equal opportunity and equal outcome are not the same

I see this trope trotted out again and again. Where exactly are we drawing the line between opportunity and outcome? When a 22 year old (woman or otherwise) gets hired at google that's no more an outcome than an opportunity. It's not like they're going to be sitting on their deathbed thinking of the way their life turned out realizing it was all set in stone at 22. More likely they're going to work for google for a few years, maybe leave to start a new business, get poached by a competitor or make a run at climbing the google ladder but what is that 22 year old going to be thinking later on in their career, say ten years down the line? Probably something like "I'm glad I got the opportunity to work at Google."


The phrase typically refers to what happens before the hiring stage.

Think kids that don't have role models of their gender/ethnicity. Think kids that are placed in gendered roles without respect for their own interests ("oh you're a buy, let me get you the trucks and computer programing skills. I'll get your sister the art books instead").

It extends to school programs, funding, etc. and is certainly a complex issue. It is more about giving people similar access and motivation to enter careers/areas of study/careers.

I agree that many events (hiring, etc.) can be seen as outcome or opportunity, it's about where you draw the line. The phrase comes up because the common conversation about diversity is focused on 50-50 splits in hires and that is dangerous if we do not accept that there isn't a 50-50 split in qualified supply in the first place.


Think kids that don't have role models of their gender/ethnicity

It's funny, because I am an ethnic minority. I mean that almost literally; outside of my family I have met exactly one person of my same ethnicity. If I had been waiting for a role model I would still be waiting. So my lived experience means I am pretty skeptical of the need for one's role model to match one's skin colour (or anything else).

Incase it matters my role models were Avon and Scotty.


I'm not saying everyone needs one. I happen to be a minority similar to you and I grew up without seeking a role model that looked like me.

As time has passed and I've encountered more people from all walks of life, I have started to see that for some people, it is _really_ important to see someone "like them" in a role they never thought they could fill.


>The phrase comes up because the common conversation about diversity is focused on 50-50 splits in hires

I'm not sure that's true.

>and that is dangerous if we do not accept that there isn't a 50-50 split in qualified supply in the first place.

Except it's not dangerous at all? What I specifically don't like about this article and your focus on outcome vs. opportunity is that it draws this bright line where none exists. The writer in this article basically lays out that everyone in the pipeline right up until her has a role in reducing gender bias. For example when she says: "I beg you to expend your energy motivating and mentoring young women at the crucial stages of making decisions about a tech education" she makes it clear that she doesn't think she's at a crucial stage. But she is. She admits to having failed to produce a diverse workforce at her startup but rather than really admit it as just that, a failure, she basically says that it's not her fault because all these other people aren't making it easy for her. It's never easy, we're never at "outcome", we're always at "opportunity", hire some damn women.


> Except it's not dangerous at all? What I specifically don't like about this article and your focus on outcome vs. opportunity is that it draws this bright line where none exists.

Apologies then, I am not trying to focus on a line. It is constant effort to seek, identify and pursue opportunities. I agree that "Outcome vs opportunity" is a nuanced topic and one that will take forever if we try to draw lines.

> It's never easy, we're never at "outcome", we're always at "opportunity", hire some damn women.

Agreed. But "hire some damn women" is the very thing she set out to do and then realized that it is much easier said than done when you don't have many women applying.


That's a fair point. Her recommendations also look a lot like current corporate diversity best practices as far as I can tell.

Likely it's interesting because she's a coder, a founder, a hiring manager, and a woman. That gives her a lot of credibility in one person that is fairly unique. I suppose, at the end of the day, it all boils down to an argument from authority. But people do make decisions that way.


it's might not be news to anyone but you said kernel of the article is an anecdote which is just wrong.


>>It's unsurprising that a Google engineer would believe that gender balance can't be addressed without fixing the college pipeline, but the fact is that virtually none of the software engineering we do in the industry --- very much including most of the work done at Google --- requires a college degree in the first place.

I wished more of these conversations around diversity were focused on these types of points, I call these "the small things". Talking about "college pipe lines" and "biological differences" are "the big things" and they make perfect red herrings for arguments.

Indeed if we want to talk about fitness for a job I would expect a major part of that conversation to be getting a fairly good sense of what is it exactly the job entails skills wise...I have a computer science degree (with a minor in math) and an MBA but I spend most of my days working on things that absolutely don't require that level of education. Education and level of skills is definitely important and should not be underestimated but we also need to be honest and realistic about what it takes to do most jobs.


Huh, I found the anecdote about her children just a cute example. The meat of the post to me was her drawing on her years as a hiring manager.

Since you, tptacek, are well known here on HN for your hiring experience, both at Matasano and Starfighter, I'd be extremely curious to know your experience with regard to that and gender. How many men vs how many women completed the crypto challenges? What about people you worked with and placed at Starfighter?


> Most importantly, though, the only contribution this post makes to the discussion is to add "I'm a woman and I agree with one side of the debate" to the mix. Everything in it is a restatement of an argument that has been made, forcefully and loudly, already. Frankly: who cares?

I would say that this woman's credentials, personal experience with hiring at Google and hiring at her startup, and her (seeming) non-idealogical leanings lends weight to her words.

I wouldn't say she writes perfectly but at least well enough that I could see her frustrations, and more importantly, understand why hiring quotas may create vicious cycles.

Finally, to say "who cares?" shuts down a potentially-enlightening discussion before it can even occur. I'm all for dismissing vitriol spewed by randos, but this post was written by someone with good intentions, a clear mind, and above all, feelings that she feels are valid.

Implying she has nothing worth hearing on this subject is rather unkind.


> Most importantly, though, the only contribution this post makes to the discussion is to add "I'm a woman and I agree with one side of the debate" to the mix.

If you've paid any attention at all to the conversation around this (or any other diversity issue), you'd know that _tons_ of people care about this. There are multitudes out there who are unable to rebut an argument objectively and have to fall back on "all we have here is men talking about women's issues" or "no women in tech agrees with this viewpoint: that should tell you something".

For anyone intelligent enough to consider an argument on its merits, this example isn't useful, but unfortunately this type of conversation is always dominated by those who aren't.


> The piece culminates in a recommendation that we focus our diversity efforts on college admissions and earlier stages in the pipeline. But that's a cop-out. We should work on all stages of the pipeline.

Here's the problem : the candidate pool consists of 90% men and 10% women so the gender ratio at companies tends to represent that ratio. How do you propose we fix this to reach a healthier balance of something close to 50-50 without encouraging more women to join tech?

In other words, aiming for 50-50 when the candidate pool is 90-10 is suboptimal. So I agree that work needs to be done at all stages of the pipeline, but as the author suggests, the way to fix this issue is to encourage more women to join tech at the earlier stages. How is this a cop-out?


I can't speak for Google, but I work for a large SV company with an aggressive diversity program, and the goal is to hire to match the demographics of the pipeline of qualified candidates, not the population at large.


I'm almost 100% sure that isn't the case. Maybe you're told it is, but Google liked to tell its employees the same thing.

If all your firm wanted to do was ensure its employee pool matched the demographic of the qualified worker pool, it wouldn't have to do anything at all except test for competency. Matching demographics then happens naturally.

When your company says "the goal is to match the pipeline" yet still has an "aggressive diversity programme", what they mean is, "we know what we have to say to avoid legal trouble but we want to hire as many women as possible, and will find as many ways to bend the rules to do that as possible".


it wouldn't have to do anything at all except test for competency

You still have to make sure you're doing that in an unbiased way. For example, if you ask interviewers to determine if a candidate is a good "cultural fit," you might accidentally end up with 95/5 men instead of 90/10.

Some kind of diversity program to make sure you're not undershooting the diversity of your job applicants is an absolute minimum requirement, I'd say.

Should you aim to overshoot? Maybe! That's a discussion worth having.


Not necessarily. If 20% of college grads are women and all your competitors have an "aggressive diversity programme" you'll be hard-pressed to get 20% female hires without an "aggressive diversity programme" of your own. They would be out-marketing you for female candidates.


If you assume women pick companies based on diversity programmes and not the usual reasons people pick companies like needing a job, finding the problem interesting, good compensation, etc then yeah.

But unless that "aggressive programme" is illegally benefiting women with something concrete, like more pay, easier interviews or special privileges unavailable to men, it's like that the programme will be focused on trying to attract women into the profession who aren't already developers. So it'd make no difference to this hypothetical new college grad.

And if it did, then why would you want an employee whose primary reason for joining your startup over a competitor was the existence of a diversity programme? They'll just seem low energy compared to the men who joined because they love online discussions or whatever it is your firm does. Better pass and keep looking.


