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Ask a Female Engineer: Thoughts on the Google Memo (ycombinator.com)
1080 points by cbcowans on Aug 15, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 1501 comments



Many of the more reasonable criticisms of the memo say that it wasn't written well enough; it could've been more considerate, it should have used better language, or better presentation. In this particular link, Scott Alexander is used as an example of better writing, and he certainly is one of the best and most persuasive modern writers I've found. However, I can not imagine ever matching his talent and output, even if I practiced for years to try and catch up.

I do not think that anyone's ability to write should disbar them from discussion. We can not expect perfection from others. Instead we should try to understand them as human beings, and interpret them with generosity and kindness.


I think one thing that struck me from the linked article was the point that the memo wasn't structured to invite discussion. It wasn't "let's have a chat", it was "here's an evidence bomb of how you're all wrong".

I think advancing points is fine, but if you're after productive discussion rather than an adversarial debate, you need to proactively invite discussion. And if an adversarial debate was what he was after, that does strike me as inappropriate work communication.


Then the correct way to handle it is to drop another refutational evidence bomb attacking his primary points instead of picking the low hanging fruit of claiming it's "too confrontational," "poorly written," "naive," or whatever other secondary problems exist (this is aside from wilfully misrepresenting his claims, which is definitely a bigger problem). Plenty of far more aggressive articles and essays have been written from the opposite side that have not been criticized in the same way.

And for the record, I did not get any aggressive tone from his paper. I thought he was as polite as he needed to be and made the necessary caveats. I think many people were just so unprepared to hear any argument from an opposing viewpoint that they read into it what they wanted to.


> Then the correct way to handle it is to drop another refutational evidence bomb attacking his primary points instead of picking the low hanging fruit of claiming it's "too confrontational," "poorly written," "naive," or whatever other secondary problems exist (this is aside from wilfully misrepresenting his claims, which is definitely a bigger problem).

This was addressed in the article. This burden has fallen on women since they were teenagers. To expect them to do it yet again, to have to defend themselves at work this time, is ridiculous.


I'm not talking about a woman having to prove her technical ability to her male coworkers at work because of their prejudices. I know that that's bullshit and I'm sorry they have to do so.

I'm talking about handling what Damore claimed in an intellectually honest way. You can't dismiss his points just because you're tired of talking about them (or what you think are the same points you've always been talking about, but I think Damore's comments on each gender's preference and pressures for picking careers had something worth discussing). What he said had at least some spark of originality and insight, otherwise it wouldn't have gotten nearly the attention it did. Consider, would we be talking about the memo if it were about how he thought Sundar Pichai was a lizard man?

Those who disagreed with Damore already won the battle. They kicked him out of Google and doubled down on their diversity initiatives/echo chamber. We should be able to talk about his arguments honestly and rationally without falling back on gendered reasons at this point at least.


> We should be able to talk about his arguments honestly and rationally without falling back on gendered reasons at this point at least.

We are and lots of people are doing so, but another point made in this post is that the workplace isn't the venue for this.


I'm still making up my mind on this one, but for the sake of argument, I'll disagree with you.

The workplace was the venue for this, because 'this' was evidence was that Google(his workplace)'s diversity initiatives and censorship were harming the company. He attempted to go through the proper channels (HR) as discussed in another part of the comment section for this very article.

Completely ignored by HR, and after some watercooler discussion in which he received confirmation that he was not the only one to have such thoughts, he decided to organize his thoughts into a memo, which from his perspective, introduced ideas that could explain the gender employment gap at Google and help make the company better by erasing the notion of being a 'diversity hire' among other things.

What it did not do was claim that his female coworkers were inferior. I feel the need to reiterate that because that seems to be the disinformation that many take home with them and use for their arguments against him. With it, they vilified and ousted him.

Going back and reading it now, it's hard to believe such a seemingly harmless claim (women aren't as well represented in tech because they're not as interested in it) has created such outrage. I blame this mainly on Gizmodo, and those who piggybacked their original article (that blatantly lied about what he wrote and presented his memo which they had quietly edited). Some credit also needs to go to whoever leaked the memo, which Damore probably did not mean to leave the relatively small group of people he originally introduced it to, at least at that point in time.

Really, what he presented and how he presented it were not very controversial. It easily could have been addressed internally by HR, or discussed within the company by its employees without the dishonesty and witch hunting. My point is, what he presented should have been acceptable in the way he did it especially given Google's claims of free speech and the historical precedent of memos like these, but dishonesty and close-mindedness distorted it until it looked like he was calling for repealing women's suffrage.


> Going back and reading it now, it's hard to believe such a seemingly harmless claim (women aren't as well represented in tech because they're not as interested in it) has created such outrage.

It is only hard to believe if you are entirely unfamiliar with the history of this discussion.

Let's take a more obvious example: the common racist claim that black people are lazy. It is possible to dress this up in neutral, scientific-sounding language. Someone ignorant of the history of racism in America could be fooled into saying, "Gosh, we should consider that as an explanation for why tech is disproportionately white." (That someone could harbor racial bias, but that need not be true.)

That would correctly generate outrage, because a) one should not be ignorant about the history of these things when jumping into a discussion with such impact on people's lives, and b) there is a long, long history of virulent racists edging their way into the mainstream by dressing up their prejudices just enough to sound reasonable to the ignorant.

Returning to Damore, the fact that a bunch of white men ignorant of the history of gender bias can't spot the patterns does not mean the patterns aren't there. The benefit of the doubt only applies to educated doubt, not the doubt that comes from not knowing what's going on.

That you were surprised by the outrage only means you haven't been paying attention.


> That would correctly generate outrage, because a) one should not be ignorant

Then the [racial|gender|*] discrimination would never go away because there will always be some history. Damore or whoever wouldn't ever be able to talk neutrally and society will live forever with that discrimination.

I'm not surprised this is happening during Trump's term.


And these are all points that apologists don't seem to understand. Why we can't just have rational discourse, debate about these issues, come to a middle ground. You know middle ground and compromise means in issues like gender and race inequality? That at the end of the day, the minority is still treated as less than. Hey there's been some progress, isn't that good enough? No, of course not.

We've been discussing these issues for generations. At some point the discussion has been had. No one is saying anything new. But every new group of people believe they have something worthwhile to say about it and until they get to regurgitate their own brand of ignorance they'll whine and cry about how they're being oppressed for not being able to maintain the status quo.


Spot on.

People's humanity and civil rights are not topics that should be open for debate. But the people who want to debate that start with "science" as the thin end of the wedge.

Of course, the thing that's always up for question is the participation of minorities. It's never a guy saying, "Fellas, the science shows that men are poor at cooperating and highly prone to aggression and violence, so let's debate whether we men should be allowed to manage or supervise other people."

It's highly motivated reasoning.


> It is only hard to believe if you are entirely unfamiliar with the history of this discussion.

Completely disagree. The crux of most historical discussions were based on ability and was blanketed to all individual women, as they were implying that gender was the only causal factor. Discussing how prenatal testosterone may be a factor in influencing decisions for a distribution of a group is a completely different beast.

The thing that bothers me about the left is their inability to accept any sort of biological determinism as a possible large contributing factor to anything. Out of curiosity, if we were to use your analogy loosely: > Let's take a more obvious example: the common racist claim that black people are lazy.

If evidence came out that a certain portion of blacks were missing some sort of hormone that is almost completely causal in lack of desire to eat apples, so that it skewed their distribution in a statistically significant way, would you accept it? If it pertained to something considered more valuable, like say, intelligence or athletic ability, would you still accept it? Do you see that this shirks the definition of racism since it is talking about distributions and not individuals?

> That would correctly generate outrage, because a) one should not be ignorant about the history of these things when jumping into a discussion with such impact on people's lives….

Anyone can take offense to anything and be “outraged.” What good does that do? A sliding metric of people being sensitive and getting emotional is no reason to not have discussions. In fact, some people have disorders making it difficult for them to navigate social contexts tactfully. Are you saying people on the autism spectrum shouldn’t be a part of the discussion? This could possibly apply to James (I don’t know), especially if you’ve watched any of his interviews.

>b) there is a long, long history of virulent racists edging their way into the mainstream by dressing up their prejudices just enough to sound reasonable to the ignorant.

Would you mind giving a modern example?


> Discussing how prenatal testosterone may be a factor in influencing decisions for a distribution of a group is a completely different beast.

No. It is the same discussion, just revised for fancier modern science. But it's the same deal: "I, a man, have noticed a possible fact about women. That proves that the status quo is awesome, and let's talk about going back to a simpler time before civil rights were such a thorn in my side."

The reason nobody on the left will discuss biological determinism with you is because of its rich history as a tool of oppression. The discussion has happened a zillion times over hundreds of years.

It's the same reason that most people who understand evolution won't bother to debate with hardcore creationists: it's a fucking waste of time. The creationists will never come around and say, "Oh, gosh, guess I was wrong." Motivated reasoning driven by deep bias is just not a fertile ground for discussion. Anybody who's sincerely interested in the history of evolution or the history of racism or the history of sexism can take a class. That somebody wants to strongly argue a point without having done that work is a big sign it's useless.

> Anyone can take offense to anything and be “outraged.” What good does that do?

This is a fine example of motivated reasoning. Nicolashahn, who at least has the decency to write under his own name, was clearly talking about morally justified outrage. If you would like to argue that people on the receiving end of sexist and racist bias don't deserve to be upset, make the argument. But you can't slip it like this.

> Are you saying people on the autism spectrum shouldn’t be a part of the discussion?

No. But as someone on the spectrum, I will say you're an asshole for using me as a strawman in a dumb argument.

> Would you mind giving a modern example?

Oh, modern. You mean after racism and sexism ended? When did that happen exactly?

If you're serious about all this, open an account in your actual name, stop with the bad rhetorical techniques, and carry on with the discussion. But as far as I can tell, you're yet another bigot who popped on a mask.


>No. It is the same discussion, just revised for fancier modern science.

You seem to be missing the nuance of distribution vs every individual. To me, this is a big distinction.

>"I, a man, have noticed a possible fact about women."

Actually, the vast majority of people in the social sciences are women, many of whom found this correlation with prenatal testosterone despite the evidence running counter to their ideology. If you would prefer, I can cite you many female researchers' names on peer reviewed articles. Regardless, why does it matter what gender the person is, if the science is sound?

>The reason nobody on the left will discuss biological determinism with you is because of its rich history as a tool of oppression.

That's too bad. As the confidence of a fact increases because of corroboration of evidence, the history of a more generalized, historical concept of the specific claim should have less bearing on whether it is true or not. If the issue doesn't appear sound, simply find evidence to refute the claim; the main concept behind the scientific method. Moreover, I debate this with people on the left all the time. If they aren't far left, they usually just downplay the amount the hormones affect decision, but they don't rule out there is any correlation.

>It's the same reason that most people who understand evolution won't bother to debate with hardcore creationists: it's a fucking waste of time.

False analogy. Yes, evolution is the only theory that has significant corroborating evidence and bringing up "designers" with mountains of evidence to the contrary (and no supporting evidence) is just faulty reasoning. Also, many times creationists make claims that are unfalsifiable and thus useless. On the contrary, though, people working hard to isolate independent variables in the messy field of cognitive psychology to find correlations to other attributes is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination.

>This is a fine example of motivated reasoning. Nicolashahn, who at least has the decency to write under his own name, was clearly talking about morally justified outrage. If you would like to argue that people on the receiving end of sexist and racist bias don't deserve to be upset, make the argument. But you can't slip it like this.

It isn't sexist or racist if you talk of distribution instead of every individual. Is it racist to ask for someone's race on a medical form? No, it's highly useful. Black males have a higher incidence of prostate cancer... or is that racist by your reasoning?

Why does using one's actual name make any difference to the content of the discussion? Are "Mark Twain's" literary works worthless because that is a pseudonym?

>No. But as someone on the spectrum, I will say you're an asshole for using me as a strawman in a dumb argument.

How is that a strawman? You implied that tact should be used when discussing things with strong historical contention. I brought up the fact that a certain proportion of people with a social disorder can't meet you metric because of materialistic deficiencies and that your requirement ostracizes those people. It's simply a further example of why I think emotions and feelings have little place in a discussion.

> Oh, modern. You mean after racism and sexism ended? When did that happen exactly?

No. I was genuinely curious what you were referencing.

>If you're serious about all this, open an account in your actual name, stop with the bad rhetorical techniques, and carry on with the discussion. But as far as I can tell, you're yet another bigot who popped on a mask.

Once again, why does my actual name matter or have any bearing whether I am "serious?" I am serious or else I wouldn't have taken the time out of my busy schedule to reply.

Vaguely saying I'm using "bad rheteorical techniques," isn't very useful. I assume you are talking to your belief that I used a "strawman" fallacy.

Masks are useful. Often, I'll put on a devil's advocate mask when debating with myself. I find this usefully gives me a more balanced perspective.


> Yes, it matters whether you are owning your words.

Well, clearly, superficial things to the actual content of the discussion like who I am, matters to you. A blanket statement that "it matters," is too reductive.

> This discussion is about how we structure society to serve its members.

Agreed.

>It has a long history of bigots cloaking their bigotry in a zillion ways. It is rife with people putting on masks -- from white hoods to anime avatars -- as a way of manipulating the discourse and avoiding social accountability for their attempts at social change.

Social accountability? You'll have to define this and why this is important in a discussion.

I find it interesting that you are equating an anonymous discussion about how to best serve society to white supremacists running around assaulting and killing people. Rather an extreme jump.

>If you want to be taken seriously -- certainly by me, probably by anybody -- then step up. Otherwise you're indistinguishable to me from the thousand other people I've dealt with who are happy to support self-serving sexism and racism from the shadows.

Interesting. You still cling to this belief that I'm supporting "self-serving sexism and racism" without specifics and not rebutting anything I've said. I'm starting to think you are currently incapable of being nuanced in thought. I hope this changes for you.

I agree, I think we are done.


I don't have to define anything. I don't have to rebut anything. Somebody who is putting on a hood to discuss their opinions is the one who has to earn a response.

The norms of academic debate are decent ones, but they evolved in a very particular context, one where people committed to a lifetime of study and public service to earn their right to participate. You have done nothing here to earn similar consideration.


>I don't have to define anything. I don't have to rebut anything.

Certainly not. The request for a definition was meant to imply I can’t talk to the claim about “social accountability,” not knowing your definition. Unfortunately, you not rebutting anything just appears like you can’t, not that you won’t. You are definitely practicing what you preach; You are letting emotion ruin a conversation. In fact, it smacks of a tactic my 4 year-old daughter would use.

> Somebody who is putting on a hood to discuss their opinions is the one who has to earn a response.

I find it amusing that you use these “powerful” historical symbols to conjure up condemnation and emotion, when they have very little to do with anything I’ve discussed. It must be an easy life when you just dismiss things without observing or thinking about them. I find this is the most common feature among leftists and rightists and is predominantly why you guys are unable to come to an agreement on anything. Truly a spectacle.

>The norms of academic debate are decent ones, but they evolved in a very particular context, one where people committed to a lifetime of study and public service to earn their right to participate. You have done nothing here to earn similar consideration.

This is a website dedicated for people to “... make thoughtful comments. Thoughtful in both senses: civil and substantial.” This isn’t a place of academia, but the principles behind having a good discussion remain, regardless of the context. I’m sure you don’t decry the use of pseudonyms when women in the past used them so that the quality of their work wasn’t judged by their gender. I find it funny you can’t abstract that same concept to now. It almost seems like you desire to know who I am, so you can place me in a box like the many misogynists did to those women in the past. Seems to me, perhaps you are the new form of racist/sexist.

Lastly, people don’t necessarily have to devote a lifetime of study to be cited in the academic community. That comes with the merit of the research. There are many people who dedicate their life to academia, but are cited very little due to quality of their research.

I was hoping to actually have a discussion where we could each learn something from the other, but you make this impossible. You could have reached a moderate, but instead you alienated me. Really, all you did was prove one of the points I made in the beginning, that emotion is the heighth of irrationality and shuts down conversation.


[flagged]


> Ah, the brand new account created just to push against an antisexist position suddenly has well-developed opinions on the history and the purpose of this website. What a surprise!

I copy and pasted the intent from the welcome tab. "Well-developed?" It took me about 30 seconds.

I've just found out about y-combinator from a coworker fairly recently. I'm looking forward to contributing more, since I am in the technical industry. I hope my future interactions are more interesting and with significantly less assumptions about people and their intents. Speaking of which, instead of making assumptions, you could just ask people questions... but I guess that is too difficult.

> Self-proclaimed "moderates" in hoods are a dime a dozen. If you aren't going to take your words seriously enough to take the minimal step of owning them, there's no reason I should. I can get poorly argued pro-sexist waffle anywhere.

I lean "right" and "left" depending on the issue and your definitions for "right" and "left." Most of the time, my beliefs are rather balanced and not really "right" or "left," but a mixture of both. I don't know what else moderate could mean.

I don't know why you feel "owning my words" matters in a discussion, as you won't discuss it. You've simply thrown out the word "social accountability" without a definition.

This will be my last post to you.


Yes, it matters whether you are owning your words.

This discussion is about how we structure society to serve its members. It has a long history of bigots cloaking their bigotry in a zillion ways. It is rife with people putting on masks -- from white hoods to anime avatars -- as a way of manipulating the discourse and avoiding social accountability for their attempts at social change.

If you want to be taken seriously -- certainly by me, probably by anybody -- then step up. Otherwise you're indistinguishable to me from the thousand other people I've dealt with who are happy to support self-serving sexism and racism from the shadows.


"The past isn't dead. It isn't even past."

William Faulkner


We could rely on AI to avoid all bias. But they'd soon be labelled 'racist'.


You have a poor understanding of AI. It's not magic. It just looks that way because we throw it a bunch of data and it learns to mimic parts of it without us having to understand what's going on at the level we would if we'd had to build the machinery ourselves.

It is in fact quite easy to do machine learning work and come out with what is effectively racist AI. People have already done plenty of it accidentally.


> Going back and reading it now, it's hard to believe such a seemingly harmless claim (women aren't as well represented in tech because they're not as interested in it) has created such outrage

I think the larger problem is that this is an overstatement. Women might not be interested in joining the current tech culture, but that doesn't mean they aren't interested in tech to a larger extent than the current numbers suggest.

Part of the disconnect is that these initiatives are aimed at changing the culture to be more attractive to women, and the people who really like the culture don't see the need.

Certainly the current tech culture is effective and fairly productive, but I certainly don't know that it will be more, equally, or less productive with these culture changes.


If this is a "current tech culture" problem, how do you explain the fact that this is a trend shared across most of the engineering professions? Example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/11692996/Wo...

I don't think you can claim that "tech" and e.g. civil engineering have much in common in terms of culture, but they still share the lack of men/women parity.


Yet somehow, programming is considered a woman's job throughout vast swathes of India. China is much closer to parity in engineering as well.

You're ignoring that girls are socialized to think they're bad at math, science, etc. Boys are told the opposite and are pushed in this direction. I certainly was. My parents were drilling me on math by age five.


In all developed countries, only 10-25% of engineers are female. An American society in is very different from that of Australia, Sweden, Greece or Germany.

Not sure why, but I know one possible explanation.

In developing countries, people are pressured by their basic needs. An engineering job generally pays well. People in such countries are less likely to do what they want and more likely to do what pays well, so gender ratio in engineering is close to 50/50.

In developed countries, people are guaranteed to survive even without a profession or job. Less financial pressure, more freedom of choice, less women in engineering.


Well doesn't this sort of support Damore's hypothesis ? Some of the smartest girls I know went into marketing, purely because they just loved that field. Somehow to them sitting in an office in front of a computer all day didn't seem that appealing.

Is it safe to infer that, in th developed world, given a career choice women have a propensity to not choose tech ?


On the contrary, it sort of refutes Damore's hypothesis: the difference is not inherent but merely societal, because we observe that, when encouraged, women can succeed at engineering as much as men.

In other words, if true, we should strive to understand why fewer women choose tech in developed countries and fix it, not automatically assume it's because they are inherently less interested.


Succeeding at engineering is not the same as having the desire to do engineering. If it takes encouragement to push women into the field, that says the desire is not there.

I am going to go further and suggest that software engineering is just not that desirable of a career, no matter who you are. Given that compensation is a function of supply and demand, and this career is fairly well compensated, the lack of people – both male and female – entering the career path would suggest is not the top choice of anyone.

What appears to be happening is that some men are willing to put up with an undesirable career because of the higher than average compensation, while women are less wooed by those monetary factors.

The only 'fix' here is to drive home the importance of doing unhappy careers for big money towards the female population. But do we really want to do that? That does not really seem like a great goal. There is more to life than money.


All of that enters the realm of the highly subjective, with some parts I may agree with and other I don't. I, for example, definitely didn't enter this field because of the money. Other people I know did. I certainly cannot generalize to large groups of people. I disagree with your observation about "some men" and "women", or rather, I'd say "what happens is that some men are willing (and some, like me, are not) and some women aren't", and furthermore, I'd question whether this is a desirable state of things. I happen to think working long hours is crap, and something that needs to change (and the reason I find startups unattractive).

What matters here is that, with the right incentives, women can be as successful as men in this field. Note that the converse is also true. This automatically destroys the notion that there is some kind of biological (or inherent, whatever) impediment for women, which is what the memo was fundamentally about.


> I, for example, definitely didn't enter this field because of the money.

But we're talking about the population at large, not the tiny group of 'geeks' who revel in the tech environment. There are always outliers.

If the general population – both men and women – wanted to do this kind of work, they would be falling all over each other to do it, just as they do in careers that are desirable. Instead, you see businesses falling over the few people who are willing to do it. That is not a sign of an attractive career path. Quite the opposite.

Again, not even men want to do this type of work. This is not even a gender issue at the heart of it.

> I'd question whether this is a desirable state of things.

But can you fundamentally change the job so that it is desirable to the general population? Programming is simply an awful time that most people wouldn't wish upon their worst enemy. It is as simple as that. We can go around and try and blame things like culture, but at the end of the day the work that has to be done sucks.

Yes, some people are wired strangely and happen to like it. Pick anything you find distasteful and I can find you at least one person who loves it. That's the nature of having 7 billion people and all of their random mutations. That does not mean the masses have any interest whatsoever.

> What matters here is that, with the right incentives, women can be as successful as men in this field. Note that the converse is also true. This automatically destroys the notion that there is some kind of biological (or inherent, whatever) impediment for women, which is what the memo was fundamentally about.

Your overall point may be true, but your logic seems flawed. The fact that women can be as successful as men in the field does not mean that there is not some biological reason to not want to do the job.


You're mixing highly subjective aspects that I don't find worthwhile to debate here ("the job sucks") and that I disagree with. No, the job doesn't suck more than other career choices. Sorry you feel that way, maybe consider changing jobs?