> If all your firm wanted to do was ensure its employee pool matched the demographic of the qualified worker pool, it wouldn't have to do anything at all except test for competency. Matching demographics then happens naturally.

Statistically, you're correct. But there's a lot more of a subjective element to hiring than matching skills to requirements. One of the replies to your comment mentions "culture fit", for example.


I'm familiar with the culture of the company I work for, I see the hires, I'm part of the hiring process, the goals and results are all public - as in available to anyone with an internet connection. All due respect I'm absolutely 100% certain that you're wrong.


It also conflates the hiring needs of a large mature corporation like Google with those of a struggling startup:

We try hard, but again find ourselves with a 98% male candidate pool. You should know that we are an early stage startup that cannot afford market salaries. Despite that, we paid premium salaries to bring a few women who did well in our interviews. But, they lacked the energy to put us into overdrive.

A lot gets muddied in these few lines. One way to read this: as a startup, we usually pay below-market salaries. But we really wanted some experienced women on the team, so we offered them market salaries. They weren't ready to sign on to 60-70 hour weeks like the men on our team. So we let them go.

With the salty language, I gather the real intent of this blog post was to ride the tails of the Google memo backlash and draw attention to her startup. And maybe find some more male engineers to join her startup at below-market salaries.


>But that's a cop-out. We should work on all stages of the pipeline.

From the article:

>>Go out and talk to freshmen and sophomore women about why they should pursue a career in tech.

>>Start a mentoring program.

>>If you are a manager, make sure women who work for you are properly treated and recognized.

>>Educate men and women about how to detect and correct subliminal biases.

>>Find men who are willing to educate other men about this to make the message more effective.

Which part of her list of suggestions is a cop-out?

>It's unsurprising that a Google engineer would believe that gender balance can't be addressed without fixing the college pipeline

I fail to see how any reading of the article will give you that impression.


The pipeline is a huge problem. The numbers just aren't there currently to support a 50/50 diversity goal. It is far from a copout. It is addressing the problem at the source.

The real copout is is saying that much of software engineering does not require a degree. That might be true in a very narrow sense as far as computer science degrees go. But people still need education and degree or certification programs. We don't need a lowering of standards or removal of standards that is the copout.


> Most importantly, though, the only contribution this post makes to the discussion is to add "I'm a woman and I agree with one side of the debate" to the mix.

Wow, this is extremely dismissive and ignorant to what this woman has written. Why?

Since she is a women in tech, the very thing which we don't have enough of and we so desperately want to have more, perhaps we should give her voice a little bit more respect and listen a bit further into what she thinks can help to fix the problem.


Didn't we have a point where there was close to gender parity in college in computer science at a lot of colleges in the 80's/90's? My off the wall hypothesis from the gender pay disparity data is that the lack of women is more related to people making the judgement that the amount of time at work (versus time with family) in relationship to the value of the work itself means women choose not to work/continue a career in computer science/programming jobs, but women do not have this issue with the medical or legal profession (that have a much higher societal status in certain circles versus computers), i.e. working at Google in this case is associated (wrongly or rightly) with making money from motivating people to click on ads versus making a difference in people's lives with medicine or law.


This is special pleading. Software developers like to believe they're workaholics, but a job as a biglaw associate or a medical resident will eat your life in ways we'd find difficult to imagine, and it's hard to believe that the kind of work a law associate does (kowtowing to partners to gather more scut-work to get done for faceless corporate clients) is more meaningful than the work a developer does. That, and the fact that our supposed 80 hour work weeks consist of huge amounts of fucking around, and unlike an associate or a resident, we can almost always spend at least 30 of those "hours" WFH, and unlike either of those alternatives, if we roll into the office at 10:30 we're probably in the early bird cohort.


You might be right about the work load/work type on average/median/most cases? but I still think there is a difference in social status for the fields/titles. To go slightly off topic, can you speculate as to why is there more gender parity in those fields that are harder to get into (in terms of specific schooling) in the first place?


That's the entire question we're addressing in these threads. It is weird that women excel in:

* the rest of STEM,

* the law,

* medicine,

* pretty much all the rest of the professions (accounting, actuary, &c)

... despite the fact that many of those fields are, both intellectually and from the amount of work product expected, more challenging than computer science.

Add to that the fact that most software jobs are far more work/life flexible than other professions (roll in late, work from home, wear whatever, weekly+ deliverable cadence, &c).

It is difficult to come up with an explanation for the 82/18 split in this industry that doesn't primarily include an implied preference on behalf of industry incumbents to avoid working with women.


That's the entire question we're addressing in these threads. It is weird that women excel in:

- the rest of STEM,

- the law,

- medicine,

- pretty much all the rest of the professions (accounting, actuary, &c)

... despite the fact that many of those fields are, both intellectually and from the amount of work product expected, more challenging than computer science.

Agree, this is reason for concern.

It is difficult to come up with an explanation for the 82/18 split in this industry that doesn't primarily include an implied preference on behalf of industry incumbents to avoid working with women.

Here's were we disagree.

I think there are lots of things to be done but if this was true then there should be a massive opportunity for whatever company moved first and hired all those qualified candidates that others shun.


Possible explanation as follows: The perks for those jobs in our culture are different ones and on average women prefer a different mix.

In western culture, my experience has been: When you tell some acquaintance you're a software developer, engineer etc., they are almost instantly bored.

Contrast that with

* Science - The flair of knowledge, curiosity, discovery and a general sense of meaning

* the law - Status and money

* Medicine - Making a real difference in peoples lives, also extremely prestigous

Maybe men are just less capable of resisting the urge to tinker in order to achieve more respected/better payed jobs?

It bears to be repeated: This is western culture valuation, might be different in other cultures, which also might result in a different distribution.


>In western culture, my experience has been: When you tell some acquaintance you're a software developer, engineer etc., they are almost instantly bored.

I think telling someone that you're a software engineer isn't the best way to make it sound exciting and high status. Tell people what the software does, or what the company does. Saying "I'm a software engineer" is like saying "I'm a screwdriver operator" rather than "I'm an aviation maintenance technician". Nobody cares about the nitty-gritty details of how exactly you get your work done.


the rest of STEM,

not the case

Law

At 35%, women practice law at about double the rate they do of more masculine occupations like engineering, while law practice involves abstract reasoning the degree of "social reasoning" is higher than engineering, thus more women I suppose.

medicine,

particularly the more caretaking functions of medicine

accounting

The work of an accountant and a mechanical engineer, or an information security analyst are hardly comparable, not in a hierarchical way necessarily, they just have totally different goals and methods.

Look at the actual data, it fits Damore's thesis to a T. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/03/06/chart-the-perce...

There is a very obvious gradient from people and nurturing oriented fields to abstract, spatial, and mechanical fields.

Women like working with people and caretaking, and are good at these things.

Men like working with things, and abstract and spatial visualization, and are good at these things.

Do you think society would materially improve if we swapped the sex ratio kindergarten teachers with that of engineers?

Kindergarten 97.5% women.

Engineers 85% men.


Any good explanation ought to also predict the similar ratio in volunteer and hobbyist software development, including single-programmer projects.

I don't think « preference on behalf of industry incumbents to avoid working with women » does that.


I saw an interesting argument about this. In the 80's, programming wasn't a high status occupation and the CS community was more accepting of women than other professions. Over time, as the rest of society became less sexist, women had more options and gravitated away from CS towards law, medicine, and other fields.


> the fact is that virtually none of the software engineering we do in the industry --- very much including most of the work done at Google --- requires a college degree in the first place.

Please do not mislabel opinion as fact. You do both yourself and the world a disservice.


Edit: I agree that GP exaggerates but...

I have been paid very good money (north of USD 85000 in Norther Europe) for stuff that was mostly so simple I could easily taught a bright and reliable 16 y.o. to do it. (I did at a similar job.)


I understand your point, but reducing the requirements for job applicants just mean more men can now apply, which will likely not change the ratio.


As an academic turned to industry, I have to agree with him. Almost all of the "CS fundamentals trivia is engineering" stuff I see is more because a bunch of CS grads who consider engineering, architecture and the like to be beneath them or else they're completely unfamiliar with how engineering works in any other engineering field.


We can have that debate but at this time, weather I agree with their opinion or not is not my point.

I feel very strongly that noone should proclaim opinion as a fact.


Riiigght... It takes years to become decent, and almost a decade to become 'really good'. Most junior engineers (first year off the school), or interns are a net negative for the first year. Including the folks that just went to hacker/training type of programs.

Hence most startups avoid them, and only large companies have the means to absorb them in large numbers. The only good right after school engineers I have worked with, had been the types that had started coding at 15. Some of them didn't even go to college, but had at least 5-8 years of practical experience before getting to the point on being hirable to the big cos...

On one hand you are right that CS degree is not required, on the other hand your argument just ignores the fact that it takes years to become decent and at least 5 to 10 years of practice to become really good. Google (and any other large company) is a business at the end of the day.


I dont think this is true. There's a reason fresh engineers are paid so much, they are almost immediately valuable.


The reason is that they have to pay a $4000 rent for a 1 bedroom, while reimbursing their tuition for the MIT.


> Most importantly, though, the only contribution this post makes to the discussion is to add "I'm a woman and I agree with one side of the debate" to the mix.

I think you're underestimating the importance of one of her main points, specifically the fact that lowering the bar for diversity hires only perpetuates negative stereotypes about those groups and breeds resentment in all the others. It's increasing the divide rather than doing the opposite.


> The only contribution this post makes to the discussion is to add "I'm a woman and I agree with one side of the debate"

Are you serious? An ex-Google hiring manager shares her experience hiring software engineers, and you conclude the only contribution this post makes is that "she's a woman". Frankly it's impressive how much of her perspective you ignored to focus on her status as a woman and a mother.


I actually see it as calling more attention to the start of the pipeline. If you have a broken tech stack with bugs up and down the toolchain from the physical hardware up to the software you kinda do want to fix the base layer first. Though there are arguments to be said to attack the bugs from the standpoint of the entire system.


Well, that analogy breaks down when you consider how young people are not like CPUs (or whatever counts as the bottom of the stack). CPUs never look at all the garbage code up the stack and decide it's not worth it.

A young woman could hear a lot about how tech is a rough place to work and decide to do something else. So the various parts of the pipeline do affect on another.

How much is an empirical question, I suppose.


Why do you have to attack everyone who has a different a different opinion than you - including this woman?


> its kernel is an anecdote

The kernel is what comes before the anecdote, which is just that - an anecdote. One would be hard pressed to view it as an argument for anything.


"...the fact is that virtually none of the software engineering we do in the industry --- very much including most of the work done at Google --- requires a college degree in the first place."

That's really true of any job where a degree isn't a regulatory requirement.

I think the problem with Google's hiring is less that they are hiring mostly people with degrees and more that the hiring process is a hyper competitive, stressful, multi-week long gauntlet.


Completely agree, and I was about to comment on the same thing that the author was drawing some dangerous conclusions from the anecdote about her kids, the same sort of conclusions I see a lot of other parents with young children making as well.

I'm female. When I was 7/8 years old I literally cried about having to do multiplication and addition flash cards. I was failing math. My dad said "Listen, you're not going to be a mathematician, but you have to learn multiplication!" Hated hated hated it.

Things started to turn around in middle school. My teachers kept pushing me, I kept taking math, I started to enjoy it. By 16 I was cross-registering at a local community college to take calculus and was in differential equations my senior year. I have a bachelor's in engineering and a master's in software engineering.

The preferences of seven year olds are almost meaningless, and their career aspirations are definitely meaningless. When I was seven I wanted to be either a baker or a manicurist or president of the United States. I haven't been interested in the culinary arts, cosmetology, or politics since. My sister was an avid artist, now she's an actuary who doesn't even do art as a hobby.

Almost every parent (especially parents of mixed-gendered children) I have this discussion with ends up saying something along the lines of "Just wait until you have kids -- boys and girls are super different and my son likes trucks and machines and my daughter likes dolls!" Yeah, but what does that have to do with which classes they enjoy in middle school or high school? I don't know. Maybe I will change my mind, but this extrapolation of early childhood preferences into adulthood career paths bugs the heck out of me.


I was way into photoshop as a kid having free access to all kinds of software (thanks, mom!) but now I'm incredibly glad I'm a programmer and not in any profession that uses photoshop or similar tools. Thank goodness people didn't insist I was only cut out for the arts :)


"We should focus on all stages of the pipeline"

Yes we should. But if we have College intermediate Computer Science courses with 85% men (which was my anecdotal experience at a large University) this is clearly a massive (if not the largest) bottle neck and should be focused on.


For a long time I did not comment on these types of stories. However, I have since been able to formalize one specific way in which posts that include some of the information that this post includes make the world a worse place in certain specific cases. You can read a formal deductive analysis here:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14967445

It is mathematical and hard to follow. It's very formal.

If you follow the program of study outlined in the above comment you will have an extra tool to decide which articles make the world a worse place. (I realize that not everyone will be able to follow my comment.)


Do we need to be "working on all stages of the pipeline" to get more men into nursing and school teaching? More Asians and Indians into professional sports?

The key point of Damore's memo was that the average members of different groups have different interests and strengths.

This is born out not just in observational studies of the labor market, but also from surveys, and performing personality profiles.

What's with the obsession with with square pegs in round holes, but only for certain classes of squares?

If most people are doing things they have at least some interest in, isn't that a success? Why are so many people running around with their hair on fire, trying to solve a non-existent problem?


FYI: More than 80% of the workforce at Google have a higher education degree. (Bachelor or more).

The big companies only recruit juniors out of universities, usually the well known ones. An aspiring programmers will never get an interview without a degree.

Once inside the company, you will realize that virtually everyone has a degree. People who don't have a degree are discriminated during every step in the interview pipeline.


> But that's a cop-out. We should work on all stages of the pipeline.

We have finite resources to devote to this problem. Prioritizing them to the interventions that work is not merely acceptable, but praiseworthy and necessary.

> virtually none ... requires a college degree in the first place

Absolutely, but the pipeline leaks start far before college.


Even though what I say might sound a bit stupid, I think it's because of style. Everybody that I work with is a geek. If you always thought of yourself more of a guy who is a lawyer, serious, likes to dress well, you will probably want to run away from being a software dev. They generally like to geek out, look weird, look smart or whatever.

Then you might have less geeky people and companies, but the overall sentiment that I get is that who does "computers" are geeks, nerds, people with glasses and so on.

Being a male myself, I saw how rare are geeky-type of girls, and usually how many males usually one gets attention from(lots!). It's not that there aren't many, there are many geeky girls, but the pool, in comparison to men, is big. Maybe it's just my eye, but at least I saw how much lonely man there is due to this fact, they lookout for a geek girl, see how much competition there is, much more to the attractive ones and then end up alone. 4chan is an example of this.

And this is mostly regarding to culture. The stuff we watch, the stuff our parents talk with us, it has too many factors. In the end, you are a geek. Or you are something else.

So I think that either tech has to look less geeky(how to?). Now that I've grown up, I'm less interested in being a geek, I've started to look up to fashion and a range of other things which I didn't when I was younger, but it was when I was younger that I've picked my profession and many other do.

I've started to discover that there was a lot of stuff I was missing out, I've never had money to buy clothes for myself, now that I do, I pay attention to what people wear, how to they act and so on. I talk to my wife and she teaches me many things. As time passes, I actually distance myself from the prototype of people who I work with.

To my very small knowledge of lawyers, they behave very very differently from IT people in general. Some people might be more attracted to becoming one, for example. It feels more mainstream. I think that when we make this kind of choice, it's more like we want to fit in. Nowadays, after years of working experience, I think that even me, I would pick something else, even though I love coding, studying new programming languages and so on, but I could as well be as productive somewhere else, maybe being a lawyer or a doctor, why not?

As a software dev you are also expected some kind of weird labour, you are always building, your leadership capabilities aren't so well tested. For many, they would even like if you would just code. I don't like the industry so much anymore. I feel that the industry enjoys the way that it breeds very smart people which would rather be given orders(or pseudo-orders, in a SCRUM cycle or whatever agile methodology) versus actually taking up responsibility from very early on your career.

Coming back to my argument, people when deciding on what to do on their life, they chose something which they want to belong, generally. Girls because of their experience and what they get bombarded by media end up choosing different stuff. There are rare cases though.


> They generally like to geek out, look weird, look smart or whatever.

Playing off this, I think pop culture deserves more blame than it gets for the lack of women in tech. A software engineer is more likely to enjoy ComicCon than than the average person, but actually working in software is pretty normal.

In the previous decade or two, some TV shows have been casting women as the "tech genius" quite a bit. That's good. But they are often weird, rude, or creepy (still 40 and shopping at Hot Topic?). They're usually taking orders rather than giving them. And they're often squirreled away in some lab instead of being part of the story itself. I'm concerned the message for women (and men for that matter) is "Tech is great... if you're into dressing up like a wizard and sitting in a cubical. You do you (over there)!"


Could you list some of the "tech genius" characters you have in mind?

I don't watch that much TV, but Abby (sp?) from NCIS springs to mind, slightly quirky, but v. intelligent, commanding.