> But can you fundamentally change the job so that it is desirable to the general population?

But it's not the general population we're talking about; that's a straw man. We just must strive to create a work environment that's not hostile to women and which doesn't discriminate against them based on prejudice. And yes, not excluding a segment of the population just because of irrelevant biological traits is desirable and worth the effort.

> Your overall point may be true, but your logic seems flawed

To me it's logically flawed to claim there's a biological impediment and when shown cases where women are successful, to suddenly claim "of course, they do it for the money in third-world countries!" as if this somehow explained biological differences. Money is not a biological factor, it's a societal one! The logical disconnect is so pronounced that it must point to an emotional blind spot.


> No, the job doesn't suck more than other career choices.

Then why are men and women alike rejecting the field? Men less so, perhaps, but neither gender are jumping at the chance to have the job. Not even the well above average compensation that attempts to attract them to the industry.

> Sorry you feel that way, maybe consider changing jobs?

This is not my opinion, this is what the data shows. I'm glad you do not feel that the professional is awful. I personally do not feel that way either, but we cannot use our biases to believe that everyone feels the same way. Be very careful of your biases.

> We just must strive to create a work environment that's not hostile to women and which doesn't discriminate against them based on prejudice.

In order to even think about whether the workplace is hostile to women, we first have to determine why neither gender is interested in the profession. Again, this is not my opinion. This is what the data is telling us.

> To me it's logically flawed to claim there's a biological impediment and when shown cases where women are successful, to suddenly claim "of course, they do it for the money in third-world countries!" as if this somehow explained biological differences.

Let me be clear: I am not saying it is explained by biological differences. I am saying that your explanation does nothing to exclude biological differences. Women proving success in the tech workplace does nothing to discount a biological aspect, and it is flawed logic to believe otherwise.


> neither gender is interested in the profession

This is false.

> but we cannot use our biases

Exactly. Please re-examine what you're saying in light of your own advice.


Programming is simply an awful time that most people wouldn't wish upon their worst enemy.

Where can we find data to support or refute this point.


And by "encouraged" you mean "highly incentivized by economical reasons" instead of "encouraged to like working in tech"?


That's one kind of encouragement, sure, but not the only one. I'm not even arguing money is necessarily the best reason. All I need to show is a refutation of the notion that there is some kind of biological/inherent impediment for women to be successful at tech.

PS: for that matter, my personal experience -- coming from a family of scientists who aren't rich, and which includes my mom -- is that there are other factors at play beyond money. Note I don't live in the US.


What part of marketing isn't sitting in front of a computer all day? :D


We have a winner!

Why is Russia so good at encouraging women into tech?

"Most of the girls we talked to from other countries had a slightly playful approach to Stem, whereas in Russia, even the very youngest were extremely focused on the fact that their future employment opportunities were more likely to be rooted in Stem subjects."

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-39579321


Russian (and a good deal of other Eastern European) tech scene is certainly not less discriminatory than the Western by any imaginable metric.


A very good point. Women don't go to STEM jobs because they get sufficient compensation in work that they like more, on the average. And it's easier to do what other women do.


> And it's easier to do what other women do.

That factor hasn’t stopped women from becoming e.g. doctors and lawyers.

Just 50 years ago, very few women did that, because discrimination (e.g. for healthcare in America, gender-based discrimination was only banned in 1975) and culture norms.

But now it’s pretty close to 50/50 gender ratio in these areas (females are 47.3% of law students in 2007, 46.7% of medical students in 2013).


Yes, we can conclude that structural discrimination of women in law and medical students has largely gone away. Why does anyone think that STEM subjects would somehow retained such discrimination?

I consider it more likely that now women do what they want to do. And that is in many ways a good thing.


But this possible explanation, even if true (which I don't know), is still a refutation of Damore's argument: there is no biological or inherent basis for having fewer women in engineering. If women, when they see the need (e.g. for economic reasons) or are otherwise encouraged, can successfully tackle engineering fields, then surely the difference is societal and not inherent, unlike what Damore seemed to claim?


This is how I read the idea in the comment you replied to: external factors (namely, needing money to satisfy even the most basic life needs), not biological ones, are the ones that drive some places to have a more evenly split men/women ratio. When the environment is "safe" enough that you don't need to worry about how you're going to survive, that's when the biological predispositions come to light, and you get women going to what they inherently prefer, and move away from the things they don't.

I don't think the point is that women can't successfully tackle engineering, they can. But that doesn't mean that they have a predisposition towards it. If you encourage (or even force) someone into a particular profession, they might excel at it, but that doesn't imply that they would've picked it on their own.


I remember this was also the conclusion of the documentary "Hjernevask". I linked to it yesterday at:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15014895

Men and women living in richer and mostly western countries have the luxury to choose the jobs they are attracted to even if that attraction is to some extent based on biological factors and not societal or economic factors.


> You're ignoring that girls are socialized to think they're bad at math, science, etc.

And yet over 40% of graduates majoring in math and statistics are women. How does this sit with your explanation of social conditioning?

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


But that doesn't necessarily mean what you think.

In the west women have more choice. So why do they choose not to do technology once they are free to choose what they want.


And ~50% of software developers in Zimbabwe are women.

Does Zimbabwe have better or worse gender equality than the USA or other Westernized nations?


> You're ignoring that girls are socialized to think they're bad at math, science

That's a bold claim with zero sources. Consider this a "citation needed".


I personally wouldn't go as far with that claim, but young girls are certainly discouraged from pursuing STEM careers either actively or unintentionally (representation/role models, toys etc.)

[1] http://www.ibtimes.com/girls-stem-parent-stereotypes-may-dis...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_role#Gender_stereotypes...


What I (and I suspect others) want to see is proof of active discouragement, rather than the lack of encouragement.

The link between wealth, marriage suitability and social status is well observed for men, and in stereotypical pattern boys are pushed towards professions which maximize the potential for high income. Since society do not measure the value for women on how much money they bring, it follows that girls are not pushed with the same fever towards high paying jobs except if local situation causes families to do so by necessity (which is one explanation why certain countries have higher ratio of women in typical high paying profession).

I have the theory that if you want to get equal amount of young girls and young boys in STEM careers you need to remove focus on how such choice can lead towards high income. It would not increase the encouragement for girls, but fewer boys would be pushed in that direction and as a result the difference between the sexes would decrease.


> Yet somehow, programming is considered a woman's job throughout vast swathes of India. China is much closer to parity in engineering as well.

More women choose engineering when they have fewer career choices, because they take the freedoms they can get; Iran also has a high ratio of female engineers. In virtually all countries where women are free to choose any career, they largely don't choose engineering.


The fact that in India and China (very different cultures) there are a lot of female programmers doesn't say anything about cultural influences in the West. Being encouraged to do maths at age 5 is not the norm (regardless of gender).


Seems like you're arguing semantics, as the phrase could easily be changed to "current engineering culture" to invalidate your point.

If you find it objectionable to change the phrase in such away, consider the fact that, as a computer scientist, I went to school and took classes with many mechanical, civil, and electrical engineers. I'm still friends with them today. The cultures are intertwined.


But why does the same trend persists across cultures? The same is true for any developed country in the world. Do you think your tech culture is also interwined with that of Australia, Poland, Sweden and Italy?


Yes, to a great deal, it is.


Yes, to an extent it is. But it's very difficult to quantify how big the effect on culture is on womens choices to not even pursue education in tech. It seems, for an example, extremely unlikely that a young woman basically anywhere in these countries, would say to herself, "hmm, I've heard that there's mansplaining at Google, so I think I'll go into law or investment banking or medicine instead".

The misogynism we're imploring ourselves to eradicate is so subtle, it's unconscious biases and micro-aggressions (that is, agressions you don't know you're committing). When we can barely detect them ourselves, how would they be able to embed themselves into the subconscience of millions of young girls across dozens of quite different cultures?

And that's without considering the quite numerous fields with a high degree of misogyny embedded as a broad popular culture trope. "Suits" does not envision a law-field that is particularly friendly to women, "Billions" : finance, "Scrubs" : medicine. Women have no issue with pursuing careers in those fields. That's not excusing bad behaviour, just observing that this behaviour, and broad knowledge of it, does not appear to deter women, and to serve as a counterpoint to the assertion that the far more subtle and much less broadly portrayed alleged misogynism of tech should be detering women.


And probably more than with some subcultures in the same country.


I think focusing on "current tech culture" is likely to misdiagnose the problem. There are way more women in investment banking than tech, and I really struggle to believe that Wall Street has a better culture than Silicon Valley, at least a long the lines typically being emphasised, including misogyny, micro-aggressions and mansplaining. If the prevalence of these phenomenon are repulsive to women to the extent that they will forego even educating themselves in a field, much less join top companies in it (the underrepresentation of women in tech go all the way back to high school, it doesn't start at the hiring processes, biased or not, of tech firms), we would expect to see many fewer women in Wall Street. Instead we see many more.


I dunno I hate banks but when I worked for one I worked for a black woman who worked under a black gay man who worked under another woman and at that level she had 9 call centers under her and gave birth on a conference call. This really isn't their weak point.


Exactly. So why do we assume that it's culture that's at fault in tech?


There’s less than 20% women in investment banking (https://www.wealthcoach.club/post/investment-banking-gender/), so I’d say it’s less than google’s 30% (https://www.google.com/diversity/)


There's something wrong with your link, it's all jumbled up sentence-fragments.

This link tells a different story, and in complete sentences: http://uk.businessinsider.com/wall-street-bank-diversity-201...

(Also, the relevant number for Google is 20% of tech employees. They have 48/52 balance in non-tech. The BI link similarly provides business area breakdowns.)


it is probably true that women are less interested in current tech culture and this was his entire point. He literally stated how to change culture to be more welcoming to women and make them more interested in tech, for example make pair programming more common and have more part-time engineering positions... that's just small piece of possible changes and he welcomed honest discussion to figure out what is actually feasible for Google...


I would ask, using the current age of well placed woman engineers in Google, back when they were going through middle and high school to even college years, was the general view of society that women should strive for engineering degrees or that line of work common? The personal computer affect on society opened a lot of doors, the internet opened more because both men and women finally were exposed to more ideas and history than ever before.

I think being exposed to history in greater depth and variety was a greater boon than suspected because there have always been great women in science and engineering, they just rarely if ever got a line of mention in common text books. how was society to interest women in such careers? Television surely wasn't, it was always wives, nurses, and secretaries, for the most part.

i would love to see a yc article from the same women and more revealing their generation and what influences they experienced that led them to their career and where they think we are doing it right and wrong this day. we will eventually arrive at a time where memo's like this don't even come about


> but I certainly don't know that it will be more, equally, or less productive with these culture changes.

Nor does Damore.

In Damore's memo, the table of left vs right bias was ridiculous, even if we agree on those biases, which we don't, I'd argue why use those, and why pick n number of biases and leave out others? This isn't a rigorous paper.

The toy hypothetical following the table is such a overly simple contrivance, are we supposed to be taking this seriously? So many assertions...

Perhaps the bar is too low at Google.


> This isn't a rigorous paper.

To be fair... How often do you create "a rigorous paper" before you engage in an internal discussion at your company? Is that the standard? And if so, when do you have time to do actual work?

Try at least not to have completely unreasonable expectations.


Nope. You are wrong. Here's why: Damore is not the first time any of the women who work at Google encountered this sort of idea. He isn't even the hundreth person any of them would have encountered telling them that they are simply inferior.[1] It might have been the first time that HE argued it, but surely the female engineers he was talking about (but not to) have seen it all before.

So it was incumbent upon Damore to do a lot of work, and come up with something both rigorous and novel. If he didn't, and he still thought that rehashing a whole bunch of stuff that had been discussed before was sufficient to "advance the conversation" about such a controversial topic he is an idiot who deserved to be fired and forgotten.

The nicest way to say this is the way one of the women the TFA put it: 'a general lack of consideration for his female colleagues.' Then again, she has a lifetime of politely dealing with male chauvinist idiots, and has learned that calling them out doesn't get her far.

[1] Source: my own life experience.


Pretty much this.

If you are going to write on such a controversial topic and don't want to be seen as a self absorbed attention seeking polemicist [1], you ought to be more careful. In other words, you need to hold yourself to a higher standard than normal office write-ups. Otherwise, you take an unnecessary risk drawing the wrong conclusions and do a lot of inadvertent harm to your fellow human.

[1] Still learning to politely deal with male chauvinist idiots.


Women aren't interested in tech because they grow up with social blockers, such as his memo. That's the point everyone seems to miss. Imagine a girl interested in tech when only a handful of her peers understand her interest. Then, she reads such an article and bullshit social studies passed on as evidence and gets socialised that tech really isn't for women.

Until you remove social blockers that prevent women from entering tech, you cannot claim legitimacy of any social survey in regards to that. This letter belongs to a time when a generation of women are equally pushed to enter tech as men. Then we can debate whether it's their lack of interest of not.


I strongly disagree with the claim that there is no gender difference (implied by what you wrote) and that imbalance in gender representation is 100% due to social blocking.

When I was a student in computer science more than 30 years ago, in our class of more than 30 students there was only one female. There was no entrance selection or any filter or money involved (not in USA).

We are dealing with overlapping gaussians.

Girls and boys are today educated without making a difference through all their childhood, and I think that this may give the false impression to them that there is no difference. But whoever had children or has seen many children will see that some differences in behavior and interest are blattan and can't be socially induced.

I do not deny that blocking MAY exist and some men are sexists, I have seen such discusting behavior. I considr them disfunctional. But this is not 100% the cause of gender imbalance in tech.

There is no blocking to contribute to OSS, and good programmers get hired regardless of gender. You should read back the [Donner Kruger effect](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect) to remind you of you own bias when evaluating your competence.


> Girls and boys are today educated without making a difference through all their childhood, and I think that this may give the false impression to them that there is no difference.

You should really just google 'gender difference education' and you'll see there's dozens and dozens of papers that say education is very gendered. The experience of girls in pre-college (and college too for what it's worth) is very different from that of boys.

> I do not deny that blocking MAY exist and some men are sexists... [b]ut this is not 100% the cause of gender imbalance in tech.

The "percentage" thing is something that comes up in global warming discussions too; people will ask "what percentage of global warming is caused by humans", and because the issue is extraordinarily complex, the answer comes out sounding like equivocation.

You're probably right, social cues are probably not 100% the cause of the gender gap in tech. But the issue is complex; it's not like you're gonna see a pie-chart of simple gender gap explanations and then say, "we'll just 'allow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive' and crank up pair programming and part time work; that should cover 80% of it".

You can get complex reasons though, i.e. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/dec/14/many-women-i.... But good luck fixing "balancing work-life responsibilities" and "workplace culture"; those are complex issues that deal with early education, social and cultural expectations of women (and men), federal and state social policies and workplace policies, politics, and deep-seated gender roles. There's not really a knob you can turn to fix this stuff, and that's why we don't use percentages to talk about it.


I strongly disagree with the claim that there is no gender difference

I sincerely don't think that anyone is proposing that there is no difference between men and women, the discussion is over the extent of the differences.

We are dealing with overlapping gaussians.

The question is the extent of the overlap. If the overlap is very close on many abilities, men exceed women on some (like say maths), and women exceed men on some others required for a programming job (like say, empathy), then you'd expect distribution of jobs to be around 50% with slight variations. There is no indication that they vary by the amount required to explain the disparity of jobs in tech, indeed, this is easily refuted by looking at the number of women in technical jobs in the US in the 70s.

PS It's Dunning-Kruger


>>indeed, this is easily refuted by looking at the number of women in technical jobs in the US in the 70s.

You could make your point stronger if you propose an explanation to what changed since then. It's very unlikely that men (and society in general) become more sexist, if anything we have made a lot of progress.

I can tell you what the opposing side says though. They say women had little choice back then and just did what was needed. Today women have more choice, freedom and there is less discrimination so they feel free to pursue what is interesting to them which is not tech more often than in case of men.


"You make your counterexample stronger by giving your opponents, who have proven they are uninterested in actual debate, something else to latch on to in order to try to make you look wrong or stupid"

Seems like a bad tack to me - staying on topic is good enough for this kind of corrective comment.


One theory is the strong marketing of 8-bit home microcomputers towards boys


And because boys are more interested in things... ?


> because they grow up with social blockers

Citation needed.

If your theory were correct, that it is "social blockers", then you would predict that as societies get more egalitarian, you would get more equal representation. The opposite happens.

And this is not about absolute levels, this is about the direction of the arrow, which is pretty binary, and the "social pressures" theory makes exactly the wrong prediction.

> interested in tech when only a handful of her peers understand her interest

Doesn't stop the guys interested in tech. Being a "nerd" or a "geek" is the surest way to social ostracism, and yet these guys do it anyway.

> Until you remove social blockers that prevent women from entering tech

Again, this experiment has been done, on a society level, and the outcome is the opposite of your prediction: as "social blockers" are removed, you get fewer women going into tech fields.


> the "social pressures" theory makes exactly the wrong prediction.

To be honest, the "social" sciences have rarely been interested in scientific accuracy, more than they have been interested in promoting specific political ideologies.

I doubt they will consider this a problem with their "science". To them it will probably be obvious that the problem here, again, is with society.

In short: When you're stuck inside a delusion, it's everything on the outside which looks crazy.


> social blockers

Studies show prenatal testosterone affects differences in that men tilt towards an interest in intresting things, and women in insteresting people. Damore has the scientific literature behind him (which others can then dispute if they'd like). Also look to scandinavian attempts to flatten out differences. Thousands were involved, and the diffrences were simply exasturbated. Interesting talk on just this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSIEs1ngNiU Loads have very much taken the social aspect into account. What I think everyone in the dominant culture seems to miss, are the relevant scientific biological and psycological findings.


Is there any evidence that woman face more social blockers than men? Being a teenage computer geek comes with a range of negative social pressures from peers.


Please read this [1] and tell me if you still hold the same opinion. There is absolutely some social impact that lowers the number of women entering tech as a career, and we should work to fix it. However, there's more to it than just that, including studies on young children and statistics showing that other previously male-dominated careers (like doctors and lawyers) don't suffer from the same gender gap as tech. That's the point Damore was trying to make that people don't want to hear - there might be more to the gender gap than just social blockers, and if so, we should be aware of that at the same time we're working to solve the existing issues around bias, harassment, etc. Saying "nope, it's all social blockers and bad workplaces, and any other reasons are sexist falsehoods" is putting on blinders.

[1] http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagger...


I agree with OP, I read that post, and I disagree with it.

Medicine and law are not like engineering. Engineering is particularly gendered; you can look at medicine and see "caregiving", or you can see law and see "people" and "social issues". It's not easy to look at engineering and see any stereotypically female attributes there.

Girls are discouraged from pursuing math and hard sciences through pre-college education, explicitly, culturally, and socially. The social blockers between girls and engineering are particularly acute compared to those between them and law or medicine. You can look at college degree numbers for example. Women now outnumber men when it comes to college enrollment and graduation, but women are far more likely to pursue "soft sciences" like psychology or sociology.

> That's the point Damore was trying to make that people don't want to hear - there might be more to the gender gap than just social blockers, and if so, we should be aware of that at the same time we're working to solve the existing issues around bias, harassment, etc.

In fairness, Damore was advocating for the ending of Google's pro-diversity policies in hiring and minority support for employees. It wasn't just a "truth telling", he wantetd Google to dismantle programs that had a dramatic, positive effect on diversity. I'm not saying he didn't suggest alternatives, but those alternatives had no basis in research and felt pretty thin. Like "[a]llow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive"; honestly what does that even mean?


> Girls are discouraged from pursuing math and hard sciences through pre-college education, explicitly, culturally, and socially. The social blockers between girls and engineering are particularly acute compared to those between them and law or medicine. You can look at college degree numbers for example. Women now outnumber men when it comes to college enrollment and graduation, but women are far more likely to pursue "soft sciences" like psychology or sociology.

This point keeps getting brought up, but the actual statistics are quietly ignored.

Women make up over 40% of math and statistics graduates; A majority of accountants and biologists are women; Chemistry majors are evenly split between the genders.

If girls are socially discouraged from pursuing math and hard-sciences, why does this not actually manifest itself across fields requiring math and hard science? Does a math major require less mathematics than an engineering one? Is accounting not mostly about math and numbers any more? Are chemistry and biology no longer considered hard sciences?

I'm not saying the cause is necessarily not societal pressures, but this popular assertion being repeated ad-nausea seems to be, at best, incomplete. Women that have been told their entire lives that math is for boys seem to have no problem pursuing a higher-education in math in droves; Why?

http://www.randalolson.com/2014/06/14/percentage-of-bachelor... http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-accounting https://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/membership/acs/welcom... http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/28/359419934/who-s...


We must have taken away different conclusions and data from that post. It goes to great length to refute exactly the point you just made. As slavak also mentioned in his reply to you, engineering is not unique among professions in requiring math and hard science, but it is unique in its gender imbalance. Math and science teachers - people who literally use math and science every day - are 44% female nationally, and over 60% female in Texas, a socially conservative state [1]. Women represent a solid 50% of accountants, and I'm having a hard time fitting "caregiving", "people", or "social issues" to that profession. How about lab technicians, who sit in a lab all day doing science? 53% women [2].

> Girls are discouraged from pursuing math and hard sciences through pre-college education, explicitly, culturally, and socially.

The data simply does not support this statement. Take a look at [3]. Relevant quotes for you: "Girls are equitably represented in rigorous high school math courses.", "Girls outnumber boys in enrollment in AP science", "Girls are evenly represented in biology and outnumber boys in chemistry, but are underrepresented in physics." Even when it says "In AP mathematics (calculus and statistics), however, boys have consistently outnumbered girls by up to 10,000 students." this is only about a 5% difference.

> he wantetd Google to dismantle programs that had a dramatic, positive effect on diversity

What dramatic, positive effect are referring to? Google's self-reported numbers on the impact of its programs are laughable. We're talking single percentage point increases at best in percentage of women and minorities in tech positions and leadership roles [4]. Damore wanted Google to take a long, hard look at its diversity programs and have an open discussion about whether they are actually 1) the right tool for the job, 2) accomplishing what they are trying to do, and 3) making progress without alienating existing and new hires.

> honestly what does that even mean?

I thought it was fairly clear, actually. He pairs statements like that with suggestions to encourage more collaborative workplace practices, like pair programming. The idea is that Google and other tech companies should encourage and reward individuals who cooperate with each other on teams, help train and mentor each other, and actively try not to alienate anyone for arbitrary reasons. The negative alternatives are to have a workplace with a bunch of lone wolf technical workers who don't help each other, or to have a workplace composed of cliquey groups that ostracize individuals who don't fit norms (ex. "brogrammer" culture fit).

You seem to be creating your own narrative here, which I interpret to be, "women are socially discouraged from pursuing careers that don't involve at least some stereotypical female qualities, and that's why we don't see them entering tech." But the equally plausible alternative interpretation is, "women don't want to pursue careers that don't involve at least some stereotypical female qualities, and particularly don't want to pursue engineering, thus expecting there to be gender balance is unrealistic."

[1] tea.texas.gov/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=2147484887

[2] http://www.myplan.com/careers/medical-and-clinical-laborator...

[3] https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/gender-equit...

[4] https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/06/29/google-d...


> Saying "nope, it's all social blockers and bad workplaces, and any other reasons are sexist falsehoods" is putting on blinders.

Is this a common belief? Nobody I've read has claimed this, just that the known social effects are so large as to legitimise efforts to improve the situation regardless of whether or not there is some minor biological factor at play here too.

That's what I found strange about the memo. It spends lots of time arguing for the existence of biological differences between men and women and then draws the conclusion that diversity programs should be stopped. The existence of biological differences is not surprising to me or probably to the people who came up with the diversity programs and nor is it likely relevant to whether the diversity programs are a good idea or not.


Yes, there are certainly "social blockers" for women interested in technical and scientific careers. I mean, they're pervasive in Western societies. And it's even worse in some other societies.

But given that, how is it possible to discuss the possibility of gender differences? Without the discussion itself being a social blocker?

I'm not sure. Certainly by experts. And certainly around debate on legislation. Also in whatever social forums allow it. Such as here. But arguably not in discussion among staff at Google or wherever. There are likely no experts there, so it all comes down to bullshit. But among senior management, in private, sure.


> it's hard to believe such a seemingly harmless claim (women aren't as well represented in tech because they're not as interested in it) has created such outrage

His claim is much stronger: he claims that women _working at Google as engineers_ are less interested in tech than their male colleagues. This debate is about stopping internal diversity programs within Google, not about women in general in tech.


> women _working at Google as engineers_ are less interested in tech than their male colleagues

I wonder if this argument could be made? Stats show that men work more hours than women whereas women prefer a more of a work-life-family balance. So given that, you could say that the women in tech there are less interested. At least, in terms of hours and dedication to the job. I don't think it holds too much water. You can be interested in the subject matter but not work as much. But there is some truth to it in a way.


> You can be interested in the subject matter but not work as much. But there is some truth to it in a way.

c'mon, pick a side ... you can't argue both ways. The constructive takeaway from this is not that women are a "lesser" value because they crave work-life-family balance. The takeaway should definitely be that we should figure out how to help the overworked individuals who work too much, find a better balance.


Who are you to decide what the right balance for other people should be? If they are happy working 11 hours a day while you only work 8, what is wrong with that? Are you actually intervening because you are concerned for them or are you simply worried that their choice to work more than you will result in them correctly being valued more than you by your mutual employer?


¯\_(ツ)_/¯

They can continue to do so just fine ... but I much prefer employers who don't overvalue overworking their employees, thereby implicitly creating a de-facto requirement. Of course, sometimes overtime is needed, believe me I've done it plenty of times to hit a deadline or release. However, I'm just plain happier working for employers, and with colleagues who don't create a hostile working environment for people with families.


> men work more hours

> women prefer a more of a work-life-family balance

You may want to rephrase that. Parallel construction, and all that.


Where in his memo did he say that? From the memo:

    Many of these [biological] differences are small and 
    there’s significant overlap between men and women, so
    you can’t say anything about an individual given these
    population level distributions.
That would imply that there will be women at Google who are more inclined towards software engineering than some of the men.


As a measure of how easily talk of averages degenerates into talk of individuals, let me point out that the comment you're replying to is talking about averages and you are talking about individuals. Your response to "hey this memo is talking more specifically about women at Google being less suited to tech on average" is to say "well I mean there are these weasel words about individuals standing out so I don't see how Damore could be talking about women at Google on average" -- I mean, no, that's exactly what Damore is talking about, averages.

You ask "Where did he say that?" and I'd be surprised if there's any one succinct place -- it's one of the two main topics of the whole memo, and the memo does not have a coherent topic sentence or even really a coherent argument, so I think it's likely absent.

But, like, Damore makes a case to the effect that "biological explanations can't be ruled out" and then reverses those weasel-words by suggesting that his biological explanations be used to guide policy by, say, encouraging pair programming which he supposes to be something that women are likely better at on average. This sort of move suggests that he thinks the biological effects that he's citing (see note [1]) are big enough to guide policy, which they're not. You don't need to take my word for it -- the main author of the article Damore is citing was asked to read Damore's memo and this is his take on it [2].

Of course the problem is even worse in that this article which Damore used to write his article is psychological; it is based on doing a personality test in a bunch of different nations. That makes it very hard to conclude anything biological about it, so every time that Damore mentions "biology" in his memo, that is an interpretation of his own devising. The original personality-study article also interprets its findings biologically but it is really tenuous [3]. In fact neuroscientists have also been studying the brain and they have not found a clear biological difference between male and female brains [4].

[1] He gives a summary of a Wikipedia summary of an article by Schmitt et al. (2008). The PDF is freely available by the university at http://www.bradley.edu/dotAsset/165918.pdf but the sample sizes were I believe later corrected as an erratum, so I am not sure which one this has.

[2] Schmitt, evaluating later research as well, summarizes by saying that sex differences are only "accounting for less than 10% of the variance" and that using this to guide policy is "like operating with an axe. Not precise enough to do much good, probably will cause a lot of harm," in an article at http://quillette.com/2017/08/07/google-memo-four-scientists-... .

[3] The argument in the article involves their surprise that the majority of the discovered effect apparently disappeared in Africa and East Asia. Their interpretation is literally that those cultures are so much less economically developed than we in the West are, that their women must feel so much less free to just be themselves, and therefore they act more like men as a sort of baseline survival tactic. Read the paper; it's a very 'you cannot possibly be saying what I think you're saying, can you?' type of experience.

[4] See the links in the article https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28584-a-welcome-blow-... for a nice summary.


    But, like, Damore makes a case to the effect that
    "biological explanations can't be ruled out" and
    then reverses those weasel-words by suggesting that
    his biological explanations be used to guide policy by, 
    say, encouraging pair programming which he supposes to
    be something that women are likely better at on average.
But the very fact he made that suggestion implies that he also wants to narrow the gender divide. By your logic, if he wanted to reduce the number of women in tech, he'd be advocating less pair-programming.

It also seems to me that the pair-programming idea was plucked out of the air to be used as an example to further a discussion, not a solution to be implemented.

    This sort of move suggests that he thinks the biological
    effects that he's citing (see note [1]) are big enough
    to guide policy, which they're not
I'm inclined to agree with that. But his memo was written in response to policies that are already being implemented, which he thinks are bad.

I'm really not concerned about whether his ideas are good or bad - the experts on this subject can work that out between themselves. What concerns me is that, while he was confident enough in his theory to put it forward for wider scrutiny, the makers of the policies he is objecting to weren't. And when they were presented with a counter-argument anyway, they had to set an example to everyone else who might wish to speak up by having its author fired and smeared with accusations of bigotry.


I don't think it was just the "harmless claim" that was the issue. Many of his points were objectionable if not outright offensive. The obvious example of an offensive claim is that women are more prone to be neurotic. Also, can you really assert that you've checked your biases if you claim that people who agree with you (conservatives) are "pragmatic" while those who disagree (liberals) are "idealistic". I'm sorry, but that is complete and total BS. It's not hard to see that there are pragmatists and ideologues in both the liberal and conservative political movements.

As a white male engineer, I will tell you thing the that most white dudes like me fail to understand about micro-agressions- and the document was chock full of them-is that they are not really significant when they only happen once, in isolation, it is the constant, droning repetition of them that makes them harmful.

Asking someone where they're from isn't offensive when considered in isolation. But if 90% of the white people you meet ask you this immediately, while it comes up only occasionally or late in the conversation when meeting other people, it makes you wonder.

One thing my mixed race friends get asked a lot by white people is "what are you?". At first I found that hard to believe, but I've seen it happen over and over again--random chitchat at the park with a nice lady who stopped to pet my dog; for some reason she has to ask my friend "what are you?" She's too nice to say "not racist, how about you?" or anything harsh in response, but it makes my blood boil.

Imagine being expected to defend and define your presence everywhere you go.

So, yeah, the idea was harmless. The presentation was part of the constant barrage of gatekeeping behavior that women and people of color are sick of dealing with. That's why it's offensive, that's why people are angry.


> The obvious example of an offensive claim is that women are more prone to be neurotic.

As a personality researcher, I feel obligated to chime in and clarify that the memo wasn't stating that women are "neurotic", neither in the colloquial nor clinical sense, but that they are on average higher in the trait of Neuroticism in the Big 5 personality dimensions[0], which is a very specific and well defined term, and the scientific literature actually does support that statement when it is presented using those academic definitions. There's nothing opinionated about this, just as much as saying that men on average test higher in the trait of 'Conscientiousness' according to the same model; they're just population statistics based on the most reliable personality measure we have in the field of psychology today. It is a plain misunderstanding of the academic term to suggest that the memo says women are "neurotic" in any other way.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits


He uses this result to claim they are less able (on average) to deal with stress and that's why men have better paying jobs though.

I believe autistic people also score higher on that neurotic scale, so it's ironic someone who self-identifies as being on the spectrum would highlight that result and, given the general stereotypes, for it to be held up as a difference from other software professionals


Well he does cite "the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist". If that's true, the female employees at Google themselves contributed to a meaningful statistic behind the claim.

He goes onto mention that men take on dangerous high stress jobs in far greater numbers than women, such as coal mining and fire fighting. If men account for 93% of work related deaths, it says a lot about their drive for that sort of work.

No need to take offence. It's just data.


Quoting from the memo itself, "Women, on average, have more: [...] Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance)".

I don't believe there is any other context to it. It is not at all clear to me that the author is not referring to neuroticism in the colloquial or clinical sense. If he did want to use such a potentially emotionally-loaded term in that sense he should have made it clear how he was using it.


He referenced a paper about it. That provided enough context for me to deduce that he was talking about the clinical sense.


I looked up the memo (assuming I have the found the original version; I checked several and they all claim to be the unedited version) and it links to a general Wikipedia article about the term.


Iirc the memo linked to sources on these specific terms.

Links which gizmodo conveniently removed.


Women on average score higher on neuroticism. This is uncontroversial. Neuroticism is associated with some positive outcomes, like longer lifespan. It is not a negative trait, as you might think by the connotations the term has in nonclinical contexts.

You would know all this if you did some fact-checking. The carelessness with which you approach his claims is typical and indicative of a much larger problem.


>This is uncontroversial.

Have a look at the comments its being taken as an insult.


Yes but Seenti has a good point, it's not necessarily a negative trait. The memo could have explained this, if he didn't want so much outrage. The guy is methodical and very clear, but probably could have padded out the information with some disclaimers. His interviews since clearly show him as respectful and a nice guy, not at all the kind you'd expect to be sexist or bigoted.


I think this is a very good post. It's too bad people seem to have seized on the fact that you weren't aware that "neurotic" is a technical term in psychology. Since it's a word that has also been part of popular culture for decades, with a rather derogatory connotation, I think this is understandable, and I don't think Damore should have used it.

I hadn't heard about people asking "what are you?". That is indeed infuriating. I don't think such people deserve any answer beyond "human".


> because 'this' was evidence was that Google(his workplace)'s diversity initiatives and censorship were harming the company.

I am not sure I follow exactly. Is there evidence that Google's diversity efforts hurt the company? I don't find the memo offers any evidence. If evidence, even anecdotal evidence, were provided of that harm and of the ideological intolerance I might find the memo more compelling. As it stands, it seems like a book report.


> Is there evidence that Google's diversity efforts hurt the company?

Here's one example. Google has spent over a quarter of a billion dollars on diversity efforts in the last 3 years, and has barely moved the needle in terms of diversity in their workforce [0].

Some of that can be explained by long-term efforts that will take more than 3 years to show dividends, but not all of it, and given the lack of results, you'd think that it's worth considering if current efforts are addressing the actual problem or if they're just throwing money in the wrong direction.

You can't do that without questioning the current methods and examining other ideas, but when the reaction to questioning current methods and examining other ideas is to stifle discussion and say 'no, this is right, you are wrong, and btw you're fired', then you may well find you keep spending hundreds of millions of dollars, for little to no result.

You could argue that a quarter of a billion dollars is pocket change to Google (and it is) and therefore doesn't represent any real harm, but it's still a lot of money to throw around on something that might not actually solve the problem.

0: https://www.axios.com/googles-diversity-efforts-are-making-l...


You're analyzing this problem independent of context: women graduating in software engineering is decreasing over time, and they are more likely to exit the profession.


So then the solution would be to search for ways to make more women graduate, instead of hiring more from a pool that becomes smaller every year (not sure if the decrease is in absolute or relative terms, it doesn't really matter if the end goal is a 50/50 gender balance).


That's not because women are incompetent. It's because the workplace is putting so much pressure on engineers that even some men prefer to be promoted to management level after a decade of technical work.


> women graduating in software engineering is decreasing over time

That's right, but what's the cause of that?

Is it solely down to sexism and discrimination, or are there other causes?

For example, studies have shown that the more egalitarian a society becomes, the greater the difference in personality between genders is, which affects things like job and career selection. This makes sense because in an egalitarian society, men and women are more free to choose careers based on interest rather than on preordained acceptable roles based on gender [0].

I'm not saying this is what's happening in tech, but there's enough research around it that it's a plausible explanation for some of it. And if you're spending hundreds of millions of dollars but are not in any way interested in investigating (or even contemplating) whether this might be one of several factors leading to a decline in women entering software engineering, then that's probably a problem.

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


I think he was just asking official investigation to see if there are problems: 1. he made point about ideological echo chamber and wanted everyone to look to see if it's true 2. he saw potentially illegal practices, produced what you call a book report and asked this to be officially discussed to figure out if there is any merit to it

I see it as honest call for discussion but everyone is treating this as some malicious attempt to exercise sexism. We are all educated and civil people please have some dignity and apply Hanlon's razor to these kind of things: "Don't assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor


Your '2' all by itself if you are not invited to do so by your employer is most likely going to get you fired especially if you document said potential illegal practices in a widely shared memo.

Most companies would - right or not - try to keep their dirty laundry indoors and the right way to deal with such stuff is to first try to take it up the chain and if you are ignored you can decide if you're brave enough to become a whistle blower with all the fine consequences that tends to have, one of the most likely results of which is that you will find yourself suddenly unemployed and if you're unlucky also unemployable.


This type of discussion is protected by law, which is why Damore is suing Google. Also he didn't leak the memo, merely posted it on an internal board which has the intent of discussion; someone else made it public.


Sure. I'm not saying google is right. All I'm saying is that the consequences of these actions are quite predictable.

Also: regardless of the actual outcome, going to court is not a guarantee either way.


> a widely shared memo.

He didn't widely share his memo. Someone else inside Google leaked it to Gizmodo, which widely misrepresented it and started this shitstorm.

Who gets the blame in such scenarios? Is it still fair to fire the original author?


When you write a memo and distribute it to a group as large as he did you can bet that it will go much further and in fact the usual goal of writing such memos is to aim for widespread distribution.

So, tip for future memo writers: stay in control of the narrative. That's easier said than done.

> Is it still fair to fire the original author?

That's a moot point, companies do not like political activism within their ranks whether or not it spreads to the outside world and affects the image of the company in a negative way or not. But when and if it does you can be pretty sure heads will roll.

Second tip: If you do wish to write that memo try to get buy-in from your higher ups (and in writing) before releasing your memo to your peers.

Third tip: don't do it. Unless your position is absolutely ironclad and you don't care about your future employment writing memos will probably not make a difference in a positive way and there is plenty of downside with the memo writer holding the bag in almost all cases, especially when such memos target controversial subjects, they will almost certainly end up being used for political football.


The memo doesn't offer direct evidence of Google's diversity initiatives causing harm because the original audience for the memo solely consisted of employees of Google (who would have seen its effects and formed their own opinion from first hand experience). It's often forgotten that the memo wasn't originally meant for the general public.


Damore should sue Gizmodo. Big companies like Google and IBM and the military though, they usually have CoC requirements that essentially boil down to don't embarrass them in public.


It isn't clear, and actually highly unlikely, that Damore leaked the memo to the public.


And leaking is a fireable offence at Google, yet those leakers are nowhere to be found, for some reason.


Why the sinister implication?

Unless I've misunderstood your tone, you seem to be implying complicity even conspiracy. Surely the obvious explanation is "anyone could have leaked it and it's very hard to prove who did it"?


It isn't a question of whether it's the right place to have it.

A corporation may not be the best place to bring up these topics, if your goal is to avoid getting fired. Otherwise, it is a place full of smart engineers and the guy probably had some fantasy that he can have a constructive conversation in a corporate setting about a policy which Google as a corporation faces external and internal pressure about.

But as far as receptiveness, yes Google was a great venue for this, given who works there. Do you think hacker news is a better venue in that respect?

Even on this very board, that same exact seemingly harmless claim, given and elaborated on in a talk about men and women given by a professor of psychology at FSU, was downvoted and bashed in a TL;DR manner:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11844777

It fared better a year ago, but not by much:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8909954

EDIT: curious, why the downvotes?


"A corporation may not be the best place to bring up these topics, if your goal is to avoid getting fired"

Agree. In fairness to James, however, I believe HR solicited feedback.

"[T]he guy probably had some fantasy that he can have a constructive conversation"

Seriously, what a let down. The "Sergey" and "Larry" who created Google would not have stood for this. Either they have lost control of their company, or they have changed.

Working proactively to address racism/sexism/n'ism: Good, not evil Demanding orthodoxy of thought (or enabling those who do): Bad; EVIL


Google was being already investigated/accused of extreme gender pay discrimination. I'm not sure how anyone could think they'd want to engage in any kind of discussion that could be interpreted as discriminating to women while being under investigation for discriminating women. sigh


Shutting down an honest discussion of something because there is an investigation and it might be revealing is pretty high up there on the immoral scale.


I think your mixing two separate things here. The discussion was shut down not because it "might be revealing". It's plain and simple because they think is more harmful to have the discussion at a point when they're in legal trouble (with the corresponding financial penalty) than the argued loss of honest discussion (whatever exactly that means for you). It's because work is not a frigging politics/social debate club. You go to work to do whatever it is you were hired to do, not to discuss topics that may actually reduce productivity on your diverse work force for feeling discriminated.

I understand there's an inevitable social/political aspect of working together, but is not the focus and if you don't agree with the political views/decisions of a company, and you can't get them (through proper channels, your manager, HR) to change, no one grants you the right to say whatever you want in the work place, especially when what you say is widely considered (by the company) as harmful to their interests.


That implies that google just keeps a large branch of useless employees around to avoid public discussions. Can this make sense financially?


No. I think you're jumping to conclusions. It only implies they may need to look harder to find equally skilled people in a smaller talent pool (e.g minorities interested in tech). Sure, it'd be somewhat cheaper to not worry about those constraints (if the laws were different), but I think in the grand scheme of things the different in cost is largely irrelevant.


"Google was being already investigated/accused of extreme gender pay discrimination"

Being "investigated" implies government intervention. Being "accused" implies lawsuit.

Which is it?

Big companies like Google are likely engaged in litigation over personnel matters on a constant basis, a majority of which are settled privately.

I'd like to coop your "sigh" ... i'll trade you a <headslap>


Exactly!

Why did more people not mention this fact? The guy wrote on a topic that the corporation could not afford to indulge him on.


> What it did not do was claim that his female coworkers were inferior. I feel the need to reiterate that because that seems to be the disinformation that many take home with them and use for their arguments against him. With it, they vilified and ousted him.

He didn't say it directly, but he strongly implied that female coworkers were inferior. Among other things he claimed that women were less able to handle stress and have a harder time speaking up.

The document claims a lot more than just "women aren't interested in tech".


> I'm still making up my mind on this one, but for the sake of argument, I'll disagree with you.

OK :)

I think some of Damore's complaints were, on the surface, about Google. But they're all rooted in some old and incorrect ideas.

Damore advocates against Google's diversity programs, arguing that diversity programs can't be fully effective because fundamental biological differences between women and men are responsible for the gender gap, not social or cultural disadvantage, and further that these programs are discriminatory against men.

This is an old idea. Women's rights activists have heard this time and time again, whether it was for the right to go to school (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_education_in_the_Uni...), the right to have a job (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_rights#Equal_employm...), or of course, the right to vote. The argument, every single time, is "women and girls aren't really interested in reading/writing/working/politics". But in each case, we discovered that women were discouraged (and often outright punished) in strong, varied, and complex ways from being involved in these things, and when we investigated and removed those impediments suddenly the "interest gap" disappeared.

The "discriminatory against men" argument is essentially a reverse discrimination argument, and I'll leave it to Jamelle Bouie to explain why those are wrong: https://www.thenation.com/article/race-millennials-and-rever....

But the main reason that Damore's argument is outrageous is that the arguments about interest and fundamental biological differences have been used to hold women and people of color back since the inception of the US. Reverse discrimination belittles and dismisses the experiences of women and people of color by falsely equating systemic sexism and racism with isolated incidents, or in this case with gender-conscious diversity programs.

I'd also like to address the free speech issue a little. The US concept of free speech protects citizens from government retaliation. It doesn't mean I have to tolerate speech of all kinds in my home, and it doesn't mean that businesses have to tolerate speech of any kind in the workplace. With that in mind, it's obvious that you can't say whatever you want at work even though e we may disagree on where the line is.


> Reverse discrimination belittles and dismisses the experiences of women and people of color by falsely equating systemic sexism and racism with isolated incidents, or in this case with gender-conscious diversity programs.

Although most claims of reverse discrimination are probably false, this doesn't mean that none are justified.

For example, Google apparently has a program called Stretch to help women become better negotiators. (Says Damore in his memo and I haven't seen anyone disagree.)

I think that is doubly sexist. First, it perpetuates stereotypes about women, maybe even using some hand-wavy biological explanation like "woman have less testosterone and are too timid to negotiate efficiently". That isn't really better than Damore's reasons for advocating more pair programming.

Second, it doesn't target the people it would help the most , but at best a subset. What about black men who are bad negotiators? Do they get their own program? What about white men who are bad negotiators? Are they left in the dust because white men good at negotiating are already privileged, so people who are superficially similar don't deserve any help?

I think it is both morally wrong and economically inefficient to have a program to help people get better at X that selects on any criterion other than their current ability to do X. I don't care whether you call it discrimination or something else, I just don't want to see this kind of divisive catering to interest groups identified by arbitrary lines.


I should start out by saying what I know about Stretch I learned from Damore's memo.

> For example, Google apparently has a program called Stretch to help women become better negotiators. (Says Damore in his memo and I haven't seen anyone disagree.) I think that is doubly sexist.