The equivalent character in Alias, f.e., was (in early series at least) a one-dimensional dork.


Garcia from Criminal Minds, Chloe from 24 (more antisocial than specifically Hot Topic), Jenna Simmons from Agents of Shield, one of the clones from Orphan Black (IIRC... didn't watch this much).

Basically anyone in Big Bang Theory, Bones (herself). They're certainly STEM, but maybe not "tech" depending on what people mean by that.

I don't necessarily think the equivalent male characters are treated comparably well, for what it's worth. But if you want to encourage teenage girls to look at tech, showing them that it's also for normal people would help a lot.

I will say that Silicon Valley does a decent job subverting the trend with a handful of minor female characters.


What if it's not really great fit "normal" people, if geeks and nerds get on better with it. Doesn't that make it bad to try and convince people to take up STEM jobs, if they won't enjoy then as much as other roles?

I've only worked one job in science, I wouldn't describe the 400 or so people as "normal" as a population: geeky and nerdy, weird a wide variance, but not what I'd expect 999/1000 to be enamoured with.

Perhaps the lack of social skills, and friends, of a good portion of that population (myself included) was an aberration and didn't represent people who prosper in STEM roles in general.


Going against GP's point but Root in Person of Interest was a great geek character IMO. Tough, sharp, ninja coder and the complete opposite of uncool (so I guess that would be 'cool'). Swerved all of the cliches.


> So I think that either tech has to look less geeky(how to?).

I think this is already happening. It is 'cool' to do software (and be geeky in general - look at the popularity of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones). The problem is that it take time for those changes to trickle up.


>It's unsurprising that a Google engineer would believe that gender balance can't be addressed without fixing the college pipeline, but the fact is that virtually none of the software engineering we do in the industry --- very much including most of the work done at Google --- requires a college degree in the first place.

Bingo, Google could train a bunch of SWEs no problemo, but they'd rather externalize that cost. I figure most positions wouldn't require much more than 6 months of on-the-job training.


Uhg. Another post that asserts increasing diversity inevitably means lowering the bar. I don't think that's the case at all.

Rhetoric like this is toxic and erodes the presumption of competence people should have in their colleagues. I know great developers of every gender, but it's always only the women that have to justify that their presence isn't the result of some "diversity charity".


I see some good points on both sides of the discussion here but one thing occurs to me about the current diversity-pushback that I'm seeing(I'm not going to call it anti-diversity because I think a fair amount of it is well-meaning or at least not explicitly hateful).

We've surprisingly quickly moved from periods where it was common to simply refuse to even consider minorities or women in many fields to a time when many people see political correctness and reverse-racism/sexism as a greater problem than sexism and racism themselves.

I'm glad to see people being very thoughtful about fairness and equality, but I have an honest question: Before quotas and social justice warriors, were you thinking about fairness and equality when the status quo potentially benefited you and excluded others not on their merit but race and gender? I'm asking honestly, not trying to point fingers but I would like to know because this community, while left-leaning on many issues (I think) tends more towards libertarian on issues of race and gender and seems especially defensive when it comes to the tech industry (especially when the term "privilege" is used, it turns downright hostile).

If you were active in supporting equality and diversity (by resisting arbitrarily exclusionary practices) when it wasn't popular to do so and now you are seeing the negative aspects of a push for artificial diversity I would like to know that.

If you have never even considered diversity issues until recently when seeing hiring practices that could negatively affect you I would like to know that too. Do you believe any specific action needs to be taken to promote diversity or will the problem solve itself, or does the problem even exist at all?


> Before quotas and social justice warriors, were you thinking about fairness and equality when the status quo potentially benefited you and excluded others not on their merit but race and gender?

I was not thinking about that. And when I started being exposed to it, my immediate reaction was like you described: seeing political correctness and reverse-racism/sexism as a greater problem than sexism and racism themselves.

It took a while, but I now realize how silly that reaction was. I felt somewhat attacked by these 'social justice warriors and quotas'. And my reaction was in self defense to this perceived attack. I spent so much time reading about it on the internet. There were so many smart people applying logic and engineering skills to these social problems. I identified with these people and I agreed with most of it. They made it sound like these are all easy problems to solve and if everyone had read the same scientific studies as them and applied the same logical thinking then we would have a solution.

My view wasn't changed until I had much more experience in the real world. All these women that are being talked about as statistics are real people. They're become my friends and coworkers. I've learned to sympathize with them. I've learned that it's not us vs them. We are working together is this. I've learned that political correctness and reverse-racism/sexism are definitely not a greater problem than sexism and racism themselves.

I think the human aspect of all this is sorely missing on HN. At least it was for me.


Nothing you said here is a counter argument to either the comment you replied to or the linked post.

> All these women that are being talked about as statistics are real people.

Nobody denies that. However, once you say that there's not enough "equality" of engineers, you invoke statistics.

> I think the human aspect of all this is sorely missing on HN.

Think of those poor talented engineers denied a place of work because of "gender quotas"! These engineers have dreams and passions. They aren't just statistics!

See how this works?

> I've learned that it's not us vs them.

Except that's exactly the tactics used by SJWs.

> I've learned that political correctness and reverse-racism/sexism are definitely not a greater problem than sexism and racism themselves.

Reverse sexism is exactly the same problem as sexism.


Well it's not. Not objectively. Not in any sense. Only in abstract terms.


> Not in any sense.

Eh?

> Only in abstract terms.

You want something literal? Lets throw some reverse-VIOLENCE into the mix!

I'm going to bash my neighbors head in, because he's "definitely" a violent psychopath (It said so on the internet remember).

The heart of the issue is DISCRIMINATION. Doesn't matter if its positive or negative, you're EXCLUDING groups/individuals which is divisive and breeds discontent.

Someone posted below

> judged by the content and quality of their character rather than some of the variation of an attempt to combat discrimination through discrimination.

THAT is equality.


How many people here were alive "when the status quo potentially benefited you and excluded others not on their merit but race and gender?"

Preferences (quotas, lower standards, financial incentives, etc) for women and minorities in hiring and admissions have existed for a long time.


I'm still pretty young yet I've experienced benefits solely from my gender.

My sister is smarter than me and better at math and physics than me. I was invited by my grade school to go to robotics camps over the summer, she wasn't. I was given special permission to take computer science courses not offered by our highschool, she wasn't. I was encouraged to to go into engineering by our guidance Councillor, she wasn't. My dad wanted me to go into engineering, he didn't really want her to. I didn't realize that any of this was happening at the time. It wasn't until years later that I was talking to my sister that she explained the countless opportunities and support that I had and she didn't. This all happened in a well off neighborhood in Canada.

So is it really any surprise that I'm the highly paid engineer while she is a school teacher barely scraping by? The status quo still benefits people based on race and gender.


The question is where must the solution be applied ?

Is it at the companies where they taken in under-representes groups ? Or Is it at the grassroots level such as by teaching parenting to students in college to be more aware of the bias they may've whilst upbringing their child. ( Similar to Diversity-training)

My point is that instead of giving them a relatively easier seat at the workplace, we must strive to make their paths easier thereby ensuring that the most talent people end up where they want to.

I'm actually quite surprised that the councillor didn't encourage your sister for they're usually trained to be aware of such biases and be neutral in their disposition towards every student albeit it's difficult , they're usually better at it.


I can't speak about Canada, but in the US, personal anecdotes aside, 60% of college graduates are women.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/12/11/...

And young women earn more than young men, on average.

http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,2015274...

I'm sorry about what happened to your sister, but that's not the norm.


> I can't speak about Canada, but in the US, personal anecdotes aside, 60% of college graduates are women.

The gender gaps under discussion are specific to computer science [1]. That more and more women have been (a) going to college and (b) getting into STEM with the exception of computer science is why this is so interesting to debate.

[1] http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-...


The gap is very relevant. There are literally hundreds of thousands more young men without degrees joining the labor market and few professions other than military, software and sales remain promising routes to a middle class life in the US for someone without a degree.

Many thousands of men without degrees are turning to software as the best hope for their future (and possibly that of their families). How could this possibly not have an effect on the composition of applicant pools for software positions?


I'm aware that some people are trying to limit the scope of the discussion, and yet, I wonder why no one cares about the young men who are now at a disadvantage.


Young men aren't at a disadvantage at all. They are still greatly advantaged, just to a very slightly lesser degree than before.

It's like a basketball game where a team was ahead by 45 points at the half. Now they are ahead by "only" 25 points, but somehow they are now at a disadvantage? Certainly they aren't winning by as much, but they are still winning by a significant margin.

That's the situation we are in in the tech world.


And in the larger world?

What data are you relying on that suggests young men are advantaged?