There's research that shows that some of the gender pay gap can be attributed to women being less likely to negotiate pay raises and promotions. I think if you were Google and you were trying to close the gender pay gap, it's reasonable to take a look at that data and start something like Stretch.

> ...maybe even using some hand-wavy biological explanation like "woman have less testosterone and are too timid to negotiate efficiently". That isn't really better than Damore's reasons for advocating more pair programming.

It is actually much better. First, they aren't using any biological explanation. The studies [1][2] I found are experiments and surveys. Furthermore, no one's arguing because studies show women to be less effective negotiators than men that we should give up. On the contrary, Google is offering to help them. Damore's argument is that some studies kind of show women might be somehow biologically predisposed against tech (the copious hedging here is because he makes all the connections himself; the studies he cites don't actually make his point and consequently can't at all quantify the effect), and therefore Google should replace the programs most effective at increasing diversity with initiatives that have no basis in science and are mostly just bad ideas like "more pair programming", "more part time work", and "make work less stressful".

So in favor of Stretch:

- Research directly addressing and quantifying the issue

- No biological explanation

- Google directly addressing the issue

Against Damore's initiatives:

- No direct research to justify a policy change

- Unsupported leaps from indirect research to "biological differences explain the gender gap"

- No direct addressing of the issue

- Replacement of programs that do directly address the issue with those that do not

> I think that is doubly sexist. First, it perpetuates stereotypes about women....

I think it's a good instinct to critique policies from a gender perspective. And I think on its face you're right, Stretch seems to assume that women are bad at negotiating and has a program based on that assumption.

But look at how the program came about. This isn't a program rooted in stereotype; it's rooted in research. And the result of the program is to help women become better negotiators, not to disadvantage them. In applying a feminist critique, we have to evaluate all these things, otherwise we often come to the conclusion, as you did, that any policy based on gender entrenches harmful stereotypes.

> Second, it doesn't target the people it would help the most , but at best a subset. What about black men who are bad negotiators? Do they get their own program? What about white men who are bad negotiators? Are they left in the dust because white men good at negotiating are already privileged, so people who are superficially similar don't deserve any help?

I can't find any research showing that Black or White men are bad negotiators, so I think that's why Google didn't start a program to help them. There's also not a pay gap for White men so I don't know what the impetus would be there anyway.

> I think it is both morally wrong and economically inefficient to have a program to help people get better at X that selects on any criterion other than their current ability to do X.

I think this is super interesting! I just read a piece in the Atlantic that offered the insight whereas liberals often argue for fairness of outcome, conservatives often argue for fairness of approach. I'm not saying you're a conservative or that that's what you're doing here, but I definitely feel some echoes.

The argument you make here is that it's unfair to treat people differently based on ascribed statuses (race, sexual orientation, gender identification, etc.). But I think exactly the opposite; I think you can't treat people fairly unless you take into account their ascribed statuses. For example, if we return to entirely gender-blind hiring practices, we'll see the gender gap skyrocket (see 538's article on affirmative action [3]). Or more directly, in order to be fair to women, LGBTQ people, and people of color when hiring, we have to know about their ascribed statuses and compensate, otherwise we won't hire them, and that's unfair.

This is how we combat our biases that are instilled in us because of our racist, sexist culture and society. To ignore or not adjust for these biases is what's unfair here.

[1]: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-6570.1999....

[2]: http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2010-00584-007

[3]: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/heres-what-happens-when...


> I can't find any research showing that Black or White men are bad negotiators, so I think that's why Google didn't start a program to help them.

Unless you assume that all Black or White men are good negotiators, then the grandparent's argument holds: you're helping only at best a subset of people who would most benefit from it.

I agree with the grandparent: a program to help people become better negotiators should target people who are bad negotiators to begin with, and nothing else. Ruling out entire groups of people solely based on their gender is discriminatory.

> There's also not a pay gap for White men so I don't know what the impetus would be there anyway.

Do you really believe that all White men are paid equally?


> Unless you assume that all Black or White men are good negotiators

The context of all this is "addressing the gender pay gap", which policies like try to do using the salaries of men as the baseline. We already know that women are working as hard and as effectively as men, but that they're getting paid less and we're looking for reasons why.

When you argue to also help men that may be bad negotiators you're missing the point, which is that these policies address the gender pay gap.

> Ruling out entire groups of people solely based on their gender is discriminatory.

Discrimination is not necessarily a bad thing. Policies intended to address gender issues need to be gender conscious. For example, affirmative action policies at universities need to know information about ascribed statuses like race and gender, otherwise they can't be effective. And they have absolutely been effective; public universities are some of the most diverse institutions we have in the US.

The point isn't to be gender-blind. That only entrenches the favored statuses that men already enjoy. The point is to be aware of the challenges women (and LGBTQ people and people of color) face in order to compensate for them.

> > There's also not a pay gap for White men so I don't know what the impetus would be there anyway.

> Do you really believe that all White men are paid equally?

Again this is in the context of the gender pay gap. I'm sure there are pay gaps between White men, but please don't derail a discussion about the gender pay gap with other issues. And further, please don't advocate against policies that help millions of women because they don't help everyone.

Or, more concretely, feel free to start your own thread about pay gaps between White men and start advocating for programs based in research to address the causes. This isn't a zero sum thing.


Since when has this thread been about the gender pay gap? In my experience, threads on HN tend to be about whatever the people commenting in the thread choose to comment on.

Personally, I only care about the gender pay gap insofar as it signals that some people are being underpaid, which I think is unfair. If there is a chain of causality leading from "X is a woman" to "X is a bad negotiator" to "X is underpaid", then the ones that deserve help are underpaid people first and foremost.

They can be helped by attacking any mechanism of causality (including those that are not mentioned above): preventing bad negotiators from being underpaid (e.g by helping bad negotiators become good negotiators) and preventing women from becoming bad negotiators (e.g. by specifically mentoring them). But the farther removed the factor you are targeting is, the less efficient your efforts become. I think it is shortsighted to limit a program to women when it could just as well be applied to other people (unless something about Google's negotiation training is explicitly gender-specific).

> And further, please don't advocate against policies that help millions of women because they don't help everyone.

I'm certainly not advocating that women shouldn't get help with negotiating if they need it, but I am advocating that other people should also receive that help.


> Since when has this thread been about the gender pay gap?

We're discussing Stretch, which is a Google program designed to narrow the gender pay gap by teaching women negotiating skills. You're the one who initially brought it up:

> For example, Google apparently has a program called Stretch to help women become better negotiators.

> Personally, I only care about the gender pay gap insofar as it signals that some people are being underpaid, which I think is unfair. If there is a chain of causality leading from "X is a woman" to "X is a bad negotiator" to "X is underpaid", then the ones that deserve help are underpaid people first and foremost.

Sure, OK. This whole thread is (I thought clearly) about gender issues. If you have thoughts about how to address the pay gap between various different groups of White men, feel free to advocate for them. But don't derail a conversation about gender inequality like this; this is not a zero sum issue. We can have programs that address this issue for women and programs that address this issue for other groups too, or programs designed to address this issue for all groups. But this thread is about gender, so let's not stray too far OT.


> Please don't derail a discussion about the gender pay gap with other issues

This discussion, as initiated by the original parent, is about the gender pay gap and other issues. It's somewhat ironic that you'd accuse me of derailing this discussion.

> And further, please don't advocate against policies that help millions of women because they don't help everyone.

Please don't put words in my mouth.

>>> There's also not a pay gap for White men

> I'm sure there are pay gaps between White men

> feel free to start your own thread about pay gaps between White men

I'm sorry, but you lost me here.


> The argument you make here is that it's unfair to treat people differently based on ascribed statuses (race, sexual orientation, gender identification, etc.). But I think exactly the opposite;

I have been thinking about it and I believe that neither correct or wrong. It seems it is about how one defines fairness: Is is fairness of opportunity or fairness of outcome?. I would like to know more about this. Is there any paper, book, analysis that tries to tackle with it? I would love to learn about philosophical approaches, attempts to resolve it based on solid rational reasoning in the context of some moral values. Anyone?


It's very simple. It's morally wrong to enforce fairness of outcome, for a few reasons:

1. Doing so requires taking away from those who have, whether property or opportunity. This is theft and oppression.

2. Doing so requires an unbiased party to make judgments about what shall be taken from whom and to whom it shall be given. Humans are biased, so this cannot be done fairly.

3. Doing so restricts others' freedom.

Those who want to enforce equality of outcome want to rule over others, because they think they are qualified to make such decisions. By calling for it, they have already decided that there is a problem, and that they have the solution, and that everyone else is wrong.

In contrast, those who want equality of opportunity do not want to rule over others. They want power to be decentralized so people can make their own decisions.

It's left as an exercise for the reader to determine who is more trustworthy: he who would decide for you, or he who would have you decide for yourself.


I'm glad that Google's reasons for their diversity efforts are supported better research than one guy found in his free time. That said, [1] says in its abstract "... the overall difference in outcomes between men and women was small ..." which reminds me of the point about distributions and averages made in the memo. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a long tail of men who fall below the average woman for a variety of reasons (e.g. autism?).

> Furthermore, no one's arguing because studies show women to be less effective negotiators than men that we should give up.

I'm sure a lot of people would argue that, but since neither I nor you nor Damore seem to argue that, I agree with the connotation.

> initiatives that have no basis in science and are mostly just bad ideas like "more pair programming", "more part time work", and "make work less stressful".

There seems to be a lot of science on the benefits of pair programming (although maybe not in a gender context). I read https://blog.acolyer.org/2017/08/16/interactions-of-individu... just today. I don't know about part time work and making work less stressful, but they don't seem like universally bad ideas either.

> liberals often argue for fairness of outcome, conservatives often argue for fairness of approach

I'm not sure where I'd place myself on the liberal-conservative plane, but I'm definitely arguing for fairness of outcome here. If you observe that some people are worse negotiators than others, then to achieve fairness of outcome, you have to offer them help. (Alternatively, sabotage the good negotiators, but I don't support that.) Helping only women is better than nothing, but it is not optimal, because you are adjusting the wrong variable.

> I think you can't treat people fairly unless you take into account their ascribed statuses.

If someone is already taking their status into account, sure, you need to take that into account to counteract their biases. But that's a kludge and hard to balance correctly, if you can instead remove the influence of that person altogether, you should do that.

> For example, if we return to entirely gender-blind hiring practices, we'll see the gender gap skyrocket (see 538's article on affirmative action [3]).

The article is about racial bias and not the gender gap, the alternative is not completely race-blind, and it doesn't show any skyrocketing. In fact, the effect is much weaker than I'd have expected. The situation for Hispanics looks more like noise. Maybe there aren't many affirmative action programs for Hispanics even in states that allow them?

Personally, I think that affirmative action in college admissions shouldn't be based on race either. As I understand it, most racial differences in the distribution of applicants are due to economic reasons. In that case, it would be more appropriate to support students from low-income households, rather than sorting them into arbitrary buckets based on ethnicity.

> To ignore or not adjust for these biases is what's unfair here.

I agree that biases shouldn't be ignored, but I don't like it when the countermeasures assume that disadvantages only happen across a few categorizations. There are all kinds of reasons some people have worse outcomes than others, and to only pay attention to them when they coincide with membership in one of your favorite protected groups, is a kind of bias in itself.


> > Furthermore, no one's arguing because studies show women to be less effective negotiators than men that we should give up.

> I'm sure a lot of people would argue that, but since neither I nor you nor Damore seem to argue that, I agree with the connotation.

I only mean that Damore's argument is (roughly, mind you) "studies show the gender gap is likely due to biological differences so we should give up", and if we're comparing Google's pro-diversity hiring initiatives to Stretch, it's important to note that when Google noted the research on women and negotiating, their response wasn't "oh it's biological differences, we should give up". I don't know if Stretch is effective, but at least it's a proactive, supportive response rooted in research.

> There seems to be a lot of science on the benefits of pair programming... I don't know about part time work and making work less stressful, but they don't seem like universally bad ideas either.

I don't think they're universally bad ideas, but Google's gender gap is something like 70-30. There's no research to support the notion that pair programming, part time work and low stress jobs can address a 40 point spread like that, but there is research that pro-diversity hiring and support policies do, so I think it's actively harmful to advocate for replacing the latter with the former.

> I'm definitely arguing for fairness of outcome here. If you observe that some people are worse negotiators than others, then to achieve fairness of outcome, you have to offer them help. ... Helping only women is better than nothing, but it is not optimal, because you are adjusting the wrong variable.

Sure that makes sense, but the goal isn't to get every employee's negotiating skill to a certain level, it's to narrow the gender pay gap. In that context, it makes sense to work only with women.

> If someone is already taking their status into account, sure, you need to take that into account to counteract their biases. But that's a kludge and hard to balance correctly, if you can instead remove the influence of that person altogether, you should do that.

It is really hard to quantify, definitely. But these issues aren't limited to "that person"; we're all, every single one of us, subject to unconscious bias when it comes to race, gender identification, sexual orientation, and other ascribed statuses because of the culture and society we grew up in. Therefore we all need to adjust, and pro-diversity policies and affirmative action policies help us do that.

> The article is about racial bias and not the gender gap, the alternative is not completely race-blind, and it doesn't show any skyrocketing. In fact, the effect is much weaker than I'd have expected. The situation for Hispanics looks more like noise. Maybe there aren't many affirmative action programs for Hispanics even in states that allow them?

Sorry "skyrocketing" was a poor characterization (it was laaaaaaate :) Here's what 538 says about Black enrollment:

"...only two research universities in states with affirmative action bans have at least the same proportion of black students as the state’s college-age population, and one of those, Florida A&M University, is a historically black college or university (HBCU). ...only one school, Florida International University, has at least the same proportion of Hispanic students as the state’s college-age population.

...

Researchers looked at the effect race had on admissions and saw a 23 percentage point drop in the chance of admission for minority students in states with bans, compared with a 1 percentage point drop in other states, relative to nonminority students."

That's rough, no matter how you look at it.

> Personally, I think that affirmative action in college admissions shouldn't be based on race either. As I understand it, most racial differences in the distribution of applicants are due to economic reasons.

538 addresses this too:

"Opponents of affirmative action argue that aiming for diversity in areas other than race, such as socioeconomic class, can ensure sufficiently diverse student bodies. The most common race-neutral policy used as an alternative to affirmative action is a plan that the University of Texas already uses, in which a percentage of graduates from every high school get automatic admission. These policies have been shown to increase racial and ethnic diversity on campus, but research[1] on whether they’re as effective[2] as more explicit race-based affirmative action policies has been mixed[3], and critics say that it doesn’t make sense to use a proxy when so many colleges continue to struggle with racial diversity."

There are similarities between the experience of lower income Americans and Americans of color, but not all Americans of color are lower income, and policies that focus on evening out the income divide overlook the disadvantages people of color face because of their race.

> I agree that biases shouldn't be ignored, but I don't like it when the countermeasures assume that disadvantages only happen across a few categorizations. There are all kinds of reasons some people have worse outcomes than others, and to only pay attention to them when they coincide with membership in one of your favorite protected groups, is a kind of bias in itself.

Agreed, but at the same time, I don't think we need to show up at every discussion about gender issues and remind everyone that men also face challenges. We can advocate for policies that help straight cis White men who may be disadvantaged for other reasons without derailing discussions about race and gender issues.

[1]: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/003465304312...

[2]: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pam.21800/abstrac...

[3]: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2137126


> The US concept of free speech protects citizens from government retaliation.

This is true, but California presciently has other laws in place to protect workers that want to discuss potentially illegal behavior in good faith. This is why Damore is suing Google, and why it's quite likely that he will win.


Why would that apply here? He didn't discuss anything illegal.

Sorry I'm unfamiliar with California state law, and besides I don't really know why it pertains to a misunderstanding of speech protected under the 1st Amendment.


The memo itself describes at least some of Google's diversity efforts as potentially illegal. Firing Damore for speaking up about illegal actions committed by management is a no-no.


But wasn't he arguing the opposite; that Google's efforts to comply with US law were working to the detriment of men? I thought the US' case was essentially "Google is overwhelmingly White and Asian men", and Damore's case is "policies that decrease the numbers of men have got to go".

It's like the government is indicting you for making gingerbread houses, and one of your employees argues against your policy prohibiting gingerbread in the workplace. Isn't it?

EDIT: Oh it's gender pay, not diversity. Then I really don't at all get the relevance, Damore only mentioned the pay gap in a footnote that was totally unrelated to Google.


From the memo:

to achieve a more equal gender and race representation, Google has created several discriminatory practices

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

[6] Instead set Googlegeist OKRs, potentially for certain demographics. We can increase representation at an org level by either making it a better environment for certain groups (which would be seen in survey scores) or discriminating based on a protected status (which is illegal and I’ve seen it done). Increased representation OKRs can incentivize the latter and create zero-sum struggles between orgs.

> But wasn't he arguing the opposite; that Google's efforts to comply with US law were working to the detriment of men?

And illegally so.


I worked at Google. I've seen this before. "Desired" candidates (women, especially black and Hispanic) were hired on two occasions where the interviewing team gave them an average of 2s. Upper management took the "best" they could get of a certain "highly desired" demographic...I'm not sure how these two individuals made it past the hiring committee but they did...


Hmm, but aren't these reverse discrimination arguments? Fisher v. University of Texas makes those a long shot at best.


>But the main reason that Damore's argument is outrageous is that the arguments about interest and fundamental biological differences have been used to hold women and people of color back since the inception of the US

What you do with the information that science provides is your problem. If a society (such as a workplace) doesn't have the capacity to logically process the scientific facts, and uses them to enforce psycho-sociological diseases like racism or discrimination, the solution is not to deny the scientific facts or erase the question. The solution is to foster capacity in society to process and respond to scientific facts in a logical manner


Why are women disadvantaged by the fact that men outnumber them as programmers, but women aren't disadvantaged by the fact that men outnumber women as Mechanics, Architects, Electricians, Sheet metal workers, Engineers, and Lawyers?

Why aren't men disadvantaged by the fact that women outnumber men as Speech-language pathologists, Dental hygienists, Physical therapists, Counselors, Nurse practitioners, Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists?

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


> Why are women disadvantaged by the fact that men outnumber them as programmers, but women aren't disadvantaged by the fact that men outnumber women as Mechanics, Architects, Electricians, Sheet metal workers, Engineers, and Lawyers?

I don't think I made that claim, but still it has merit. Women face challenges in workplaces where there are few of them, sometimes benefits don't handle birth control, or maternity leave is non-existent or laughably short, or there are few women in leadership roles, or there is a workplace culture that is overtly sexist, or there are persistent sexual harassment problems, or they get paid way less for the same work, or they get stuck with "women's work" and treated like secretaries and assistants.

> Why aren't men disadvantaged by the fact that women outnumber men as Speech-language pathologists, Dental hygienists, Physical therapists, Counselors, Nurse practitioners, Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists?

Men actually do face their own set of challenges. Consider all the jokes in popular culture about male nurses or male cosmetologists. Or consider Mississippi v. Hogan where a man sued successfully for the right to be admitted to the Mississippi University for Women School of Nursing, a historically all-woman school: https://www.oyez.org/cases/1981/81-406

I'm not super clear if I understood your question, let me know if I didn't get it right and I'll try again haha.


Thanks for doing your best.

The gist of the question was that if you follow that link you can see that it is the case that most jobs have a sex ratio that is far off from 50/50, jobs with a ratio closer to 50/50 are the exception rather than the rule. I don't think this is a problem, or "problematic" as the kids like to say. I think this is just the way things are. You can learn a lot about the world just by looking.

The interesting thing that I raised in the question above is that some people do think these divergent sex ratios are "a problem," well sort of, the interesting thing is that they think in only a narrow selection of occupations is this a problem, totally ignoring that there is nothing particularly unusual about a divergent sex ratio for a given job. This may not be the case for you, but for the vast majority of problem addicts it is a very narrow focus on just a few occupations, totally ignoring the fact that it is a totally natural and normal thing.

It's like saying that something broadly true about the world is a problem. I can see the Vox headline now, Asians like rice, that's a problem

I don't like this constant grievance mongering worldview where everything is looked at through this lens of who has a "disadvantage" what is "problematic," why can't we just accept the world as it is? The people constantly going out and raising a ruckus about this or that issue would do far more good for the world by simply putting their own lives in order first.


> The interesting thing that I raised in the question above is that some people do think these divergent sex ratios are "a problem," well sort of, the interesting thing is that they think in only a narrow selection of occupations is this a problem, totally ignoring that there is nothing particularly unusual about a divergent sex ratio for a given job.

This is a misrepresentation of the "pro-diversity" argument. The vast majority of the "pro-diversity" posters do not think that every industry needs to have a 50/50 ratio. They don't even think the tech industry needs to have a 50/50 ratio. A better summary of the argument is this:

1. The tech industry has a tendency to be sexist towards women (which comes in many forms: whether they are subconscious cultural biases, or explicit sexual harassment, or sexist behaviors).

2. This tendency causes the gender ratio to be lower than what it would otherwise be in a "sexism free" tech industry.

3. We should work towards reducing these sexist tendencies because that is a worthy goal in and of itself.

4. If we succeed and reduce the sexism in the tech industry, the gender ratio will increase. It will not necessarily land at 50%, because there are other reasons that the gender gap exists.* But that is okay, because that was never the goal to begin with.

(Note that this is much different from saying "the gender gap is bad and is caused by sexism".)

> I don't like this constant grievance mongering worldview where everything is looked at through this lens of who has a "disadvantage" what is "problematic," why can't we just accept the world as it is?

Because the "world as it is" with regards to the tech industry tends to be sexist towards women, and we should work towards fixing that?

* Yes, I do think lack of interest is a valid reason for this. But it's not the only reason, and attempting to reduce such a complex issue into a single root cause is rather misguided.


Pretty sure the question was "why is this tech discussion board always focusing on women in tech and not some random other industry, and is this evidence that nobody really cares about equality and it is all just a horrible conspiracy to make people think tech has issues with gender equality?"


Well that's very obvious, it's just that it's uncomfortable to say it out loud: tech jobs are nicer and more desirable than most. We have very nice working conditions of many types and get well paid for it.

No significant amount of equal-rights activists will ever take up the torch to fight for <insert discriminated group>'s to be able to have more of said undesirable jobs. It's hypocritical but entirely understandable.


Apparently they aren't desirable to women.


People, especially groups used to enjoying privilege, always mistake what “free speech” is. Free Speech is the right to be free from GOVERNMENT suppression of speech, not prevailing attitudes, not private companies and institutions and not public sentiment. Expressing racist, homophobic and sexist ideas in a private company that has employee guidelines that forbade expressing hurtful speech has just consequences.

Privileged people feel they are above repercussion because to admonish them encroaches on their sense of entitlement to privilege.


You're confusing free speech and first amendment. Free speech is an Enlightenment ideal much like the golden rule, i.e. "treat others the way you want to be treated". It's a good thing to strive for in a society, whether the first amendment exists or not.