I've just cited two very significant statistics that suggest otherwise.


Leadership positions are dominated by men. Young men have a higher likelihood of landing those roles.

That could also explain why fewer men attend college. They don't need as many credentials to land higher ranked positions.


Elite positions are disproportionately occupied by men, but so are the positions at the lowest rungs on the social ladder. Men make up 93% of chief executive officers at large companies[1], but they also make up about the same percentage of the prison population (91%) [2]. Men disproportionately occupy both ends of success and failure.

On the note of education, men may not need credentials to achieve comparatively well paying jobs, but this comes with other trade-offs. For instance men make up 93% of occupational deaths[3] in the U.S. The tendency for to reach better paying jobs without the same educational attainment may not necessarily a sign of privilege so much as social pressure to take high-risk jobs for more pay.

Ultimately, things like privilege are subjective and heavily based on moral weightings. Does being more likely to be killed on the job offset a higher pay? Is being more likely to end up as a CEO offset being more likely to end up behind bars? These are moral - not factual - questions, so there's as many right answers are there are people on this planet.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-in-leadership-fort...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_St...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupational_fatality#Gender


> Elite positions are disproportionately occupied by men, but so are the positions at the lowest run on the social ladder. Men make up 93% of chief executive officers at large companies[1], but they also make up about the same percentage of the prison population (91%) [2]

It's not unknown for destitute people in America to deliberately try to get sent to prison for better support; it's not the lowest rung on the ladder, counterintuitive—and perverse—as that may be.


Were these rates very different before women worked, or before they voted? I have a feeling men have always made up a significant portion of the prison population.

This isn't a zero-sum game. Helping women get placement in the workplace doesn't mean men won't get jobs. And, it certainly doesn't mean that we will stop supporting young men stay out of prison.

The idea is that as we become a more inclusive society we can all have more freedom to do what we want to do.


I don't disagree with anything you write here. I'm not sure how this comment is relevant to the point I'm making: that privilege and advantage is a subjective measure that depends on each person's individual values.

To re-use the analogy from one of the parent[1] comments in this chain, if societal advancement is a non-competitive game of basketball it's not a zero sum game, just as you say. One group's advancement does not come at the expense of another's. The point is, one person can see that one group is behind compared to another while a different person sees the opposite. For instance someone can place a greater emphasis on wage differences, while a different person more heavily values disparities in occupational deaths. Both reach a opposite conclusion, and neither is wrong since these are claims made based on values as much as data - and values differ from person to person.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15014872


> I'm not sure how this comment is relevant to the point I'm making: that privilege and advantage is a subjective measure that depends on each person's individual values.

> one person can see that one group is behind compared to another while a different person sees the opposite

Okay, I see.

I thought, when you started talking about men in prison, that you were tacitly supporting leereeves' statement that young men are disadvantaged compared to young women.

In fact, you just wanted to say that people's perceptions of "advantage" are subjective; therefore, one person could easily view men as advantaged in today's society, while another views women as advantaged.

To that, I would say, duh =). We're here debating how men and women experience the world in order to both present our own knowledge, and hear about others'. This helps us shape our future values by including more data than we have directly observed ourselves.


Because in the discussion of a highly disadvantaged group (gender or a minority) what matters is how to provide this group with rightfully equal opportunities, not how to widen the gap by looking how to give more advantages to already extremely privileged one.


>>> 60% of college graduates are women

>> The gender gaps under discussion are specific to computer science

> I'm aware that some people are trying to limit the scope of the discussion

"Trying to limit the scope" ? This post is about tech's approach to diversity. You are the one moving the goalposts.

Besides, this is clearly a continuation of the conversation Damore started.

I believe Damore limited the scope to computer science because he found research indicating (1) women were more interested in people than things, and (2) programming is more thing-oriented.

Given that his cited research is under a good degree of scrutiny, broadening the scope to the suitability of women or men to all fields would require significantly more evidence.

> I wonder why no one cares about the young men who are now at a disadvantage.

The young men are only at a disadvantage if you believe women are biologically inferior or less-inclined towards certain occupations.

As yet, there isn't any evidence that is true. There is a lot of evidence showing that if we remove socialized barriers, like letting women attend university, then their participation rate in male-dominated activities increases.

I am unaware of any barriers to young men attending university. In fact, I believe I was a beneficiary of affirmative action, as my grades were slightly lower than the normal for my college, and our school's female-male ratio was 60-40 or more.


Just wanna thank you for posting this. Change like the above isn't easy or comfortable.


The key point of the Damore memo that many would do well to understand, it does not logically follow to say, "I've identified this "gap," therefore this "gap" is bad and it is caused by the big bad mean oppressive bullies, group X."

So, is the identified "gap" really that bad? No, not really, not much reason to think it's bad at all in many cases. Second, and most importantly, not only is the purported cause of big bad mean oppressive bullies lacking almost entirely in evidence, but there are actual explanations with mountains of evidence.

So what? What's the harm if I believe in one cause over another? People use to do raindances!

The harm is that sticking to an explanation of big bad mean oppressive bullies, means that whole classes of people are being not just accused but punished for "crimes" they did not commit. In fact there is no crime at all.


> it does not logically follow to say, "I've identified this "gap," therefore this "gap" is bad and it is caused by the big bad mean oppressive bullies, group X.

This is a misrepresentation of the opposing viewpoint. No, the mere existence of a gender gap in an industry is not ipso facto evidence of sexism in that industry. After all, gender ratios in different industries vary widely, some industries have a higher ratio of women and others have a higher ratio of men. There mere existence of an imbalanced gender ratio in an industry, is not, in and of itself, problematic.

With that said, if you look at the tech industry, the constant stream of reports* of sexual harassment and sexist treatment from women that actually work in the industry is a pretty big clue that this industry, maybe, just maybe, has a problem with the way it treats women. And if you consider that female participation in the tech industry grew until the mid 80s where it peaked and has been going downhill ever since, it's difficult to conclude that the gender gap merely comes down to men and women having different interests.

So, no, the gender gap itself is not the problem. But it might be a symptom: if women feel like they are treated poorly in this industry, they are going to leave. Not because of lack of interest, or biological disposition, but because they do not feel welcome and are driven away due to the treatment they receive. And if that is causing the gender ratio in the industry to be lower than it would otherwise be, then that is problematic.

* Notable examples include but are not limited to:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/technology/women-entrepre...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/business/uber-sexual-hara...

https://techcrunch.com/2014/03/15/julie-ann-horvath-describe...

https://www.recode.net/2016/1/11/11588656/60-percent-of-seni...

http://observer.com/2017/06/justin-caldbeck-binary-capital-s...


female participation in the tech industry grew until the mid 80s where it peaked and has been going downhill ever since

I'm fairly certain that the aggregation of jobs described as "tech industry" in this statistic are a rather different collection of jobs pre-mid 80s and post-mid 80s. Not necessarily because of people massaging a statistic(but many people no doubt would be happy to overlook the previous supposition in making a case,) but because the nature of most jobs in computing has changed with the advent of personal computers. In the punch card era many "tech jobs" were more secretarial/office management/accountancy roles, nowadays with the explosion of computing devices there are many more software development and hardware engineering roles.

Engineering, broadly speaking can be seen as a "tech job," was there ever a time that the various fields of engineering weren't male heavy?

With that said, if you look at the tech industry

What about other industries with even more skewed sex ratios but fewer or no high-profile articles about sexual harassment, what's the cause in those industries?

the constant stream of reports of sexual harassment and sexist treatment from women that actually work in the industry is a pretty big clue that this industry, maybe, just maybe, has a problem with the way it treats women

Has anyone put to an analysis that these sort of events occur more frequently in the tech industry, rather than the tech industry is high profile and thus these events get more attention?


> I'm fairly certain that the aggregation of jobs described as "tech industry" in this statistic are a rather different collection of jobs pre-mid 80s and post-mid 80s. Not necessarily because of people massaging a statistic(but many people no doubt would be happy to overlook the previous supposition in making a case,) but because the nature of most jobs in computing has changed with the advent of personal computers. In the punch card era many "tech jobs" were more secretarial/office management/accountancy roles, nowadays with the explosion of computing devices there are many more software development and hardware engineering roles.

That's an interesting supposition but I'm not necessarily sure it's true. If you consider the number of women graduating with computer science degrees between then and now[1], the trend is the still there: growth until the mid 80s and then reversal. If the trend were merely explained by the fact that tech jobs have transitioned from "secretarial" jobs to engineering roles, why is it also present in the ratio of women studying actual computer science in college?

> What about other industries with even more skewed sex ratios but fewer or no high-profile articles about sexual harassment, what's the cause in those industries?

Since my point is that the gender ratio itself is a red herring, I'm not sure what the purpose would be in speculating about its cause in other industries.

> Has anyone put to an analysis that these sort of events occur more frequently in the tech industry, rather than the tech industry is high profile and thus these events get more attention?

That's your argument? That the level of sexual harassment in the tech industry is at a "normal" level relative to other industries and is simply over-reported?

It sounds like you're bending over backwards trying to justify the status quo here. But okay, for the sake of argument, let's assume it is simply over-reported. Does that make it any less problematic? Should we simply accept the situation as "well, that's just the way things are", instead of actively trying to improve it?

[1] https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf13327/pdf/tab33.pdf


I don't think the sex ratios are a red herring at all. I think they are the entire point.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/03/06/chart-the-perce...

If you look at this data you can see there is clear distinction in the types of work chosen on average between the sexes. These choices align nicely with the findings of personality research between the sexes.

It's seems such a cliche to say "Sure, sexism exists to one degree or another." But okay, I can agree.

The problem is when you pick some particular gap and say this gap is a problem because the main cause is sexism.

Doing this is a problem not just because it ignores many other relevant factors, but because when proclaiming the cause as mostly sexism you are then accusing many people of something of which they are innocent.

You're unjustly maligning many people when you do this.

What evidence would be sufficient to convince you that the divergence in sex ratios of fields like nursing & elementary teaching compared to engineering and more theoretical pursuits comes down to personality differences between the average man and woman, and not sexism?

In regards to your concerns about the status quo of the tech industry or any other and sexism therein, individual cases should be dealt with appropriately. Individuals should act responsibly and respectfully.

I thought one the guiding principles for people these days was you shouldn't treat members in a group in a way that is informed by the actions or characteristics of other members of the group.


> If you look at this data you can see there is clear distinction in the types of work chosen on average between the sexes. These choices align nicely with the findings of personality research between the sexes.

I am not disputing this at all.

> It's seems such a cliche to say "Sure, sexism exists to one degree or another." But okay, I can agree.

Okay, we've found some common ground here. Let's go a little further. "The tech industry has a problem with sexual harassment and sexist treatment towards women." Agree or disagree?

> The problem is when you pick some particular gap and say this gap is a problem because the main cause is sexism.

Except I did not say either of those things.

> Doing this is a problem not just because it ignores many other relevant factors, but because when proclaiming the cause as mostly sexism you are then accusing many people of something of which they are innocent.

> You're unjustly maligning many people when you do this.

Please stop putting words in my mouth. Thanks.

> What evidence would be sufficient to convince you that the divergence in sex ratios of fields like nursing & elementary teaching compared to engineering and more theoretical pursuits comes down to personality differences between the average man and woman, and not sexism?

You don't need to convince me of this because I am not disputing it. I am disputing the idea that sexism has no role to play, however.

> In regards to your concerns about the status quo of the tech industry or any other and sexism therein, individual cases should be dealt with appropriately. Individuals should act responsibly and respectfully.

That is a great platitude however it does not seem to be helping very much as we (as an industry) seem quite content to perpetuate the status quo.


> especially when the term "privilege" is used, it turns downright hostile

Part of the reason that word is such a hot button is that anybody even has to explain why. It simultaneously dismisses a lifetime of effort of people on both sides of the word based solely on racial and gender stereotypes that nobody can personally validate for any single individual.


I've tried to have that discussion here and ended up at the point where it seems like its the word itself that causes the problem, but after asking "well what if we just changed the word to be something that evokes the lack of barriers" and the usual response is essentially "fuck you I deserve what I have.", which may be 100% true but straight white men (like me) who think that everyone is on a totally level playing field and we have all the same barriers in life as everyone else I think is nuts. No two people are the same and nobody knows what challenges people have faced (that don't depend on race or gender) but on average it seems pretty clear that being of the majority race and religion and being male avoids a lot of potential problems.

I feel like in any particular situation, what I get out of something is a product of what I put into it. I've never felt at any point in my life like I've not been given the benefit of the doubt and I wish that was the case for everyone.


If you ask me, the "fuck you I deserve what I have" is not correct and misrepresents the values you're trying to caricature. If it has to be anything, it would be more: "fuck you, I deserve what I've earned". And if that happens to be an "oppressed" individual that has passed through many barriers and hardships, then they deserve it even more, because they've earned it.

That's the other thing that's problematic about reverse-isms. They essentially dismiss the effort and good work oppressed people have done to rise above their circumstances, by telling them that they need handicap-scoring because they're part of some magical grouping. The commonality is rising above circumstance, and that is something that spans across all the "isms" and groups that are currently hot-topics.


Speaking as a bitter cynic, I don't find anything surprising about it. As far as I would expect, the first defense is that they are incompetent for the task. The second is that you cannot do anything about it because that would be the same evil discrimination. (The apparent third, that they don't want to do it, did take me by surprise. Color me impressed.)

To address your actual post, I seem to have missed the whole thing. I spent much of my career in Austin as a fairly short term contractor, with the first positions I took having a rough balance. (This was the early '90s.) There was never a question about the women's competence (or interest). I can't speak to any questions of harassment, though; I rarely got close to my coworkers. Only the last contract job was a sausage fest. :-)

Then I spent two longer stretches at UT Austin and as a NASA contractor. Both environments were fairly equal, sex wise.

On the other hand, my mother worked for a bank for 40 years and never got higher than head teller, in spite of training several men who went on to be her supervisors. And my SO has several stories of being told that women can't major in mathematics.


I'm glad that you brought this up, and how you brought it up (as somebody coming from the opposite side).

To answer your question, I didn't actively consider diversity in tech a problem before. So I think you have a point that it's good people have brought it up.

However, that doesn't mean I always agree with the means of social justice. It is possible to fight for a good cause in a bad way.

So there are multiple facets to this issue. I believe in the endgame of social progress while still siding with Dalmore. I think the correct way to refute Dalmores of the world is with research not firings, and people who would have him fired I think are doing the wrong thing, for the right reason.

That said, from what I've heard it sounded like google had a fine program in place. I think we're on the right track at a good pace for women in tech.

I'd like to see people start talking about minorities in investment banking next, because I'm not hearing it.


I'm not long enough in the workforce to have experienced open discrimination, so I don't feel qualified to comment on your overall question, i.e. on how my consideration of equality has changed due to the change in social climate.

I still want to reply to your question because your opening sentence reflects my feelings on the topics well: Both sides have good points - the debate is not as black and white as it is portrayed and is valuable to have [1].

> I'm not going to call it anti-diversity because I think a fair amount of it is well-meaning or at least not explicitly hateful

Thanks for this, seriously. I'm happy to see openness to discussion rather than the (perceived) omnipresent downright dismissal of the opposing side :).

To still kinda answer your question: I think it's good discrimination has been brought to everyone's attention and that we are working on solutions as a society. I disagree with the diversity-push side on how we should go about it.

In a non-perfect world where we don't know the exact amount of discrimination/bias suffered [2], we can't use discrimination in the form of affirmative action or the like to correct for it without potentially discriminating the opposing group rather than just correcting for their privilege.

We should help individuals do what they want to do, so I'm all for breaking down any roles or whatever that prevent people from doing that. Forcing our idea of freedom of choice / equality is just not the way to do that. Especially when we forbid questioning it [3].

We should keep striving to become a better, fairer society. I don't know the solution, I just know that this way - no matter how well intentioned - is not it.

[1] only if we have an actual debate and try to understand the opposing side rather than dismissing valid points out of offense - both sides mostly do the latter right now as far as i can tell.

[2] Could be that e.g. the representation gap is 100% due to discrimination, could be that it's just 10% due to discrimination. The point is we don't know yet.

[3] the google manifesto was not scientifically debated and dismissed but attacked as sexist. If an hypothesis is not allowed we are not being scientific. And we really shouldn't turn our back to the scientific method.


When was the tech industry deliberately excluding people based on race and gender? The 50s? 60s?

I don't believe any specific action needs to be taken to promote diversity. As far as I can tell, people can work wherever they will, as long as they can pass the interview.

>arbitrarily exclusionary practices

Please name these.


The women who get hired at Google only do so if they pass a stringent interview. So how is this different from what you're saying?


It isn't. I just don't think lack of biological diversity is a problem for a corporation.


It's Google that is voluntarily taking on these policies, no? Wouldn't they know their self-interest better?


In terms of arbitrary exclusionary practices, I mean simply refusing to hire people based on race, gender, religion etc. This could be based on name or gender on an application or failing that, post-interview and it would be amazingly stupid if the company communicated the reason honestly to the applicant since the 50's.