So, you say "what it did not do was claim his female coworkers are inferior". First off, that's your opinion of the paper, ok? That's not a fact about the document. That's your assessment. You might believe it in so strongly it's basically fact to you.

But here's the deal, a bunch of other really smart people think it did do exactly what you claim it didn't. Now what? Are they wrong, you're right? On what basis?

Besides which, if you write "effectively lowered the bar for 'diversity' candidates", actually yes you just claimed that women at Google are less qualified.

Many voices are loudly explain why this memo is offensive. Shelve your own ideas of what you think this memo is saying, and consider them.

As for the emotions, there's a huge veiled anti-woman slant to arguments that take the paper on it's "logical" face value and dismiss emotions. First off, dismissal of emotions is a classic anti-woman tactic. Secondly, you're a human male, you have as many emotions as anyone else. You can separate emotion and "rational" thought.


>First off, that's your opinion of the paper, ok? That's not a fact about the document.

Of course it's a fact about the document. Damore does not say this. If you claim he did, you should easily be able to prove it by quoting him saying it. No one has done that, because the accusation is false. The burden of proof is on the accuser. The accuser is not presumed to be telling the truth on the basis of their social standing, gender or the emotional intensity of their reaction.

>But here's the deal, a bunch of other really smart people think it did do exactly what you claim it didn't. Now what? Are they wrong, you're right? On what basis?

On the basis of the content of the memo, they are wrong.


He claimed that Google's diversity policy lowered the bar for hiring, how can you read that and not think he was claiming that a portion of his female/minority coworkers were underqualified for their jobs?


> He claimed that Google's diversity policy lowered the bar for hiring, how can you read that and not think he was claiming that a portion of his female/minority coworkers were underqualified for their jobs?

This is the full quote, "Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for 'diversity' candidates by decreasing the false negative rate." Latter emphasis mine.

I read this the same way that he writes it: that Google takes steps to reduce the false negative rate for diverse candidates but does not take these steps with non-diverse candidates. Policies like re-trying failed phone interviews, or automatically passing resume review for diverse candidates are examples of this (these are examples I've witnessed, I don't know if they in place at Google). They still need to pass the final interview loop, so they're not underqualified. But extra steps earlier in the interview process reduce the false negative rate.

Personally, I think these steps are an acceptable means of getting a more diverse group of candidates but I'd still respect my co-workers if they disagreed. To point out the fact that this results in some non-diverse candidates being denied when they could have gotten offers is factually correct. More importantly, to point this fact out is not to call the diverse candidates passed under such a system underqualified - as I pointed out earlier all candidates pass the final interview loop so all candidates are qualified.


No matter what qualifiers he tries to put on it, saying the bar is being lowered implies there are people at Google that he thinks do not deserve to be there.


The author deliberately stated that the "lowered bar" only goes insofar as reducing the rate at which qualified and diverse candidates are rejected. Disregarding the words that the author intentionally wrote - likely to prevent the interpretation that underqualified candidates are accepted - is a significant disservice, in my view.

To better illustrate what it means to reduce the false negative rate without admitting underqualified candidates, consider the following scenario:

* Phone interviews have a 50% false negative rate.

* On-site interviews have a 0% false negative rate.

* Neither type of interview has a false positive rate.

* Non-diverse candidates get one phone interview, and if the interview is positive they go on to an on-site interview. If the onsite is positive, the candidate gets an offer.

* Diverse candidates get two phone interviews. If either is positive, they move on to the onsite which, if passes, gets an offer.

In this setup, no candidates are underqualified since there are no false-positives in either the phone interview or the onsite. Non-diverse candidates have a 50% false negative rate; 50% are erroneously disqualified at the phone interview stage. Diverse candidates have a 25% false negative rate. Since they go through two phone interviews, there's only a false negative if both (0.5 * 0.5 = 0.25) phone interviews are false negatives.


It is under the section talking about the harm to Google. How is decreasing the rate at which qualified candidates are rejected harmful?

He is saying that this is harmful to Google, so he is saying it shouldn't be done, so he is saying that certain people who have been hired should not have been hired.

No matter what qualifiers you put on the statement he is saying that some of his former coworkers should not have been hired.


At most he's saying some of his coworkers would not have been hired and the non-hire decisions would be incorrect. I think the harm comes in as follows: suppose you have a way to drastically reduce false negatives without increasing false positives. Suppose you also have difficulties hiring enough engineers. Should you apply these programs to improve the demographics of your company (potentially to reduce lawsuit risk) or should you apply these programs more broadly to reduce the hiring shortage and reduce overwork and stress on all the engineers in your company that are on teams with people shortages? I think that's a question that can at least warrant a conversation, although I see good arguments for both sides.


His claim was that "lowering the bar" was hurting Google, not that Google should "lower the bar" further by expanding those policies. Using the term "lower the bar" has negative connotations and he is using it in reference to minority employees.

He also doesn't cite any proof that these hiring policies he is against actually exist, or even define what policies he believes exist. There is just some undefined diversity policy that he is against.


That would be a false positive rate, and it would be a reasonable interpretation if you deliberately ignored the rest of the sentence. There is no justification for ignoring the rest of the sentence.


He tried hard not to say that. But if he had, so what? Maybe he'd have been right?

If Google has lowered the bar for women in various ways, why should it be impossible to point that out? Just because some women would be offended by it? So what? Nobody has the right to be offended by facts.


> Nobody has the right to be offended by facts. What are the "facts"?

He doesn't back up his claim with any data at all. Where is his supporting data that Google's hiring practices in regards to minorities hurts Google? He's just making a baseless claim that doesn't logically follow from any of the evidence he provides before it.


He said it CAN lower th


These things are talked about at the workplace, however. Just around the water cooler in private rather than out in the open. It is getting super weird and awkward these days where many people claim to adhere to the accepted diversity story in public but obviously don't in private.


I think it's a weird dance we play with polite society and reality. Sometime last year it was pointed out that being called a racist is worse than actually being a racist. After years of political correctness, racist people have "learned the language" but you still see conscious and unconscious racism all the time. Does that fix systemic racism? Is it a step forward or a step backward?

These are just tough problems. How do you make up for a system that is biased against you? At what point are you disadvantaging the incumbent group? They didn't exactly choose to be in the incumbent group as much as the oppressed group chose their's.

It's hard to have an honest conversation because it's easy to police words, but tough to police thoughts and motivations.


> Sometime last year it was pointed out that being called a racist is worse than actually being a racist.

This is pretty interesting. At this point I accept that I'm both racist and sexist because of the culture I grew up in. But there was a time when I took the suggestion that I was racist or sexist as a deep assault on my character and intellect.

I think it's hard to admit, probably especially for software engineers, that we're biased in some way, but the truth is that this stuff is insidious. It's somehow true that boys are called on more than girls, and they're given more positive feedback for participation in the classroom. Or like earlier in this thread I referenced Dr. Sadedin's Quora post and someone responded to it assuming that she's a man. Or I remember a prominent woman feminist on Twitter talking about how she was confused why a woman flight attendant was talking about the weather forecast, potential turbulence, and landing time when she realized the woman was actually the pilot.

No one's immune from this. It's pernicious, it's embedded in our culture, and it pervades our entire society.

> At what point are you disadvantaging the incumbent group? They didn't exactly choose to be in the incumbent group as much as the oppressed group chose their's.

This is a fair point. I think (to use a corporate term I kind of disdain) we need buy-in from white men and we don't have it right now. Most of us don't believe that a problem exists, or that we are sexist and racist (importantly, just like everyone else), or that we personally need to do anything about this. Until that changes, we'll still feel cheated by pro-diversity policies, and issues like this will keep flaring up.

I think the fix is simple but not necessarily easy (oh no, accidental Rich Hickey reference haha), and it's to just keep talking about these issues. Not, of course, in the workplace, but in your social circles. And if you can't learn about this stuff in your social circles, do some research online or broaden your social circle to challenge yourself a little (I use theflipside.io and it's been surprisingly illuminating). Because the facts are that current US society and culture puts over 2/3 of us at a significant disadvantage, and the sooner the dominant group (straight cis white men) gets wise to it the sooner we can fix it.


Most of us don't believe that a problem exists, or that we are sexist and racist (importantly, just like everyone else), or that we personally need to do anything about this. Until that changes, we'll still feel cheated by pro-diversity policies, and issues like this will keep flaring up.

I don't think that's a fair characterization. I think a lot of white men recognize that a problem exists. It's just that there are so many other problems in this society right now that it seems low on the totem pole. Personally, I'm more afraid of an outbreak of violence between neo-Nazis and radical Marxists. It's hard not to draw parallels to 1920s Europe.


> It's just that there are so many other problems in this society right now that it seems low on the totem pole. Personally, I'm more afraid of an outbreak of violence between neo-Nazis and radical Marxists. It's hard not to draw parallels to 1920s Europe.

Yeah things seem pretty fucked right now, and it's kind of hard to believe it all happened in less than a year. Not really confidence inspiring.

> I think a lot of white men recognize that a problem exists.

Honestly, I'd like to hear from them. Just look at this thread, the ratio of anti-Damore to pro-Damore people is like 1-to-10, and the other threads are even worse.

I will say I pushed it too far when I said "[m]ost of us". Looking at this Gallup poll 58% of White men support affirmative action for women and 52% of White men support affirmative action for racial minorities. The MoE is 5% and that's pretty close, affirmative action questions are subject to social desirability bias, I would assume numbers have dropped in the Trump era, and I don't necessarily think support for affirmative action translates into "I'm cool, and maybe even happy with the idea that a similarly qualified woman might get a job instead of me", but hey 58 is 58 :)

But I don't really accept the explanation that "there are so many other problems". This is a huge problem if you're a minority in the US. It's really an issue of perspective here.


> Honestly, I'd like to hear from them. Just look at this thread, the ratio of anti-Damore to pro-Damore people is like 1-to-10, and the other threads are even worse.

I'm white and I agree a problem exists, although I'm not American. I'm also basically on the "pro-Damore" side in this thread, although I don't necessarily agree with everything he wrote in the document. You seem to take this as an indication that I'm sexist or denying sexism exists, and I think a big part of the problem is exactly this kind of "you either agree with me or you're a sexist pig" approach.

A person can be pro-equality and even for encouraging more women to go into tech, without agreeing that all gender differences are caused by social conditioning or that affirmative action is the proper way to fix it.


> I'm white and I agree a problem exists, although I'm not American.

Oh cool, hi!

> A person can be pro-equality and even for encouraging more women to go into tech, without agreeing that all gender differences are caused by social conditioning or that affirmative action is the proper way to fix it.

Sure, alright. What do you think about the problem? I guess, what are your ideas for addressing the gender gap without pro-diversity policies and affirmative action?


Sure, alright. What do you think about the problem? I guess, what are your ideas for addressing the gender gap without pro-diversity policies and affirmative action?

I'm not the person you asked this question but I'll give my take:

I don't think the gender gap is the problem. Sexism and harassment are the problems. The evidence for that is very clear from the first-hand accounts of women in industry. The gap itself, on the other hand, is not evidence of sexism. There are many, many factors that go into people's choice of career path long before some entitled boss decides not to keep his hands to himself.


> Honestly, I'd like to hear from them. Just look at this thread, the ratio of anti-Damore to pro-Damore people is like 1-to-10, and the other threads are even worse.

How is not smearing the guy who said there is a problem equal to not wanting to accept there is a problem?


Really?

I don't have discussions at work or at the bar wondering if women are inferior.

I really do think women are my intellectual equal.


The memo didn't have that discussion either, welcome to the party.

The discussions are more like: is there a quota? Is the hiring bar being lowered? etc...


Shouldn't employers abstain from controversial subjects as well, then? It seems one sided to hold employees to that standard but not the corporations and bosses they work for.


Every day the "pro-diversity" (in the sense of preferentially hiring practices) don't abstain... they tell you a viewpoint and force you to adopt it even when you disagree. The fact people keep their mouth shuts shouldn't be a surprise. That doesn't make the pro crowd any less controversial. It's just they don't get fired for their controversial opinions.


"...the workplace isn't the venue for [discussing your company's potentially illegal hiring practices]."


If your workplace is sexistly discriminating against men and firing employees that disagree, then yes it is the venue for it.


I entirely disagree. Of course this is personal preference but I firmly believe that the best way to fix a broken or flawed system is to place as much stress on it as possible in order for it to break down completely which in turn will force action to be taken by whoever is in charge of it which leads to a system that won't suffer from the same flaws.

I feel it we owe to society that we should try to improve it at every opportunity and allowing ourselves to adapt to a bad system instead of trying to break it is doing society a disservice. In other words: I feel it is our duty to try and provoke changes to what we perceive as bad instead of exclusively trying to adapt to the conditions presented.

In this case, he felt the system in the workplace is wrong then he should try to stress it into breaking so it can finally get fixed.

Another example: lets say that because of a bad bureaucratic process a certain action causes long queues on some service. I feel that it's everyone's responsibility to do that very action in order for the service to stop working entirely, which would force a change to it by whoever is in charge. I see it as "voting with your actions".


The interesting thing is it seems on the surface that Google did invite these kind of discussions in their forum probably by the nature of forum, the explicit rules about sharing ideas to improve the company, the product etc.

Now one of the valuable lessons one learns operating in any large institution is that yes there are stupid questions no matter if the policy explicitly states there aren't, and there are always unwritten rules. Failure to discover the unwritten rules leads to getting fired, let go, skipped by during a promotion, etc.

Just curious, what do you think would be a proper venue. Tweeting at Google HR publicly, private emails to owners / upper management?


> We are and lots of people are doing so, but another point made in this post is that the workplace isn't the venue for this.

So we shouldn't discuss the policies in place at our workplace... At our workplace?

Where on earth do propose we do discuss such changes then?


The workplace shouldn't be the venue, except many companies are kind of forcing this issue into the workplace by making valiant and public-relations-tinged efforts at diversity. I think Google even has a Vice President for Diversity -- which to me seems a bit silly because unless there's a business case to be made, it's just feel-good self-congratulation for how "progressive" you are. Perhaps having a diversity manager -- but an actual Vice President level executive? That seems like that should already be in the portfolio of whomever is in charge of Human Resources -- certainly not a separate executive role.

Is a Diversity executive actually impacting the bottom line of the company? Are there any actual quantitative facts that indicate that "diversity" improves a business's profitability? I am not arguing against diversity, please don't misunderstand. But it feels to me that this violent desire for diversity is something rather unique to SV tech. For example, the lack of men in the mental health professions barely raises any mention aside from the quadrennial NY Times think piece. The lack of men kindergarten teachers also barely makes a dent in the national discussion. The lack of women in building trades (despite those jobs being extremely well paying compared to "white collar" mid-level marketing jobs often dominated by women.) There's also not a big emphasis on the lack of women working in aviation or firefighting, despite those also being very well paid positions.

But for tech, for some reason it's a "big deal."

Fighting discrimination is obviously important as a basic matter of human rights, but much of tech's diversity push isn't about fighting discrimination as much as it's about actively recreating the balance of men and women in the field based on an arbitrary desired ratio.

If men and women are different, then it follows that they will have different desired vocations to a similar degree that they are different. If we argue that men and women are exactly the same, then why aren't more men working in mental health or social work -- those fields are about 80% women. We can't use the discrimination argument because that would imply that women discriminate against men -- and that doesn't fit the narrative that the straight white male is the bane of society.


But it is when the problem he was trying to address was the effect of diversity politics at google. Where else should that be discussed than in a small closed group of people.


I have a hard time believing Google punishes liberal political views, based on my experience with their employees.


Exactly. If Damore had focused his comments purely on hiring practices, quotas, discriminatory policies etc he would still be there and almost all would've found his comments constructive.

But he didn't do that. He brought up scientifically baseless, insulting and emotionally immature rationales for an important and sensitive topic. Working around people in a professional environment requires nuance and tact. He showed none of this.

The fact that so many in IT seem to miss this point and defend him explains so much about why many men and women stay away from this field.


> He brought up scientifically baseless,

The science behind it is well established.

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/no-the-google-manif...

From what I've seen, much of the anti-memo invective is based on (a) not reading it, or (b) an extremist interpretation of what he says, or (c) outright denial of scientific facts.

It really is easier to join a lynch mob, than to say "Hmm... perhaps we want a cold, cautious examination of the facts"


I assume you're being sarcastic, given that your description of the memo is so perfectly opposite any reasonable interpretation, but I can't tell.


> You can't dismiss his points just because you're tired of talking about them

You can, and some people have, and that's okay. It's not clear whether you're making the implication here, but commonly it's implied that "if you walk away from the debate therefore you are wrong", which is fallacious. Nobody owes you a debate.

> I'm talking about handling what Damore claimed in an intellectually honest way

Then the initial argument needs to start from a place of "intellectual honesty".

Damore presented evidence to support his claim that women are on average less able than men in areas relevant to engineering. He didn't discuss veracity, or contradictory evidence. That's textbook confirmation bias, not intellectual honesty.

Damore then started making HR policy proposals. We use a 50/50 gender ratio as an indicator that a particular field is free from bias. It's one thing to propose that 50/50 is not the natural ratio to end up with, but until Damore can propose a model that predicts another number then proposing HR policy changes put the cart before the horse. This indicates that the policy changes are what James in interested in, not the evidence. More confirmation bias.

Further, Damore's proposals discuss diversity as a whole (race not just gender) without a single word of justification, let alone evidence. That's either more confirmation bias or conscious sleight-of-hand, either way, it's certainly not intellectual honesty.

I don't bear Damore any ill will, he should be forgiven, but this memo was a mistake and showed poor judgement and more than a little bias. These studies may be good science, but stringing them together to confirm a conclusion you'd already set your sights in making is bad science.


Damore then started making HR policy proposals. We use a 50/50 gender ratio as an indicator that a particular field is free from bias. It's one thing to propose that 50/50 is not the natural ratio to end up with, but until Damore can propose a model that predicts another number then proposing HR policy changes put the cart before the horse.

I deeply disagree with this approach. You're essentially saying that unless you can come up with an alternative scientific theory, complete with predictions, it's not possible to criticise an existing theory about the world.

There's many plausible explanations why an absence of a 50:50 gender representation could be caused for reasons other than bias or average ability. That's enough to put a nail in that model of discovering bias. Coming up with a way of predicting what the right ratio is, isn't necessary to discard that metric.


I agree with your statement, but...

I think part of the problem is what the memo says and what it doesn’t say. It’s entirely plausible that the ‘natural’ ratio is not exactly 50:50. But as of last year, among Google tech workers, the ratio was 81:19, and that’s with all the affirmative-actiony programs Damore wanted to back off on; in the past it was higher. It’s quite a bit less plausible that intrinsic differences could explain all or even most of that big a discrepancy, especially combined with the many anecdotes of discrimination we hear about. Now, to be fair, the memo never explicitly claims that it does; indeed, at one point it specifically says “in part”. But the tone of the memo, the relative lack of time spent acknowledging the large role played by cultural factors, makes it sound like Damore thinks the natural ratio is at least pretty close to the current one. And that’s simply wrong.


How do you know it's wrong? If the ratio among CS graduates is 80-20 then it's natural it's still 80-20 when hiring at Google (not taking into account other factors which may tilt it even more in direction of men).

You may ask why it's 80-20 among CS graduates. One hypothesis is that women are just less interested in tech and in presence of many other choices they choose different paths. In the past there weren't as many choices that's why women were forced to go into programming (that's why there were more women in programming several decades ago).


> I deeply disagree with this approach. You're essentially saying that unless you can come up with an alternative scientific theory, complete with predictions, it's not possible to criticise an existing theory about the world.

That's a straw man. You're suggesting I disapprove of criticism, which is not so. I disapprove of demands for policy change when you don't even have a hypothesis for what your target should be.

Unless Damore (or someone else) can reasonably estimate whether their theory around 'biological' differences result in a natural 10/90 ratio or a natural 49.9/51.1 ratio then there isn't really a case to be made to change actual real-world HR policies on that basis.

Being able to reasonably estimate that 'natural' ratio is a massive task. You'd need to account for parenting, education, popular culture, socio-economic group, dozens of biasing factors. I'd expect that model to go well beyond what's possible.

Yes, that may impose a high hurdle on criticism of HR policy via this argument, but that's also the intellectual leap that Damore has claimed to have made from the evidence presented. How exactly he's managed that leap is problematic. He certainly hasn't demonstrated full knowledge of all of the factors involved.

> There's many plausible explanations why an absence of a 50:50 gender representation could be caused for reasons other than bias or average ability. That's enough to put a nail in that model of discovering bias. Coming up with a way of predicting what the right ratio is, isn't necessary to discard that metric.

Of course, and it's certain to be a combination of factors, some historical, some current that pushes representation away from 50:50. I don't think anyone is pretending that bias alone is responsible. But there's a mountain of direct evidence that bias is a significant problem. On the other hand the chasm between this biological source evidence and an actual hypothesised effect on representation is vast.


> Unless Damore (or someone else) can reasonably estimate whether their theory around 'biological' differences result in a natural 10/90 ratio or a natural 49.9/51.1 ratio then there isn't really a case to be made to change actual real-world HR policies on that basis.

I agree with your argument but fail to see how it allows you to defend a discriminating policy. It's the other way around: You can't discriminate people without evidence that what you are doing is reasonable. You're the sexist in this case.

You can't defend a discriminatory policy by saying you understand it's discriminatory but to keep it because no one can tell how much.

This line of reasoning is inconsistent unless you are only opposed to discrimination of some groups. In that case I think we sadly have to agree to disagree.


You're putting words in my mouth, rudely I might add. I don't have time to correct you, read my other posts or my blog post about it.


I'm sorry to hear you feel that way, that was not my intention. Could you explain when you find the time? I reread your posts and don't see where i am putting words in your mouth.

Do you agree with my argument apart from whether it applies to you or not?


> I'm sorry to hear you feel that way

I'm not a fan of the trend for sorry-you-feel-that-way apologies. On the other hand it's possible I let this seemingly-unending argument get to me and got defensive, thanks for not taking it badly. Suggest we move on. For reference (no need to explain) the trigger was "You're the sexist in this case" which I now assume was hypothetical rather than accusatory.

The words you're putting in my mouth is defence of specific policies. I'm not aware that I'm defending any specific policies.

One policy that's come up (not sure which thread, I've lost track and can't be bothered to reorient) is Google's policy (as I understand it) of ensuring 'diversity' candidates get considered, reducing the false negative rate. This was inaccurately described by Damore as lowering "the bar", which is quite inflammatory. That policy is designed to specifically redress two things; (a) decreased confidence in under-represented groups resulting in low numbers of applicants, and (b) unconscious bias in hiring processes resulting in fewer under-represented groups getting through.

While there are more elegant solutions (vested interest disclaimer here) this type of policy tries to address measurable issues and does not reduce quality of hires.