Do you think discrimination just ended immediately after the civil rights act[1]? Personally I don't think peoples mentality changed at all just because certain practices became illegal, it just got less overt. Saying "women aren't cut out for our line of work" became "not a culture fit" or something else.

Its not my goal to try to prove discrimination exists and existed, I could search and try to put together a comprehensive list of first-hand stories about discrimination in tech but my guess is that would not be an effective use of my time and that isn't the goal of my post anyways.

[1] https://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/herman/reports/fu...


Well, it wouldn't be a goal of your post, since you take it as a given that the tech industry employs arbitrary exclusionary practices against women and minorities. Surely, in the 53 years since the Civil Rights Act, someone has already compiled comprehensive evidence of these practices. It shouldn't be too hard to find.


"In the name of diversity, when we fill quotas to check boxes, we fuck it up for the genuinely amazing women in tech."

Awesome. A plea towards hiring based on quality, rather than quotas.

Towards a group that is judged by the content and quality of their character rather than some of the variation of an attempt to combat discrimination through discrimination.


So quotas are terrible, yes.

But what if there are still biases in hiring? That someone sees a woman and assumes this or that about her based on gender alone?

My own experience as a transgender person is that there are people who, as my gender presentation has shifted, really seem to view me as less competent. Not in a "girl's can't code" way, but like steadily viewing me as more junior, needing more hand holding, giving me simpler tasks, that kind of thing.

It's subtle enough to make me constantly second guess myself, but it's noticeable.

It happens in interviews, too. It's very easy to rationalize biases within certain bounds. Those kind of things - and toxic environments - are what needs to be corrected most in today's tech workplace.

Of course correcting toxic environments early in the pipeline would be the best, because then the men that share those environments don't normalize them, either! But it's not fair to ignore the adult realities of the current working world and just dump all the blame on the early part of the pipeline.


> But what if there are still biases in hiring? That someone sees a woman and assumes this or that about her based on gender alone?

I think the issue is not so much about someone actually being outright blocked at the interview, although that may well happen also, especially if there are substantial numbers of people who think that women need to be accommodated because of fundamental biological differences.

But I would say the issue of bias is more systemic than that, it's more about the pipeline, that there are fewer female candidates at the interview stage because programming has been seen as a male activity. Women are discouraged from getting involved, through their own attitudes, and the attitudes of others projected onto them, and over time that winnows down the crowd of candidates. It's death by a thousand cuts, usually nothing dramatic, just a thousand subconscious decisions and comments.

That is not a problem of the same order, but it is still a problem, and assuming we accept that, the issue is what can be done about it. I don't think it's enough to say that we need programmes only targeted at teenagers or children, there should be something which happens at the end of the pipeline as well, so that company cultures are welcoming, there are female role models, and that it's clear that jobs are available if you buck the trend. The problem is made up of myriad small issues all along the pipeline, so that's also where you need to tackle it. Over time you will get to a point where the small changes are self-reinforcing, and no further action is required.


> The problem is made up of myriad small issues all along the pipeline, so that's also where you need to tackle it.

Yup. The WHOLE pipeline, from how we treat girls who are interested in math to how we figure out who to promote. The system pushes female gendered people out at every step. In High School, College, at Interview, at Work, at Promotion time.

I think though it's a bit disingenuous to say if we just look at the beginning, then it will eventually all sort itself out.

I can promise you as a person coming to grips with a transgender identity, seeing that there are women in upper management at my workplace is really, really important to me. You need to see people further along the path than you to know it's a real option. I needed to see women succeeding in ways I wanted to before I could be comfortable accepting my identity.

I wish I had more transgender women as role models, but cis women make a huge difference, too. I know that me, personally, presenting in a feminine way at the workplace has inspired at least one other person to accept her gender identity, too.

Point is, it's not an abstract thing that affects hypothetical people. It's a concrete thing that very directly affects me, right now. I'm in a fragile place trying to rebuild my identity, and I need people to look up to.

Edit: Either you edited what you wrote or I missed half a paragraph, but either way, we're in agreement :)


I believe that treating everyone as individuals, rather than as stereotypical groups, is the only way forward. It's the only truly fair approach.

What ever happened to the notion of being color-blind when it comes to policy enforcement? AKA, actually treating people equally, based on merit?

If biases are really that big of an issue (are there studies that show this is true in tech?) then what is wrong with "blind-hiring," instead of the current "diversity-conscious" hiring? You don't have to get to know someone's personality at a deep level to make a hiring decision, you need to know their skill level and aptitude.

It worked to remove the gender gap in orchestras. Why wouldn't it be good to use in tech?

http://gap.hks.harvard.edu/orchestrating-impartiality-impact....


You don't have to get to know someone's personality at a deep level to make a hiring decision, you need to know their skill level and aptitude.

I agree, but how do you estimate their aptitude in an unbiased way? That mostly rules out face-to-face conversations, which is what most companies use.

Aptitude tests? I feel like those have a bad reputation, at least in Bay Area tech companies. Are there good tests we should be using? How do you customize the test to fit your own company? To the extent that "cultural fit" is important for effective teams (and isn't simply a way of excluding women, black people, etc) how do you test for that?


I personally believe including "cultural fit" in hiring decisions is introducing massive amounts of bias, almost by definition.

Aptitude can be figured out by something as simple as SAT or GMAT scores. If universities use those test scores, why shouldn't employers?

Skill level is determined by doing tasks very similar to the ones that will be given at the job. You know, like reversing red / black binary trees in memory. ;p


Mainly because those tests aren't really a good measure of aptitude, and minoriies and women tend to (at least historically, idk about now) score lower. So you would end up with a company full of white, Asian, and Indian guys. (Not making a judgement here just pointing it out)

You could also use the test as a filter mechanism, but I'd just not take the test unless you paid for it as the recruiter. Even then they require months of serious study for most people. It just doesn't work well overall. Take home "work samples" tend to be the preferred method right now and they seem ok as long as they aren't abused.


How about an artificially anonymized process. HR does know, or assumes, your gender from receiving your CV. But from that point onward your identity is anonymous.

For instance, HR creates a throw away email which will be used during the hiring process to coordinate the rest of the tasks. The coding interviews could use one of the many platforms we have for shared/same space coding with an added chat box for talking your way through the problem so to say.

And so hiring decisions are done by interviewers without knowing the gender or how the candidate looks.

I think this would allow for a good level of blind testing, but would provide some downsides in the side of cultural fit screening. It's a lot easier to pretend you're not an asshole in asynchronous text-only communications.

I guess everything carries a trade off.


> And so hiring decisions are done by interviewers without knowing the gender or how the candidate looks.

It might make the situation worse: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-30/bilnd-recruitment-tria...


It's very sad that "free from sexist, racist, ageist biases" is considered "worse", surely?

Do you agree?


Yes, I agree (check my comment history over the last few days to see which side I fall on).

I meant worse for the problem the GP was trying to solve.


The method (free from sexist…) is better but the outcome (employee similarity to general population) is worse.


I guess it really comes down to the ethical framework you accept as valid, deontological or utilitarian...


> If biases are really that big of an issue (are there studies that show this is true in tech?)

I don't know if there are studies, but I absolutely know toxic and unfriendly environments exist. I don't know how you'd quantify the effect; if you made up some metric where you looked at how many women COULD be in tech, there's huge lost productivity, but that's not necessarily meaningful.

Even clearing the hiring hurdle is not nearly enough. Hiring someone who your culture treats like crap is not going to help you or them. If the person is actually very competent, but consistently treated as a newbie, their work will be sub-par and they will burn out and leave.

It turns out you need managers who can actually see people, how they interact, and manage them on a personal level. Set up mentoring for those who need it, put people who like to work alone tasks that can be handled alone, people who like to be on big teams on big teams, etc.

There's no way to exhaustively list the things you could do, and that's the point - it's a big, hard job that is a job, that I think SV too often wishes didn't exist.


Doing blind hiring for software is really, really, hard. It's unsurprising that most interviewing pipelines end up being conversations + some whiteboard coding, because coming up with something standardized, systematic, and as blind to biases as possible is something we really haven't figured out yet.


>What ever happened to the notion of being color-blind when it comes to policy enforcement?

A few people didn't have the self control to pull it off, hired a bunch of white dudes, fired a bunch of "diverse" people and basically showed favoritism to people like themselves (i.e. mostly white men) which increased the disparity. After awhile this pattern became obvious and HR departments instituted quantitative policies because doing it poorly in a legally defensible way is better than trying to do it well at a risk of doing it poorly enough to get sued.


So how would you counteract that stereotype/bias?

Author would suggest lowering the bar [for women] would only reinforce such stereotypes, do you agree or disagree?