Perhaps it leaves fewer roles open for others, but ultimately you have to make a choice between Hire A benefitting from a diversity program or Hire B benefitting from hiring bias in their favour.

Is there a different policy you want to discuss?

More background on my post on this topic if you can be bothered: https://medium.com/finding-needles-in-haystacks/we-need-to-t...


You're right, I assumed you defend the type of policies I disagree with without clarifying whether that is the case - I'm sorry for doing that, you were right.

Regarding your reply: I agree with most of your reply and enjoyed reading your blog post. I feel I understand your position much better now and can see where you are coming from.

> Is there a different policy you want to discuss?

I'd like to clarify whether we agree or disagree on the original argument - hypothetically, regardless of any specific policy. I hope I don't misrepresent your views in the following.

In your blog post you seem to argue that feelings of unfairness by the over-represented group in response to positive discrimination are built on a misconception [1]. My original reply to you was in the same vein and I'd like to understand where exactly we disagree on that.

I believe discrimination based on group membership is not justifiable. The only way in which positive discrimination can be justified is therefore if its application does not actually cause discrimination but only corrects for existing discrimination.

As we don't know for sure yet how much of the representation gap can be attributed to discrimination, we should not use positive discrimination to correct for it as we potentially do more than correcting for it but actually discriminate.

Hypothetically, if the split would be 45/55 in a perfectly just world, aiming for 50/50 through positive discrimination would in practice discriminate and not just correct for discrimination.

Please note that I agree with the outcomes of positive discrimination until the effect of the original discrimination is canceled out - I just don't feel we can distinguish both cases and should not dismiss feelings of injustice in response to that as "built on a misconception".

[1]

> In any discussion of positive discrimination there’s a risk that the overrepresented group (usually white men) may feel threatened. Unsafe. People aren’t born aware of their comparative advantage or disadvantage, and sometimes never see it, so when other groups seem to be given a leg up it can feel unfair.

> Feelings of injustice may be built on a misconception, but they still exist and are natural


It was pointed out in this thread many times: one good way to approximate what the ratio should be at the point of hire is the ratio among CS graduates. It's 80-20 so it's natural it's also 80-20 among Google employees. If you force it to be say 70-30 then you are discriminating against men based on sex.


> It was pointed out in this thread many times: one good way to approximate what the ratio should be at the point of hire is the ratio among CS graduates.

While this sounds reasonable on the face of it the reality is different.

Where are you sourcing these graduates from? In the USA computer science departments are barely above 10% women faculty, in China it's closer to 40%. Student numbers tell a similar story... so it matters where your graduates are coming from. For a multinational like Google this is a real question.

> If you force it to be say 70-30 then you are discriminating against men based on sex.

This is a loaded statement, based on the assumpions that (a) hiring if left alone is broadly meritocratic and (b) quotas are the only game in town. There's enough evidence to say that neither of those assumptions is true.

First of all, it's been proven many times that bias in hiring is a real problem and has a large effect. Hiring is not meritocratic. Second, Google doesn't use quotas, no bar-lowering occurs (Damore hinted at this but gave no specifics and no evidence... we have to reasonably discount it unless someone can prove otherwise). Instead diversity programs mainly exist around sourcing and trying to avoid false negatives in order to counteract systemic biases.

(Disclaimer, I work in this field and have written on this topic before: https://medium.com/finding-needles-in-haystacks/we-need-to-t...)

[edited to remove some text from parent post accidentally left at the end]


> Damore then started making HR policy proposals. We use a 50/50 gender ratio as an indicator that a particular field is free from bias. It's one thing to propose that 50/50 is not the natural ratio to end up with, but until Damore can propose a model that predicts another number then proposing HR policy changes put the cart before the horse.

This seems to assume that the only way to measure or achieve equitable hiring is to measure the representation of identity groups across a given position and make sure it tracks their makeup in the general population. It's not clear to me that there aren't other acceptable methods of trying to make things equitable.

For example, you could check that applicants from different identity groups succeed in being hired at about the same rate. That's a practice that should direct an organization towards equitable results whether the reality is that women are underrepresented because of sexism in hiring or the reality is that women are represented in different proportion because of the endeavors they tend to prefer. And also for a reality that's a mix of both (which I suspect is the way of things).

Also: if the primary accepted standard becomes to match representation in a position with an identity's representation in the population, it seems pretty likely that over time it would become more difficult over time to predict a "natural" ratio.


Or just make the entirely hiring process completely gender and race blind by hiding the name and salient biographical details of the applicant.

This solves two problems: 1) the hiring process is blinded and 2) you can demonstrate to the whole world that it's blinded.

As a side bonus, you get to eliminate other implicit biases that are part of the hiring process, like people preferring people who act like them.


But you don't get to account for systematic bias, such as who has had opportunities and encouragement to even apply in the first place.


But practically speaking, the hiring process is not the right place to rectify those disparities.

Fix problems at the source, don't apply hack after hack to route around it.


Which source? Systematic problems have no current source; the causal graph is densely connected, so fixing those issues has to happen at all fronts.


I completely agree, which is precisely why I think believe the role of the employment process ought to be to screen everyone by fair (in a way that everyone agrees on) and transparent metrics. 'All fronts' hopefully means fixing every issue encountered simultaneously at the local level.

If instead we're adding a 'fudge factor' based on race, gender, or other measure of 'privilege', we're just hoping that fudge factor in hiring makes up for problems elsewhere, and it can paradoxically make things even worse.

Think about a lot of the (often very well justified) complaints that minority and other hires have with the current situation: they feel like, or they feel that other people believe, that they are simply a 'diversity hire' that doesn't deserve to be there. They feel constantly pressured to 'prove themselves' under the suspicion that the bar was 'lowered to let them in'. And the entire structure of un-blinded affirmative action exacerbates the situation, because nobody is allowed to know how big the fudge factors are, neither the minorities nor the dominant group. Under that situation, how can there anything but suspicion and mutual distrust?

Under a provably blinded hiring process, none of those should be an issue, because the process is completely transparent and agreed to ahead of time.

Other people have said this much more eloquently than me:

https://heterodoxacademy.org/2016/05/12/the-amazing-1969-pro...


'Fair & transparent' and 'blind' are two different things, and neither are subsets of each other.

A 'blind' hiring process _can_ be akin to, faced with a densely connected graph, focusing only on the most immediate causal relationships.

I do agree that 'fudge factor's are clumsy at best, where all candidates are hired, and then an arbitrary number is added to candidates based on race/gender/etc.

However, 'fudge factors' have already existed in history. For a completely different example outside of hiring practices: redlining[1] was an explicit practice of denying services/mortgages to city neighborhood based on its racial makeup.

So, what now? There have been decades of racist 'fudge-factoring' in real estate and urban development. Is the right approach to fudge-factor the other way? Or is it to be 'blind' and to look purely at the financials of each individual/organization?

Obviously this is a different scenario than hiring, and cannot necessarily be directly applied back onto hiring practices. However, we can separate out a) one way to correct for historical/systematic 'fudge factors' from b) whether or not this can apply to hiring.

I would argue that yes, you need fudge factors to correct previous problems.

It should be fair and transparent, I agree, but it will not be very clear-cut. In complex systems (densely connected graphs of causality), the only clear-cut processes are creating problems, or ignoring them. Fixing complex problems are always messy.

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


> 'Fair & transparent' and 'blind' are two different things, and neither are subsets of each other.

This is true if you consider a single subject, but no longer true if you consider different stakeholders and their needs separately.

(Disclaimer, this describes part of a service we provide)

Specific to your point, in a hiring system modelled like ours:

* Employees assessing a particular hire can operate blind (or near-blind in the case of interviews).

* Hiring managers can have access to identifying information (but by default just see aggregated scoring data).

* D&I managers can see aggregated demographic stats.

* Candidates see their own data & scoring info


As many people have pointed out before, making the hiring process blind doesn't do what you seem to think it'll do. There was a famous study (can't find it right this second on mobile) where researchers found that the ratio of black hires to white hires decreased when their resumes were submitted with all identifying information scrubbed.


The results of studies like this depend strongly on the context... both the method used, and the existing hiring environment you're comparing to.

We've run a similar study and for the company we were hiring into we found blinding in that specific case had no effect on race or gender but drastically improved socio-economic diversity. The hiring company already had equitable hiring on gender & the candidate group wasn't racially diverse enough to make a conclusion.

Would I generalise that result to all organisations? No way, and neither should you.

If you can find the study you're thinking of I'd be interested to look at it.


Well, orchestras introduced blinded auditions in the 1970s, when there very few women, and now women are the majority in most orchestras.

So why do you think there is such a disparity in outcome?


I don't know the answer but if I cared to guess, it might be because the talent pool for orchestra performers had significantly more gender parity than the talent pool competing for elite engineering jobs at Google.

Edit: Google says that their diversity platform is non-discriminatory because they're not changing their standards, but rather looking harder for qualified diversity candidates (paraphrasing). This makes the gargantuan and probably unwarranted assumption that there are a lot of these candidates not applying and that 'looking harder' will find them.


Maybe there is pressure to hire from minority groups then. It makes sense that minority candidates are on average less qualified objectively if there is an affirmative action earlier in the process (for example at school admission level).


Google's hiring rate between men and women does seem to match the relative rates that men and women graduate with CS degrees, which suggests that they're at least not discriminating at that level.

There are still arguments to be made that either more aggressively recruiting women (fattening their pipeline, even if it's zero-sum versus other players in the field) or accepting a higher rate (yes, "lowering the bar", which most colleges do quite aggressively and people seem mostly okay with) could be positive moves on many axes.

More productive overall measures involve equalizing the educational pipeline, which IMO is the real solution. Google invests heavily in that, too, though, so I'm pretty happy with their multi-pronged approach.


Damore presented evidence to support his claim that women are on average less able than men in areas relevant to engineering.

He didn't. He just claimed that they are on average less interested in those areas. There is no mention at all of ability in the memo, only in the manipulated press pieces.


He did:

> I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.


He did not state that women had a harder time leading than men? That seems like a mention of ability.


Google apparently already had a women-only program that was predicated on the assumption that women have a harder time leading than men. So it doesn't seem like Damore's claim was particularly unusual within Google.


My comment was to refute the statement that Damore never mentioned ability in his memo.


"but this memo was a mistake and showed poor judgement and more than a little bias"

"openness" and "freedom" are core values of Google. Even in a scenario where someone made effective arguments refuting all of James' key points, a "one strike and you're out" policy seems antithetical to Google's culture. Or any healthy culture for that matter.

If James wrote what you said he did above (I think you mischaracterize him greatly), and if his ideas are as poorly constructed as you suggest they are, surely Google employs someone intelligent enough to go point by point through his memo and really school him. Such a response would do more to build a case for the worldview you appear to espouse than the lazy, generalized retorts being lobbed his way.


> If James wrote what you said he did above, (I think you mischaracterize him greatly)...

By all means ignore the part relating to honesty/competence, I'd probably apologise to him for that if I met him so probably shouldn't have written it.

Most of my comments however speak to his actions so are not a matter of characterisation.

> ...surely Google employs someone intelligent enough to go point by point through his memo and really school him

They do. They have. However, Damore violated Google's code of conduct and by extension his conditions of employment. That's not a line any employer of thousands can play coy with in the name of educating one individual.

> Such a response would do more to build a case for the worldview you appear to espouse than the lazy, generalized retorts being lobbed his way.

Who's mischaracterising now?

Sorry boss, you haven't read the right responses. I link to some better ones from mine: https://medium.com/finding-needles-in-haystacks/we-need-to-t...


Yes you can walk away but no you can't say "you're {{}}phobe and then walk away.

Take my example. I have not read the memo. I shouldn't say the memo is unscientific and homophobic because I have no clue what it says.


> You can, and some people have, and that's okay.

Ok, no one owes anyone a debate, unless you're going to call it wrong, sexist, harmful, etc. Then in that case, I'd like some reasoning behind it. Either don't debate, or do and do it right.

> women are on average less able

Please don't do this. What he claimed was that women have less inclination to go into tech due to various pressures, some biological. If you're referring to his referencing the 'big five' personality traits, you'll note that he addresses both positively and negatively associated traits of both men and women in regards to working with software. He never stated that the combination of differences makes one gender better than the other.

>until Damore can propose a model that predicts another number

Why? All he did was put forth evidence and suggest that 50/50 might not be ideal, why must another number be presented in order to have a discussion on the subject? Speculation on my part, but is it because it's an easier target to shoot down if you can point to an exact number and claim it's wrong for your own variety of reasons?

Obviously, policy changes are going to be a goal if Damore's evidence is proved right (Policy is at the root of the problem according to Damore). Why are you presenting them like two separate things? You're not even considering the fact that the evidence might support his conclusions.

>diversity as a whole(race not just gender)

Because whenever diversity is discussed, it is almost done so as a whole. Obviously Damore wanted to focus on gender, but diversity initiatives virtually always include both. It would seem awkward to avoid race entirely. And he never made any claims on just race, go to the memo and ctrl-f "race". Every time it appears, it's accompanied by "and/or gender". In several of these cases, it's because a study he's citing mentions both. I would call that being thorough, not intellectually dishonest.

>These studies may be good science, but stringing them together to confirm a conclusion you'd already set your sights in making is bad science.

You can make this claim about any paper that claims something not trivially arguable from scientific studies. To say this, you have to go through piecewise and show why the connections he's making from solid scientific studies don't apply to his arguments.


> Ok, no one owes anyone a debate, unless... I'd like...

This is still just about what you'd like to happen. The rest of that argument is circular.

> Please don't do this. What he claimed was that women have less inclination...

Damore specifically mentions "abilities" although others have debated his exact intention in that line. I don't see value in reopening that.

Regardless, what you're missing is that interest, ability and environment are far from mutually exclusive traits. See my other comment here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15026234

> Why? All he did was put forth evidence and suggest that 50/50 might not be ideal...

Because Damore went as far as policy changes. To make an HR policy you need objectives, or at least direction... to know whether you should be aiming for a 49:51 gender ratio or a 10:90 gender ratio. If there's no proposed effect size how does Google's HR team know if they're heading in the right direction?

Some people may not want employers like Google to get into 'social engineering' as Damore puts it, but the reality is that there's a mountain of evidence that hiring bias has a large effect, so the idea that a company like Google wouldn't try to measure and optimise in that area is clearly not going to fly.


Having unconscious bias or otherwise being incorrect doesn't make you intellectually dishonest. Whether or not his claims are true, Damore presented a much more metered and reasonable argument than virtually all of his detractors or even published social pundits.


> Having unconscious bias or otherwise being incorrect doesn't make you intellectually dishonest.

If you purport to be a (competent) scientist in the 21st century then personally I expected you to be highly aware of biases such as publication bias & confirmation bias and act accordingly. That speaks either to his discipline/understanding or his honesty, I don't know which.

> Whether or not his claims are true, Damore presented a much more metered and reasonable argument than virtually all of his detractors or even published social pundits.

Damore was metered, but understandably triggered a threat response in the people who his memo targeted as being below "the bar".

You may have read a selection of counter-arguments, some of which will be less "metered and reasonable" than his. Unfortunately the emotional tenor of an argument is not the measure of its merit.


>That speaks either to his discipline/understanding or his honesty, I don't know which.

You're holding him to an unbelievably high standard that is never applied to those making the case that gender disparities are due to societal discrimination.

I can't imagine you're being driven to apply this standard to him by anything other than a preconceived notion that women are underrepresented in engineering due to sexism and that anyone that disagrees is a misogynist.

>Damore was metered, but understandably triggered a threat response in the people who his memo targeted as being below "the bar".

Damore did not target anyone as below the bar. He made a statistical observation about the distribution of personality types among gender groups and how that would play out in gender representation in various occupations, to counter the discrimination-as-cause-of-disparity narrative. No individual was cast as below the bar due to their gender. The threat response was immature.


> You're holding him to an unbelievably high standard that is never applied to those making the case that gender disparities are due to societal discrimination.

No, this is wrong. Societal discrimination is directly measurable at the point of hiring. There are a mountain of studies measuring this. It simply doesn't require modelling the effect as it propagates through society.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, nobody is claiming that bias is the only factor involved, but it's one we can measure and act on.

> Damore did not target anyone as below the bar... The threat response was immature

Aside from explicitly saying "lowers the bar", explicitly saying "I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes" and making multiple references to lower drive, mathematical ability, etc. Please.

As you know, threat responses aren't driven by 'maturity' they're driven by percieved threat. Damore's clumsy language caused people at Google to be afraid, and justifiably so. He may have intended to spark a dialog but his words are confrontational. Don't confront people on this topic because you'll often get a fight/flight response. Instead you must engage and build trust.


As I understand it, the data about discrimination in hiring are mixed, but I'm interested in learning more.

Your threat response point seems like dressing up a group's overreaction to make it justifiable. It's also another example of different standards being applied to liberal groups vs conservatives groups (offending conservative groups is basically a sacrament, but saying anything that can be remotely twisted into an offensive statement toward a liberal group is nearly criminal). I've never seen anyone make any sort of threat-response/justifiable-offense argument when conservatives are upset about, say, "blasphemy day" or just the constant misrepresentation in the media. In particular though, there's nothing which should remotely cause offense, even in the selection of quotes you shared (but good on you for quoting and not taking offense at strawman--very few of Damore's critics have been so kind). Damore's arguments (however factual) were better than I could make, but it's ridiculous that the criticism is that he didn't successfully prevent everyone from taking offense. He couldn't have done more to prevent offense without damaging his own case. I think this is another case of the left refusing to be pacified by anything less than complete political capitulation. Meanwhile any sort of expression from liberal groups, even defamation or riots, are defended, and any one who criticizes them have impossible standards. The double standards here should be unbelievable.


> As I understand it, the data about discrimination in hiring are mixed, but I'm interested in learning more.

Great, do that.

> Your threat response point seems like dressing up a group's overreaction to make it justifiable.

Your overreaction point seems like dressing up a group's threat response to make it seem unreasonable.

There are threat responses and irrational behaviour on both sides (whichever side you naturally agree with) and failing to recognise that means that you're not empowering yourself to engage with this topic on any useful level.

I wrote about threat response in my post on this: https://medium.com/finding-needles-in-haystacks/we-need-to-t...


> Great, do that.

I plan on it.

> Your overreaction point seems like dressing up a group's threat response to make it seem unreasonable.

I think it is unreasonable. Damore took every precaution to avoid offense without changing his position. Perhaps more importantly, we go so far as to censor someone who makes any statement that can possibly be spun as a criticism of women, yet we permit and even encourage all manner of absurd, anti-male speech.

> There are threat responses and irrational behaviour on both sides (whichever side you naturally agree with) and failing to recognise that means that you're not empowering yourself to engage with this topic on any useful level.

First of all, I'd like not to use "threat-response" as a synonym for "taking offense", because the former could be easily conflated with an actual threat (damage to person or property vs damage to hubris). That said, Damore went to every conceivable length to avoid causing offense; I think you and his other critics are effectively asking him not to criticize at all. Not speaking about a sensitive topic at all is hardly empowering oneself to "engage this topic on any useful level".

I think it's also worth pointing out that the left has nurtured a culture in which some groups are encouraged to take offense, and this is used to silence and shame other groups. I think that's what's happening here--a lot of people have been relentlessly fed propaganda about privilege and patriarchy and oppression have been trained to see it everywhere. I think this is a better explanation for the events that transpired than "Damore is evil/insensitive/etc".


> Damore took every precaution to avoid offense without changing his position

Perhaps every precaution within his ability. Unfortunately he made plenty of provocative mistakes. I highlighted some in the Medium post I linked to.

> First of all, I'd like not to use "threat-response" as a synonym for "taking offense"...

If you think that's what I'm doing then you're mistaken. I'm talking about stress hormones, cortisol, fight or flight.

There are probably better [primary] sources, but Tania Singer & her team at the MPI in Leipzig do a lot of work with stress responses caused by things other than "damage to person or property".

When you use the language that Damore used, in a confrontational way as opposed to a collaborative way, that reaction can be the result. Threat responses are caused by threats, including threats to identity groups, or to future prosperity (something that significantly affects the life chances of any offspring).

Whether you consider it "unreasonable" or not is irrelevant. My advice is to approach the debate in a collaborative way, instead of being confrontational like Damore, and you'll more likely avoid that outcome.


Maybe being a world class communicator could have helped Damore avoid some of the ire, but it's plainly wrong to attribute this drama to him instead of the reactionaries who were so giddy at the opportunity to take offense that they needed to invent content and context to be outraged about. Seems like blaming the woman in the full burqa for being raped--if only she had better covered herself, she might not have caused this response in her rapist.

Damore did everything right here. Whatever you think, his post was collaborative, not confrontational (he remained focused on what Google could do to improve, repeatedly affirmed his commitment to the common goal, etc).


> Maybe being a world class communicator could have helped Damore avoid some of the ire...

So, women are a portion of society who've spent hundreds of years fighting for equal treatment, a portion of society who weren't allowed credit cards until the 1970s, who have been told their brains were too small for serious things like voting... a portion of society who still face discrimination today (although today it's usually more nuanced and less overt). Damore said openly that Google were lowering the bar to let them in and amplified ideas that make it harder for the women (and other 'diversity' hires) already in Google, and you're surprised people got cross. Really? That surprises you?

Damore did the equivalent of walking into Jerusalem, picking a side, then immediately spouting policy changes he wanted to see... then acting all hurt when he got punched in the face and kicked out of Israel for causing trouble.

This isn't about being a world-class communicator, this is about an adequate communicator for the problem he was trying to solve.

How would you react if I told you your views were biased and extreme? Even if I think they are, telling you that in the introduction of my memo (like Damore did) is not going to get the reaction I want.

> ...but it's plainly wrong to attribute this drama to him instead of the reactionaries who were so giddy at the opportunity to take offense that they needed to invent content and context to be outraged about.

Not so plain as you think.

A scientific approach to determining the 'natural' gender balance would require a lot more 'biological' data and be able to combine it in a model with cultural factors and understanding of biases. Damore does not have that evidence, and doesn't indicate that he understands it.

A model like that would need to be able to predict why womens participation in computing dropped in the 80s. It would be able to explain why women are only 10% of computer science faculty in the USA, but 40% in China.

Without that model, leaping to conclusions about how many women to expect in a company like Google is bad science, and making HR policy changes on the back of this would be bad management.

No such model exists, but Damore leapt past that stage and in doing so abandoned any hope of scientific support.

He used inflammatory terms like lowering the "bar", accused Google of bias and fostering extreme views, talking about womens biological interests and abilities, and spoke in absolutist language rather than collaborative language.

Damore wanted to effectively reduce the number of women in the workplace, that's a threat. And he used inflammatory language while doing it, so the threat was as clear as day. I find it amazing that you're surprised by the reaction.