I keep thinking about orchestras, where simply auditioning performers behind a curtain completely fixes the bias problem.

Of course the trick is that you don't need to see the candidates or talk to them, just listen to their playing. In software, we would need to find some similarly effective way to measure anonymized performance.

In fact, completely aside from fixing gender and racial biases, that's something we could really use just to make good hiring decisions! I don't believe anyone really knows how to make consistently great hires in software.

For a start, the hiring decision could be based on gender-anonymized feedback from the interviewer(s), although that obviously wouldn't fix any underlying biases in the feedback itself.


There appear to be problems with this approach that wouldn't be acceptable to the people driving the diversity effort [0]. To summarize the linked example: ElectronConf tried a gender-blind selection process for speakers, and when they lifted the veil on their selections, discovered they had only selected men to speak, so they canceled the conference.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14480868


Google Code Jam has the same problem. I'm honestly surprised that Google hasn't yet tried to intervene with some sort diversity enchantment...


I believe interviewing.io did something with voice-pitch-adjusting (to make girls sound like guys, or vice-versa) in phone interviews to try to study exactly this effect.

I think their results were confusing and uncertain, but the methodology seemed brilliant and I think should be the gold-standard for tech interviews. If we keep it phone it would remove other subliminal biases (attractiveness, physical disabilities) as an additional benefit.


So hiring unqualified people is not useful. Giving someone the same benefit of the doubt you'd give another person with a different background would be great but is really, really hard in practice.

Other than doing thought experiments to try to correct for biases... It's hard.

One thing, and it's a small thing, is noticing if people in a group seem to have something to say, but seem unable to say it because they won't interrupt/talk over people (or that keeps happening)... Once you notice it, clearing a space for them to actually talk can help.

It requires being tuned in not just to the conversation, but the people in it, which is itself difficult. But I have seen it happen and it can be powerful.

There are a lot of little things like that which can be worked out, and I have no list of them or any magic wand solution.

Basically? Pay some attention to your biases and how you - and those around you - are treating others, especially those who might have internalized negative stereotypes and be struggling with imposter syndrome and all of that. Emotional awareness really helps.


> But what if there are still biases in hiring? That someone sees a woman and assumes this or that about her based on gender alone?

Quotas are not the answer, period. It's not okay to deny someone a job to correct for some possible, unmeasured, inaccurate judgement call on another person based on a stereotype whether or not that stereotype is accurate across populations. All you're doing is transferring the injustice to another person. What you're doing is preferring certain victims of injustice based on race/gender/whatever, and transferring their injustice to some other race/gender/whatever.

Find another solution. Get creative. But subverting explicit meritocratic hiring to correct for unconfirmed but suspected implicit non-meritocratic hiring is unjust. And stupid.


Agree.

There is an argument I'm not sure I support that diversity has value on its own - that 5 people with different backgrounds is worth more than 5 with the same background.

But that being said - questioning biases, and correcting them at every point you spot them (not just interviewing!) is vital.


Whether or not it has value on it's own (which I'm not convinced of in coding). It doesn't matter.

Meritocratic hiring has value on its own. The best person getting the job has value on its own. Not including OR discluding someone from a job based on their skin color or genitals has value on its own.

Insisting that having people with different skin color program a piece of software makes that software better is one thing, actually playing god with people's careers on the basis of their skin color or genitals because you, personally, value that more than meritocracy is an irresponsible and highly unethical course of action.


Well, right, but there are biases that are hard to account for; and saying "I know I am probably biased, so I will act on the margins to try to correct that" is in no way irresponsible.

Choosing the best team for the job is always the goal.

And once again, the hard work isn't just the interviewing - it's managing the ongoing workplace environment, day to day.


> Saying "I know I am probably biased, so I will act on the margins to try to correct that" is in no way irresponsible.

Whether this is true depends on your methods of correction. That's what this whole conversation is about. If you don't KNOW you are biased (you don't), but suspect you are, and further, if you are, but don't know the extent to which you are biased or what the outcome would have been if you weren't biased (you don't; shit, the outcome may have even been the same), adding explicit discrimination that you do know is happening is stupid, unethical, and unjust.

Now, if you solution is instead to, say, "I'll do blind resume reviews, score candidates based on those, then do separate scores based on interviews, and compare them after a few dozen hires. If I see a significant and meaningful drop in acceptance rates for ANY group moving from blind resume reviews to in-person interviews, I'll do further review to see if there is good reason to believe the cause is, in fact, discrimination, rather than some benign issue like candidates of specific groups being legitimately worse at things that only come out in interviews. Then, if I don't find clear evidence of non-benign cause, I won't change anything, but if I do, I will attack those specific causes - even if we happen to find that it's actually white men that are being discriminated against, however unintuitive that is." then you'd be fine.

The response to the suspicion of injustice is key, here. Simply assuming your suspicions are correct and attacking perceived symptoms by doing exactly what you're trying to prevent, while qualifying as "trying to correct that," is not okay.


The author agrees that biases and toxic environments are a problem that should be addressed. Quotas are orthogonal.


> course correcting toxic environments early in the pipeline would be the best, because then the men that share those environments don't normalize them, either

Women can be biased too, right?

I think I'm with you on the rest. Fixing early pipeline isn't enough.


Oh, they can - and even against themselves! Internalized transphobia and misogyny is a really hard thing.


That would be a meaningful statement if there actually were quota hiring.

Alas, there is mostly lazy hiring. Her point that 98% of the candidates are male? I have a long list of colleges right here on my desk that she could reach out to that have a wider pool.

By all means, hire by quality. And I'm not aware of a single company actually doing quota hiring. It's a silly proposal. But look at a wider range. It's not as hard as the author makes it out to be.[1]

But all that bringing in of candidates doesn't help if your culture is crap. If you let people behave like it's a frat-house, guess what? The few minority people you'll find and hire will leave, because they'll be made to feel unwelcome.

I'm sick of tired of the hiring strawman. The reason there's a scarcity of women and other minorities is that many companies have a culture that's full of toxic sewage.

New hires aren't judged "by character". I wish more companies did, because we'd see less problems. But we're all desperately clinging to the ludicrous idea that reciting some algorithms from memory in front of the whiteboard is the one indicator for job fitness.

If you actually want diversity (and quality!), start right there. Test how people actually behave in a group setting. Have them solve real problems, together with other people.

[1] Of course, if you pay your recruiters by quantity, they'll be happy to let people self-select. And if your company's culture skews exclusive, guess what, minorities won't self select. It's not a problem of the candidate pool, though.


> I'm sick of tired of the hiring strawman. The reason there's a scarcity of women and other minorities is that many companies have a culture that's full of toxic sewage.

Correlation does not imply causation. Is rampant systemic sexism the reason why most oil rig workers are male? Is rampant systemic sexism the reason why 95% of child care teachers are women?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gatn5ameRr8

Disparate outcomes do not imply disparate treatment.


> Is rampant systemic sexism the reason why 95% of child care teachers are women?

Yes, absolutely. Men are generally treated very poorly if they choose to voluntarily work with small children.


"Correlation does not imply causation". The go-to of the armchair scientist. It doesn't imply there isn't causation, either.

We have plenty of evidence of rampant systemic sexism. We have plenty of evidence that women left the field due to that sexism. We have evidence that the field's composition changed fairly recently (in the late eighties). We have evidence the culture changed around that same time.

If you would like to make your gender-essentialist case, you should at least try to build a model that explains these things, instead of asking empty rhetorical questions.

Most importantly, I suggest staying in the industry we're discussing, as opposed to bringing up straw men outside of it.


We do not have plenty of evidence of rampant systemic sexism. That is not a self-evident truth unless you're bought into the ideology pushing that agenda. Next.


We do. It is exactly what we have - plenty of evidence of systematic sexism in tech, many other industries Ana society as a whole. It is so evident that nothing is left to debate about this fact.


That's great, but that's a non-solution.

We've been going down the path where virtually everyone agrees people ought to be hired and promoted based on merit, yet we have an industry rife with harassment, various -isms, and discrimination.

I'm pretty sure quotas are not the answer, but offering up the tried and failed idea that we should all just stop being bad is rather pathetic, in my opinion. In any case, I think we can expect it to work as well as it ever has.

Edit: minor typo


Which companies are hiring based on quotas?


My understanding of quota is the higher ups saying "We can't micromanage every aspect of your hiring process, but we see there are about 20% qualified women for these tech jobs. So as long as you generally hit this amount, pick the best people and that's a generally good way to tell no discrimination was in the mix."


> Awesome. A plea towards hiring based on quality, rather than quotas.

Would be awesome if there existed a way to remove all human biases from hiring.

Unfortunately, there isn't one yet.


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