> Seems like blaming the woman in the full burqa for being raped--if only she had better covered herself, she might not have caused this response in her rapist.

I'm not going to respond to that, but I consider that comment both inaccurate and inappropriate.


> Damore said openly that Google were lowering the bar to let them in and amplified ideas that make it harder for the women (and other 'diversity' hires) already in Google, and you're surprised people got cross. Really? That surprises you?

So you agree it was the content and not the presentation? At any rate, Damore didn't say that Google lowered the bar, he said that diversity policies can devolve into that, but some people are addicted to outrage and will hear what they want.

> Damore did the equivalent of walking into Jerusalem, picking a side, then immediately spouting policy changes he wanted to see... then acting all hurt when he got punched in the face and kicked out of Israel for causing trouble.

No, Damore worked at Google; his everyday life is affected by Google's policies and rhetoric and general ideological-bubble-ness. He didn't "walk in and start espousing policies". It's also worth noting that he posted in response to a request for opinions on a skeptics message board; he didn't shout it from a mountain. Your analogy is completely divorced from reality.

> This isn't about being a world-class communicator, this is about an adequate communicator for the problem he was trying to solve.

This still sounds like victim blaming. Maybe we shouldn't be critiquing the guy who pointed out a few injustices and maybe we should look at the people who feigned outrage to silence him.

> Without that model, leaping to conclusions about how many women to expect in a company like Google is bad science, and making HR policy changes on the back of this would be bad management.

Yes, but he wasn't "doing science", he was posting on a message board. Besides, his point isn't "Here's a model that explains the disparity"; it's "the current model--discrimination hypothesis--has inconsistencies". Finally, being wrong (even about a contentious topic) doesn't merit public damnation, slander, excommunication, etc. That his model is incomplete is a red herring; he wasn't at fault, Google, Gizmodo, and the hoard of slanderous SJWs here and across the Internet are at fault.

> He used inflammatory terms like lowering the "bar", accused Google of bias and fostering extreme views, talking about womens biological interests and abilities, and spoke in absolutist language rather than collaborative language.

Sorry, none of this remotely merits the response he received. In fact, if anyone else spoke in this manner about any other topic, it would be a significant improvement. If the discrimination-theory folks were held to this standard, it would be a massive improvement. I'm not going to punch a guy for being in the 98th percentile of communicators instead of the 99th, especially when his critics and opponents are largely shouting lies and profanity.

> I'm not going to respond to that, but I consider that comment both inaccurate and inappropriate.

That's fine, but that's basically what's happening here. Damore went far above and beyond what was reasonable, and you're blaming him for not doing more. This is inappropriate.


> So you agree it was the content and not the presentation?

No... I don't agree.

Both Damore's content and the way it was communicated contain serious flaws. The content contained conclusions unsupported by evidence, and the communication (amongst other problems) contained pointlessly divisive and inflammatory comments that he really didn't need to make to address his concerns.

> At any rate, Damore didn't say that Google lowered the bar, he said that diversity policies can devolve into that, but some people are addicted to outrage and will hear what they want.

Oh please. Damore literally used those exact words.

He said Google policies "effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate".

The most generous interpretation of that statement is that a greater percentage of candidates from under-represented demographics are hired, but that bends the word "bar" to mean something other than its actual meaning... i.e. turns an otherwise weak point into inflammatory rhetoric.

> ... the people who feigned outrage to silence him.

I'm curious. So you think a large group of people is pretending to be outraged about something they're not actually outraged about? Does this behaviour require coordination or happen naturally? If it's coordinated, where is the evidence of collusion, is there an email list? If this collective outrage-feigning happens naturally then under what other human circumstances do humans exhibit this group mock-outrage behaviour, other than when the 'right' complaints about the 'left'? How do you know this outrage is "feigned" and not real?

Why should I believe this is more than just partisan bias on your part? Outgroup biases are well documented, after all, and your use of 'SJW' seem to put you in or near one of the right/alt-right/gamergate/white-supramacist camps, no idea which.

> Sorry, none of this remotely merits the response he received.

What do you mean by the response he received?

If you mean the loss of his job... then in no other context would someone be able to retain their job after undermining so many of their own colleagues or causing so many negative news headlines for their company... let alone both.

If you mean something else then I don't feel a need to be part of that discussion.


Yeah, the outrage is fake or they wouldn't have to invent statements he didn't make. Fake outrage is pervasive among progressives. It mostly spreads as ideology. It seems to be attractive to exaggerate one's hardships to amplify the perceptions of one's accomplishments while diminishing the accomplishments of those you hate.

Regarding the response received, I was talking about the firing and public flogging. And Google created the headlines for firing him so questionably.


[flagged]


The public flogging bit was figurative. You're mistaken about my claims, but since you're resorting to ad hominems, I feel pretty good about my case. I think you're more determined to have an unproductive conversation than I am to salvage it, so I'll let you have the last word, but I won't stick around to read it.


> You're mistaken about my claims, but since you're resorting to ad hominems

At no point have I "resorted to ad hominems", nor do I see anything that could have been misunderstood that way.

Perhaps you're referring to when I asked you to differentiate your position from partisan mud-slinging?

Note that I made that request after you'd written a diatribe about how the left manufactures feigned offence to silence its critics. And now you're upset that I'm using ad hominem attacks?

Fascinating.

> I feel pretty good about my case

You haven't made a case. A case involves making a point and then supporting it using evidence, which at no point have you done. Instead you've argued using rhetoric and unsubstantiated claims, which is a very different thing.


> If you purport to be a (competent) scientist in the 21st century then personally I expected you to be highly aware of biases such as publication bias & confirmation bias and act accordingly. That speaks either to his discipline/understanding or his honesty, I don't know which.

I've never been on a discussion board where this was the norm. More importantly, and to repeat my earlier point, this isn't even the norm for well-regarded, published content on the subject. It appears the standards are very high for dissenting opinions.

> You may have read a selection of counter-arguments, some of which will be less "metered and reasonable" than his. Unfortunately the emotional tenor of an argument is not the measure of its merit.

Maybe, but given that Damore's memo is largely criticized for causing offense (despite doing more than what is reasonable to avoid it), it certainly seems pertinent that other points of view aren't held to the same scrutiny.

> Damore was metered, but understandably triggered a threat response in the people who his memo targeted as being below "the bar".

Probably, but he did a much better job of mitigating it than I could have, and we never, ever hold liberal viewpoints to this standard. In particular, it's positively mainstream to publish absolutely brutal criticisms of men; we don't even feign sensitivity.


You may well have a point that people too readily make scathing assessments of 'men' as a group.

Bad Thing A doesn't justify Bad Thing B though, does it.

As for the high burden of proof, I invite you to suggest a model that estimates the effect size we should observe in gender representation in tech companies based on Damore's 'biological' differences


>Bad Thing A doesn't justify Bad Thing B though, does it.

No, but I don't think stating an observation about a group as politely as possible is a bad thing. It's not like saying "women may be less interested in tech" or "diversity quotas can lead to bar-lowering" are even unflattering or absolute observations. We just live in a culture of professional victims who are ever-primed to take offense at anything. The moral thing isn't to critique Damore's communication--better communication wouldn't have helped; only capitulation. The moral thing to do is to oppose the victimhood culture.

> As for the high burden of proof, I invite you to suggest a model that estimates the effect size we should observe in gender representation in tech companies based on Damore's 'biological' differences

I don't have that model, and I never claimed to. Moreover, no one needs a model to point out inconsistencies in the current model, especially inconsistencies which are mutually harmful.


> I don't have that model...

No. Nobody else does either.


Scott Alexander has a pretty good one in the link referenced in the post. But why spend time investigating when challenging the discrimination hypothesis can cost you your job, reputation, etc.


> Scott Alexander has a pretty good one in the link referenced in the post.

I must have missed where he proposes a model. By all means point that out. Specifically one that can predict how many women should work at Google in California, and in Boulder, and in New York, and in London, and in Mumbai... year by year.

> *But why spend time investigating when challenging the discrimination hypothesis can cost you your job, reputation, etc.

Challenging a hypothesis didn't cost Damore his job. Undermining his own colleagues by promoting negative stereotypes cost Damore his job. That was totally unnecessary to his argument... he could have just based it on CS graduate numbers and left the 'biology' out of it.


>Damore presented evidence to support his claim that women are on average less able than men in areas relevant to engineering.

His claim was that women are statistically less likely to be interested in computer science. He said nothing about ability.

>It's one thing to propose that 50/50 is not the natural ratio to end up with, but until Damore can propose a model that predicts another number then proposing HR policy changes put the cart before the horse.

He gave lots of numbers. 20% is about the percentage of female computer science graduates. Targeting anything above that would necessarily require discriminating against men.

>Damore's proposals discuss diversity as a whole (race not just gender) without a single word of justification

I don't see any mention of race in the memo. When Damore is talking about "diversity" he always is talking about gender diversity.

>>He didn't discuss veracity, or contradictory evidence. That's textbook confirmation bias, not intellectual honesty.

>This indicates that the policy changes are what James in interested in, not the evidence. More confirmation bias.

>it's certainly not intellectual honesty...

>stringing them together to confirm a conclusion you'd already set your sights in making is bad science.

I've been asked to edit my comment to make it less argumentative. Could you do the same for yours? Calling someone you disagree with "intellectually dishonest", etc, is not good taste.

It's very easy to learn about biases like confirmation bias, and fall into the trap of only applying that knowledge to other people. "He only disagrees with me because of confirmation bias. He's just intellectually dishonest."

You can't possibly know the thought process behind another person. As far as we know Damore did the research and found these facts convincing and developed his view. Not the other way around. Or at least someone presented these facts to him and then he developed the view he has.

In any case, this is how all debates work. People present evidence for their beliefs and the other side responds with refutations and evidence for theirs. There is nothing wrong or intellectually dishonest about this.


> I don't see any mention of race in the memo

The memo is mostly about women, but race is mentioned several times in the memo - mostly in terms of training programs at Google that are only open to people of certain races.


The memo stated that women have a harder time leading than men. How is that not saying something about ability?


Your comments have been crossing into incivility and flamewar. Would you please make a u-turn and fix that? These threads are divisive enough without careless commenting.


I don't think my original comment was very uncivl. But I edited it to be less confrontational. Please tell me if that is not enough.


Tons better and much appreciated, thanks! The only remaining bit I see is "Did you even read the memo" (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15023485) which is a common-enough insult to have its own HN guideline (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html).


Fixed.


This exchange is likely to get lost in the noise, but I just want to tell both of you how much I appreciate your willingness to give and receive this kind of feedback. It is so hard to get messaging just right when text is your only medium. This kind of back and forth makes it easier to focus on what we mean rather than what was perceived.


> His claim was that women are statistically less likely to be interested in computer science. He said nothing about ability.

Sorry, you're mistaken here. (1) Damore said "I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes". (2) Damore made references to women being less able to cope with leadership positions due to anxiety (3) Studies show ability, interest, motivation and external environment are not mutually exclusive independent things like you might think. Read some of Carol Dweck's research on this for more.

> He gave lots of numbers. 20% is about the percentage of female computer science graduates. Targeting anything above that would necessarily require discriminating against men.

'in the USA' is missing from your sentence.

In China, 40% of faculty are women, and graduate numbers are similar. The largest democracy in the world, India, also has a similar story, close to 50% of graduates.

Google hires across the world, not just in the USA.

> I don't see any mention of race in the memo. When Damore is talking about "diversity" he always is talking about gender diversity.

It's there, look again. And you don't get the unique right to interpret the true meaning behind Damore's words. He specifically references race-related hiring policies as unfair off the back of a discussion about gender.

> I've been asked to edit my comment to make it less argumentative. Could you do the same for yours? Calling someone you disagree with "intellectually dishonest", etc, is not good taste.

I consider my comment pretty factual. Intellectual honesty has a specific meaning; the 'intellectual' isn't just there as filling. It's a method of problem solving that among other things explicitly disconnects your personal beliefs from the pursuit of the facts. I was explaining that Damore's actions were not consistent with intellectual honesty, as implied by the commenter I replied to.

Damore leapt over a vast chasm to get from 'biological' differences to HR policy. He could be right about every single thing in his memo and it still wouldn't be intellectually honest because the evidence provided doesn't explain the observable facts.

Why did representation of women in computing drop suddenly in the 1980s? Why does the USA have 20% (and falling) women CS graduates and India have closer to 50%? Why are 10% of US CS faculty women and in China 40% CS faculty are women? Why do girls interested in computers during childhood suddenly drop their interest?

It ultimately doesn't matter what his thought process is, perhaps I should have left that aspect out. Until Damore can answer those kinds of questions, leaping straight to HR policy is intellectual dishonesty. Unless I'm missing something that's an indisputable fact.

...and we haven't even opened the Pandora's Box that is less biased hiring techniques, but perhaps that's for another time.

[Edit: missed a bit:]

> In any case, this is how all debates work. People present evidence for their beliefs and the other side responds with refutations and evidence for theirs. There is nothing wrong or intellectually dishonest about this.

This is how debates work on topics that aren't emotive. In this case, Damore promoted stereotypes of lower ability (yes, ability), and explicitly claimed that Google is lowering the "bar" to allow diversity candidates in.

That effectively tells his colleagues hired through those programs that they don't deserve to be there, and that he wants fewer people like them hired in future.

That's never going to happen like a discussion of whether the button should be #4285F4 or #3285F4. It's a threat to peoples future prosperity, and the prosperity of their familes, daughters, etc. That conversation requires empathy and trust. Instead, Damore came out guns blazing, with accusations of bias and extremism. He triggered a threat a response.

Nothing he's done makes him inherently a bad person, he had some mistaken views and was clumsy about engaging, but he made a big mistake and left no alternative for this to be a disciplinary matter. I hope he learned this lesson, but given his engagement with MRAs and his new "Fired for Truth" branding I suspect he hasn't.


> commonly it's implied that "if you walk away from the debate therefore you are wrong", which is fallacious. Nobody owes you a debate.

You might be wrong, you might be right, either way that does mean forfeiting the debate. It's like folding in poker -- yeah, you might have great cards, but you folded, and nobody owes you any of the money on the table.

> Then the initial argument needs to start from a place of "intellectual honesty".

Uhm, no. Might as well say assuming a 50/50 ratio to be free of bias is not intellectually honest, so "they started it". And then those could in turn point to someone else, and so on.


> ...you might have great cards, but you folded, and nobody owes you any of the money on the table.

No. Damore had to win. His opponents just had to not lose.

Google has invested massive resources and thought into their hiring process. The debate for change was started clumsily. Damore triggered a threat response that caused a good portion of one side to walk away from the debate, but he was pushed out too.

So the status quo persists.


His opponents have egg on their faces, and they just keep spreading it around more. Like that cartoon dog reading sitting in a burning house saying "this is fine". That's what I see. They painted themselves into a corner they're now too cowardly to get out of, and other cowards is all they now have. Damore on the other hand is still a bright young (and cute) guy with his integrity intact.


>What he said had at least some spark of originality and insight, otherwise it wouldn't have gotten nearly the attention it did.

I actually don't think the public response suggests insight or originality on his part. I would attribute much more of that to the social context.


You may be right, but my point was the ideas he brought up merited discussion. The social timing of it may be what caused it to blow up so much (that and the misrepresentation by Gizmodo), but at least personally, I had not heard the argument made before in a way that allowed it to be discussed as widely as it is.


As some one who took a sociology 101 class in junior college... nothing in his memo is original/new/insightful. This is a classic nature vs nurture argument.


Just because someone makes points that have some relationship to facts doesn't mean they can't still be held responsible for disparaging things you say. Imagine if he had written a 10 page paper about how they shouldn't hire so many fat people because they cost more in health insurance, with all sorts of facts and numbers to back up his claim.

Or if he wrote it about short people, that they, on average, were worse coders. I am sure you could find some semi-reasonable sounding studies showing some correlation between height and some definition of success.


The argument is though that what Google is doing is hiring disproportionately from a smaller group of candidates. The argument would apply as well if they "looked for more fat candidates without lowering the bar" or "looked for more short people without lowering the bar". Those statements describe discrimination of people who don't belong to pointed group.

The argument in the memo is: hire on equal standards and if that results in less women than men then it's caused by X and here is what you can do about X instead of discriminating at the point of hire.


Could not have agreed more. I do not think they should have fired him because it further validates one of the points he made about "being on the right side" (I am talking about the statement at the beginning that all women seem to agree with, do not have the exact quote on me atm.)


> What he said had at least some spark of originality and insight, otherwise it wouldn't have gotten nearly the attention it did.

The memo is being discussed so much because it is controversial, which does not require originality, nor is it necessarily insightful. It shows the perspective of someone in an exclusive position which I believe adds (considerably) to the reasons it's being discussed, but to make the conclusion that it's being talked about because it adds to the discussion is incorrect.


>Those who disagreed with Damore already won the battle.

It's about the attitude. As a woman in Tech, there are so many men you don't feel like you belong. Men think you are really not very feminine anyway, you are a geek who likes programming. With memos like this more young women are going to rethink a career where they will feel alone and may have their biological identity questioned if they are successful


> Those who disagreed with Damore already won the battle.

No. Not yet. women still tend to be underpaid. Women make 72 cents to a male's $1 of wages for the same job.

As a white male, I don't care to "discuss" if women are my intellectual inferiors - which is exactly the point Damore was making ... and the point that YOU are making.


"According to data for 8.7m employees worldwide gathered by Korn Ferry, a consultancy, women in Britain make just 1% less than men who have the same function and level at the same employer. In most European countries, the discrepancy is similarly small.

These numbers do not show that the labour market is free of sex discrimination. However, they do suggest that the main problem today is not unequal pay for equal work, but whatever it is that leads women to be in lower-ranking jobs at lower-paying organisations."

https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/08/daily-...


Would you please not cross into incivility when commenting here? Plenty of people are arguing the same views as you without doing that, while you've been doing it pretty regularly.

If you'd correct this, we'd appreciate it, because these discussions are hard enough to keep substantive without people taking swipes at each other.


And yet you parade largely debunked factoids as supporting evidence:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/04/...


Isn't the onus on Damore to put forth supported arguments? He made a lot of claims that were completely unsupported.

The worst offense though was that a lot of the assertions were completely disconnected from supporting the original claim that Google's diversity efforts were misguided. In order to have an honest intellectual discussion, first there would have had to have been an honest effort at putting together a coherent argument with such controversial/incendiary points/implications made. Damore failed that miserably.


Why would this mean anyone already working in the field needs to bring any burden to the table in terms of defending themselves? The subject was centered around the probability that some recruiting assumptions may be wrong, and that there may be better approaches to recruiting or improving the situation in general.

Women that work in the field should definitely be respected as much as anyone else. They should be free of sexual harassment, and mistreatment. On the flip side, if only 20% of graduating classes in targeted STEM fields are women, and women represent a disproportionate amount of college students... then maybe the issue is broader than the affect of men on the field at that level.

I think part of it may be natural inclination... another is probably the role of movies and media. The latter likely a much bigger role on the impressions of the work and the likely types to fulfill those roles.

--- Edit:

Big example Daisy/Quake from Agents of Shield... started off as a badass hacker, best of the best... as the show moved on, the role was relegated to brawler, and the impact of intellect or technical ability was largely sidestepped, or made secondary and less.

Media portrayals of technical professionals all around are usually very unbalanced... and that doesn't even begin to go into the other fields that are disproportionately male or female, or the hindrance of men in higher education.


> Why would this mean anyone already working in the field needs to bring any burden to the table in terms of defending themselves? The subject was centered around the probability that some recruiting assumptions may be wrong, and that there may be better approaches to recruiting or improving the situation in general.

Assuming you're asking in good faith: because of the idea that diversity hiring effectively lowered the hiring bar.

Imagine for a second you have imposter syndrome. Now imagine that you've been told (not necessarily by Damore) that you're the (not quoting you here) "diversity hire". Imagine how much worse that imposter syndrome now is.


I suffer from imposter syndrome all the time... but that's on me, not someone else. If you hire someone because of diversity alone over someone with a higher level of merit, then that was wrong. Also, telling someone that they were hired for diversity reasons alone is probably a bad move as well.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't try to get more women into tech, or into trash collection, or construction, or every other male dominated occupation, or men as nurses, etc... however, that doesn't mean having to change the rules for men or women. And pointing out that there are differences between men and women shouldn't instantly start of with a storm of hate.

"the average woman is shorter than the average man" ... "typical misogynistic cis white male patriarchal bullshit" ...

I'm not saying that everyone is volatile and prone to fits of excessive rage in response, but it really feels like there's no place for civil discussion or discourse with a growing portion of the population.


You know you are being completely hypocritical, right ?

You abhor discrimination during hiring. But yet you want to be able to discuss the differences between men and women in order to use them to discriminate.


When did I say that I want to be able to use differences between men and women to discriminate?

I said that hiring on diversity over merit was wrong. That's it... I never said anything about sex in terms of merit. The only place any discussion of sex or diversity belongs is in terms of messaging and in terms of possibly promoting jobs that are disproportionate to natural propensity towards a given role.

If you can't discuss, review, document, test or otherwise examine bias in terms of nature, environment, upbringing, educational exposure and other factors, then you can't force equilibrium at the end of a long process.

You can't hire 50% women in an industry, where only 20% of those educated for that field are women. Also, so long as choosing a field of study or work is voluntary, the best you can do is maybe have a more fair representation of a given gender in a given field that doesn't show only above average looking women wearing glasses with a few geeky quirks, then relegate them to more personality quirks, or make them less capable over time.

And MAYBE it's okay to have a field where most of the people in that field are of a given sex. I don't see the SJWs trying to get women into garbage collection, or throwing a fit over the gender bias in nursing.


You're missing the point that there is a positive feedback loop at the source of the problem. The reason that women (or minorities for that matter) don't get into some fields of STEM is because there are no role models that tell them it's a good idea to do so. So there is a chicken and egg problem, and the only way do break the cycle is to give priority to such minorities. Is it fair to the members of the majority? Perhaps not. But in the end, I believe, it will justify the investment. Consider it a small price to pay for the millennia of oppression.


No there isn't positive feedback loop at the source problem and no giving priority to minorities does not make any sense. You don't have to. There is enough fight over the talent that anyone who actually has talent will get a job.

Having worked in tech for 20 years and hired and fired all sorts of people I am unconvinced there is a problem in tech as big as it's being claimed.

The idea that you can only have role models if they are your gender is really really absurd and if people are really falling for that then they have a problem not the tech-scene.

There is no actual evidence that diversity in gender does anything for a company besides creating more complex work environments. There are far more important types of diversity to strive for.


There's a difference between the two words, "reason" and "justification". I think you're confusing the two; if someone talks about X as a reason for Y, you think they're using X as a justification for Y.

It's complicated by the fact that sexist & racist people will try and use reasons as justifications, that they will use their misunderstanding of statistics to short-circuit decision-making in a faulty and biased way.

But we shouldn't outlaw talking about reasons all the same. The reason we shouldn't outlaw talking about reasons, in spite of the risk of odious people using them as justifications, is that you would otherwise proceed unscientifically. Reasons relate to theories about the world, and if you discard reasons, your theory about the world is wrong.


This is an extremely valuable insight, but I don't think it's the root cause of the screaming match we're currently observing.

Some have already decided that the REASON for gender imbalance in tech is rampant bias and male privilege, which they have publicly committed themselves to stamping out. Whether or not this is true, questioning the validity of that reason is considered an attack on their identity and value system.

Edit: I'm not sure it's clear from my comment, but to clarify, I am NOT SURE what the reason for the observed gender imbalance is. I'm not saying that it isn't bias/privilege/etc. I don't think the case has been proven one way or the other, but the personal attacks & utter misrepresentations I've seen used to try to shut down discussion is driving me pretty hard emotionally to one side at the moment.


Sure. But I think the reason people are so attached to this explanation, I think, is that other possible reasons sound like justifications for bias. I think both good and bad people get confused between the two.


> in order to use them to discriminate

[citation needed]


I was at an all hands meeting at a previous employer when the big boss was introducing new employees. After he introduced a new female employee, he went into a long speech about how diversity was important to the group. That was just super awkward, and whether true or not, made it feel like to everyone the employee he just introduced was a diversity hire.

I think there are definitely a few companies out there who are playing with the hiring bar to improve diversity in an easy but ultimately harmful way. Probably not google, but these bad actors poison the well in these discussions, so to speak.


My sister was considering going into CS, until the career adviser at her school told her it's a great idea to go into CS since companies have gender quotas and someone will have to hire her so going into CS basically guarantees her a job.

Yep. Not because CS is a popular field where there is a shortage of skilled professionals, but because she's a woman. She was so upset by it that she chose something else entirely.


Ya, a lot of crap like that is why the imposter syndrome has so much fuel. But we aren't really allowed to talk about it, and anyways, it involves bad actors acting in bad faith.


I think going into robotics, 3-D printing, or drones (but be prepared to work outside the US) is a much better field nowadays than CS/programming etc. (Of course, if you're so inclined healthcare/physical therapy is also a great field for the foreseeable future)


One point that I do wholeheartedly agree with Damore on is that putting quotas in OKRs is a very bad idea. It's an easy feel-good number that can have all sorts of negative consequences. It casts doubt on every female hire, and IMO almost certainly invites bias in the interviewing process.


> Imagine for a second you have imposter syndrome. Now imagine that you've been told (not necessarily by Damore) that you're the (not quoting you here) "diversity hire". Imagine how much worse that imposter syndrome now is.

I've actually heard where this exact thing has happened at Google, in a very high profile team. This isn't just a hypothetical, it's a reality.


And that's in incredibly poor taste to disclose... I'm not a fan of jobs going for reasons beyond merit, but it's not fair to the hire to put that on them... and I never meant to state that it is. I'm only saying diversity over merit is wrong.


It wasn't even disclosure. The person that said it wasn't involved in hiring if I understand correctly, but basically didn't like the person and thought they were unqualified, and said that.

I guess what I'm saying is when there's even a feeling that there is a system that is diversity over merit, people will assume that people they don't like who are minorities, are somehow less able to do their job, even when that's not the case.


So having diversity metrics, and hiring based on diversity over merit will correct this how?

In your example was the person in question hired because of their sex or race?


I never said I believe in hiring based on diversity over merit, but I also don't mind looking for candidates in different places.

I don't believe the person was hired because of their sex or race. But again, even here, all minorites have to prove it, while the majority are assumed to be there on merit.


As someone without a formal education working with peers that have PhDs, there are lots of things one has to overcome in terms of perception in a given role. The majority of my coworkers for the past several years have not been white; however, most have been men (about 1:6 to 1:4 or so)


> Imagine for a second you have imposter syndrome. Now imagine that you've been told (not necessarily by Damore) that you're the (not quoting you here) "diversity hire". Imagine how much worse that imposter syndrome now is.

And this, I believe, is the strongest possible argument against discriminatory hiring practices.

If I hire someone who's black, or female, or gay/bi, or any other 'protected group', I want them to know that I hired them for their ability, not to fill some quota. And the only way to do that is to hire based purely on ability.

By setting 'diversity hire' quotas, Google's own HR department is telling anyone who qualifies for any of those quotas that they're not good enough.


Has Google actually implemented diversity hire quotas?


Well... interesting.

According to the PDF(0), it states on page 6, footnote 6

...Instead set Googlegeist OKRs, potentially for certain demographics. We can increase representation at an org level by either making it a better environment for certain groups (which would be seen in survey scores) or discriminating based on a protected status (which is illegal and I’ve seen it done)....

The smoking gun here is "which is illegal and I’ve seen it done"... Well, shit. That seems to answer your question, "YES".

However... On James Damore's official website(1), it states the following from the same quote area.

...or discriminating based on a protected status (which is illegal).....

Which is illegal. No more claim of being a witness. How interesting. That would not validate your claim/question.

(0) https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586/Googles-I...

(1) https://firedfortruth.com/


(0) was written as an internal discussion piece by an employee at Google.

(1) was written as a public statement by the center of the current moral panic. As such, it has to be hugely more careful about making unsubstantiated claims. Regardless of the truth of the matter, if he has no corroborating evidence of discriminating based on protected status, he can't make a public allegation of such without opening himself up to a defamation lawsuit.


They hired new chief diversity officer, Danielle Brown -

Brown talked with NPR last year, while at the chipmaker Intel. “I think maybe two or three specific things that explain our success,” she said. “The first thing is accountability. Setting these goals, communicating the goals, tying pay to the goals. I think that’s been key.”

She was at an important place at an important time. Intel had decided to do something no other tech giant had done before: publicly state how many women and underrepresented minorities it wanted to recruit, and how many it managed to retain. Of all new hires, Intel told the world, at least 40 percent would have to be women or underrepresented minorities.

This is obviously quotas.


So I was googling some stuff based on your comment.

Intel creates the diversity fund in 2015 for 125 million.

https://www.fastcompany.com/3047239/why-intels-capital-diver...

Then a year later in 2016, lays off 11% of their workforce.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/view-from-the-valley/at-work/tech-c...

Then in 2017, Google hires Danielle Brown the VP who pushed the diversity fund at intel.

I'm beginning to think as a minority woman in tech, These diversity funds are worse than quotas.

Whats the point in being hired, then fired a year later.

I also suspect, every group is afraid of losing their job. Intel firing 11% of its workforce is scary example.


I think you're making some pretty big assumptions here. For starters, she was hired 2 months ago. Has she even had time to put any new programs in place yet? Second, you're assuming that whatever she did at Intel, she's intends (and will be able) to do the same at Google.

Presumably the programs Damore criticizes in his memo have been around for a long time. Do any of those involve the use of quotas?


> because of the idea that diversity hiring effectively lowered the hiring bar

So ? That's the company's choice to make.

Many companies take the longer term view that having a more diverse workforce is more important than hiring the most technically adept candidates. Especially since having different viewpoints can aid in innovation and creativity.


The idea of gender diversity in a company itself being good has absolutely no evidence in reality.

It all depends on what kind of company, what product industry etc. and it might not be about gender or minority diversity but something completely different.

This is what I think is wrong with this whole discussion. Diversity has become a goal in itself yet no evidence to support it's positive impact.


>>So ? That's the company's choice to make.

It's not because discriminating based on sex is illegal. If you lower the bar for white people because you take long term view that having more white people in your workforce is more important than hiring the most technically adept candidates then it wouldn't be "your call to make". In fact you would be sued into oblivion and rightly so.

>>Especially since having different viewpoints can aid in innovation and creativity.

Yes, that's why the memo mentions diversity of opinions. You don't get that by discriminating based on sex or race. You could get some of it by not firing people for expressing their views though.


You're making Damore's point. Stop selectively lowering the bar and this goes away.


The bar wasn't lowered. That's the point.


Great. Then there shouldn't be much controversy.


When someone goes and says the bar was lowered, that's a tacit insult to all minorities in the company.


If it's not true, refute it. If it is, then it can't be an insult.


It was refuted. And the person making the insult was fired.


Who and where exactly refuted that point? I would like to read more about it.


But it's a fact that many companies and colleges lower standards to increase diversity attendance. I think this is a good thing, but it's not a false thing.


We're talking about Google specifically and they have not lowered standards to increase diversity.


If the numbers are true and the gender distribution in STEM graduates is 80/20, and you are intent on increasing your number of female employees, you have two choices. You either lower the bar on the 20% or you raise the bar on the 80%. In the end, the net effect is the same. The employees from the 20% group had a granted advantage against the 80% group. The better solution is to change the 80/20 distribution of graduates. Personally, I'm unsure of the 'proper' way to accomplish that goal.

Note: I find it interesting/disturbing/sad/telling that I've been sitting here for a long time contemplating if I should even submit this message since I use my real name here. The fact that we, as a society, have come to a point where we are afraid to even have this discussion really makes me sad. I respect every one of my colleagues deeply, male and female alike. The idea that someone could twist my words and paint me as a misogynist is beyond troubling.


I think there's something wrong with this argument. Companies don't recruit randomly from a big sea of 80/20 applicants, they recruit from a chosen set of pools, where the average of every pool they could possibly recruit from is 80/20.

Choosing to recruit only from pools where the proportion of women is greater than 20% isn't quite the same as lowering the bar. The bar is at the same height for men and women, just with a skewed population. You're artificially excluding pools of people who would make good candidates, but since both women and men can bypass your outreach efforts by going straight to you, you're not refusing to hire anyone who is both qualified and motivated enough to apply directly.

I think proponents of the google diversity programs are arguing that they do this. I'm not sure whether they do. I think the real situation might be a hodgepodge of systemic factors and biases in both directions that sum up to something unpredictable, plus a few largely ineffectual diversity programs, and a massive question mark around why there are so few female CS grads in the first place (biology! sexism! gender roles! c64 ad campaigns! inertia!). Nevertheless, it's a bit more complicated than just lowering the bar for women.


>>Choosing to recruit only from pools where the proportion of women is greater than 20% isn't quite the same as lowering the bar.

"Choosing to recruit only from pools where the proportion of white people is greater than 95% isn't quite the same as lowering the bar."

I don't think it would get much sympathy but it's an equivalent with race substituted for sex (both are protected and it's illegal to discriminate based on them).

>>Nevertheless, it's a bit more complicated than just lowering the bar for women.

If you own a pub and want only white waitresses so you only invite white women for interviews you can do that without lowering the bar as well. Still you are discriminating even if you put elaborate system out there which magically result in only (to make the point stronger, substitute with a ratio like 90-10 or 80-20 to make the situation equivalent) applications from white women at the end.


I'm not defending or attacking affirmative action itself, since the topic is so politically charged that arguing about it on the internet with strangers is futile.

My claim is a much narrower one, that you can hire a disproportionate amount of female developers without lowering the bar if you bias your incoming hires. It can be simultaneously true that Google's diversity policies are harmful to quality (because they restrict where Google hires from) while their female developers are as qualified as their male developers (because they came from the same place and meet the same standards).


Yes it might be although it's very unlikely to happen. I wrote about it in another comment but in short: once you start hiring more (proportionally) from a smaller pool then that pool become less qualified on average (because you fished out better candidates). Over time this can only result in you doing more and more to overlook candidates from the bigger pool if want to sustain your policy.

If more companies are doing that then it's impossible to sustain without lowering the bar. If only you are doing that there is no point because then others will hire more men (as there is more qualified men left proportionally as you took bigger % of qualified women).

I am saying that the policy of "we don't lower the bar, we just look more into avenues to hire more women specifically" is somewhere between pointless and dishonest (dishonest as in created to hide the discrimination based on sex).

EDIT: As to affirmative action: I agree it's not the place for debating ethics of it. I am saying that affirmative action = lowering the bar either directly or indirectly and there is no way around that fact (at least industry wise, you can maybe sustain it locally if you are ok with others skewing their ratio in the other direction).


that pool become less qualified on average (because you fished out better candidates)

This rests on the assumption that hiring from a given pool exhausts it. It seems intuitive that hiring students from a university or bootcamp would have the opposite effect, as would hiring students from a particular academic background, since unemployment/pay metrics and prestige would drive more students there.

dishonest as in created to hide the discrimination based on sex

Since the clearly stated goal of affirmative action is to hire less of a majority group, it seems more likely that such a policy would be created to prevent imposter syndrome and "my male co-workers think I'm incompetent because of all the diversity hires" syndrome. With such a policy, nobody is a diversity hire.


> I am saying that affirmative action = lowering the bar either directly or indirectly and there is no way around that fact (at least industry wise, you can maybe sustain it locally if you are ok with others skewing their ratio in the other direction).

So it implies lowering the bar unless it doesn't.

Companies can put more effort into finding woman candidates without caring whether the whole industry does so. If some companies bias toward women (without lowering the bar), and some companies don't bias, then the overall effect is that qualified women can get hired instantly, and more of them might be encouraged to enter the industry.


If the numbers are true and the gender distribution in STEM graduates is 80/20, and you are intent on increasing your number of female employees, you have two choices. You either lower the bar on the 20% or you raise the bar on the 80%.

This seems to be the common argument against diversity programs, but it strikes me as statistically true only if we assume a very even distribution between STEM graduates and prospective employers. Given tech's reputation as being relatively hostile to women, a company could theoretically find ways to advertise to prospective women employees that their internal culture was more welcoming of them -- that, in fact, they wouldn't be subject to the sexism that the female engineers in the linked article all said that they routinely face. This doesn't require the company to have different hiring standards between genders, or to pay women more. It does require them to change their recruiting practices in ways that acknowledge they may have to make specific outreach to women and other underrepresented minorities, but that doesn't strike me as having to be inherently discriminatory.


"Note: I find it interesting/disturbing/sad/telling that I've been sitting here for a long time contemplating if I should even submit this message since I use my real name here. The fact that we, as a society, have come to a point where we are afraid to even have this discussion really makes me sad. I respect every one of my colleagues deeply, male and female alike. The idea that someone could twist my words and paint me as a misogynist is beyond troubling."

The difficulty is that "this discussion" can be - and usually is - conducted in a way that is harmful to women, either on a broad scale (specious arguments / failure to understand systemic bias) or an individual scale (wrecking someone's day / making a formerly welcoming environment feel hostile).

Those real consequences are on the line every time someone hits "Post" in this sort of discussion, and are a really good reason for any thoughtful person to pause and contemplate before doing so... perhaps do some additional self-education, or take the time to pose genuinely explorative-questions rather than rhetorical-questions or flat-out conclusions. If more people did that, I think you'd eventually see a lot less fiery refutation and much better discourse.

"If the numbers are true and the gender distribution in STEM graduates is 80/20, and you are intent on increasing your number of female employees, you have two choices. You either lower the bar on the 20% or you raise the bar on the 80%. In the end, the net effect is the same. The employees from the 20% group had a granted advantage against the 80% group."

This logic assumes that the 80% and 20% are functionally equivalent? (Which can be so if there's, eg, no systemic bias, but seems rather less likely when such is present.)

Another option would be to realize the the 20% already had to overcome substantial hurdles to get where they are, and to factor that into your decision-making.


I wrote some shitty code based on the official data of cs graduates in 2015-2014, every candidate was assigned a random competence score based on a Gaussian distribution with a mean of 100.

these are the results:

"there are 48840 males, we will pick only 25000(51.187551187551186%)"

"we will pick all females to represent the company reaching out to them"

"let's say the company is going to hire 5000"

"hiring based on competence and taking females when equal"

"results:"

"male: number: 3505 percentage: 70.1% average score: 123.81256204767604"

"female: number: 1495 percentage: 29.9% average score: 123.75346343448992"

"if we force the 50% ratio"

"the average male score: 126.26036797470225"

"the average female score: 119.60577230318559"

so forcing a 50% ratio does indeed lower the bar. data for males and females were generated using the same function so arguments about biological factors are not even needed.

the code:https://jsbin.com/nogujuqewe/1/edit?html,console,output


Silly. Those 20% are currently shelved in low-end dead-end jobs. If your company were to offer a friendly environment for them, they would flock to you. You'd have your pick of top-flight people.

Its so easy to make up crap about how its impossible to fix the issue without (made-up strawman). How about turning our intelligence toward useful comments? E.g. you could look harder for truly qualified candidates from among the 20%?


> you have two choices. You either lower the bar on the 20% or you raise the bar on the 80%.

Or you solicit more resumes from the 20%. Or you randomly throw out some resumes from the 80%. Neither of those will move the bar.


Note: I find it interesting/disturbing/sad/telling that I've been sitting here for a long time contemplating if I should even submit this message since I use my real name here.

Thank you. I have been noticing this for the past year, both here and in almost all other online forums. And it's not just the ability to troll or make a comment that you know might push a few buttons.

It's questioning whether it's even safe to post a logical argument against any of the narratives deemed sacred these days by the left.

The fact that the worst offenders in this new witch hunt are the same ones who have massive amounts of data on all of us is terrifying.


So what did they do instead to increase diversity? Do they pay disproportionately more to certain groups? Or do they have some other way to attract more 'diverse' candidates to achieve their quotas?


Yeah, this is why bar-lowering policies are bad. If that's not what Google is doing, then Google should explain their approach to employees so said employee doesn't need to question his or her qualification unduly.


Being able to have a productive discussion should be more important than people's feelings.


Daisy/Quake - she was great as a hacker, and I'm so sad about that electricity guy who died, but wow, someone who can fly and break bones or collapse buildings, that is not just a brawler, that is objectively more awesome than being a hacker and I'd trade my scripter job for being able to fly in a heartbeat.


The burden of responding to something that is (at the very least presented as) evidence? I don't think it's possible to have a discussion if you don't expect and allow pro-affirmative-action stakeholders to respond with their own evidence and reasoning, in turn.


It's not just "pro-affirmative-action stakeholders" that are expected to respond. _As referenced in the article_, it's extending to expecting women to come up with responses just because they are women. You're talking about a situation where one side (the side of the manifesto) has dropped an "evidence bomb", some of which may be valid, some not, and is now complaining "why won't you have a discussion?" They weren't invited to a discussion, they weren't talked _to_, they were talked _at_, and are now being looked to as the defenders of their gender when they just want to do their damn job.


This is exactly it. Women in spaces (virtual, in-person, in their workplaces) are being forced into this conversation to defend ourselves, because this "bomb" was dropped/leaked, outside of all relevant context, and now hype and focusing illusions have made it our job to make evolutionary psych-based arguments against it. I don't know what Damore's intent was, but the effect was to put people who disagreed with him, and especially women who disagreed with him, at an immediate disadvantage, rather than to reach out to them for the sake of a conversation.


> Women in spaces [...] are being forced into this conversation to defend ourselves

Shouldn't women inherently be part of a conversation about systematically augmenting their gender's presence in the workplace?

Or do you believe that beneficiaries of affirmative action should not be expected to comment on its existence and validity from time to time?

Not a rhetorical question. Either position is potentially defensible IMO. Just want to know where you stand.


It seems like the disadvantage fell squarely on Damore's shoulders here, considering he was the one who was actually fired.

It's definitely horrible for people to feel like they don't belong. But I would argue that feeling like your job is at risk is a lesser threat than actually losing your job, no?


this is textbook tone policing. it's an essay, not a spoken dialogue. you could say this about, say, a published study about climate change projections.


You can throw buzzwords designed to shut down discussion at me all you want, that's irrelevant. He claims his goal was to have a dialogue, the fact is that he chose a very poor way of doing that. Either his goals aren't what he claims or he misunderstood how to accomplish them.


Considering this is one of the most explosively discussed topics on HN and in the industry I would say he's been wildly successful at starting a discussion.


I can start a discussion about racism in the US by going on TV and yelling the n-word, that doesn't mean that I did a good job of opening a constructive dialogue.


In all fairness, we it did at least provoke an internal debate, e.g. this discussion.


He could have brought up his concerns to hiring authorities in the company, whose job it is to refute diversity myths. Not expect people who have had this burden placed on them for their entire adult life to do it yet again.


He did, a month or more before the fiasco.


And that's exactly where he should have stopped. If he did not like the result, he should have resigned in a much less public manner.


The result from HR was silence. He never intended for the memo to go public, but he did want feedback from his colleagues. If HR didn't want the issue going further, they should have actually responded to him.


But he saw a problem and wanted to fix it. You're basically saying he should have left the problem where it is and pretend itsr not there, which is not what engineers typically do. Can you blame him for that?


Not just engineers...That kind of mentality does not advance society.

Imagine..."She thought black people should not have to sit at the back of the bus. She told authorities who just remained silent. She should have sucked it up and moved to the north!"


"Everyone who doesn't agree with me should shut up and go away."


Please don't post snarky one-liners to HN, especially not in divisive discussions, where they make things significantly worse.

Also, please don't use quotation marks to make it look like you're quoting someone when you're not.


What burden are you talking about exactly?

You (along with many others) seem to be conflating the major point of the memo between interests and abilities. Not liking something does not mean you're not capable of doing it.


Would you rather hire someone that likes what they do or someone who doesn't?

Would you intuitively think that someone who loves their job are going to be more interested in bigger challenges and doing great work, or someone who doesn't care for the job?


> Would you rather hire someone that likes what they do or someone who doesn't?

I wouldn't assume someone's interest level based on their demographics. I would, you know, talk to them.


So, you are in favor of outreach programs where you get to talk to more people?


Sure. I do that already, both formally and informally. Though I've probably been underestimating how career limiting that can be.

The Google firing was a really bad move if outreach programs are a good idea.


Not sure I follow why you think the firing had something to do with outreach? You mean they'll be losing out on candidates like Damore?


I think people won't feel comfortable sharing freely, which undermines the whole point of it. It won't just affect candidates like Damore.

People who don't feel like sharing probably won't feel like getting talked at, so there won't be much listening in the other direction either.


I optimize for productivity first, that doesn't always equate to someone who likes their job.

Regardless, I'm not sure how that's related to my comment - the memo was discussing relative interests in software engineering (and other disciplines), not capabilities of people being able to do code better than others.


By perpetuating the stereotype that "women are less interested in engineering" and suggesting that your chances of getting a good female candidate are lower, Damore is introducing an unconscious bias against women. After all, "it's likely that she doesn't really like this", "she probably went into engineering because her parents pushed her", "maybe she's great now, but she'll lose interest once anxiety kicks in."

Next time your engineers are scheduled to interview someone and they see a female name on the resume, they'll form an opinion (even if slight, and even if overridable by interacting with the person) about who the candidate is. Depending on how tired/stressed/bored they are that day, that opinion will play a smaller or bigger role in what they write down in the candidate report.

That bias, by the way, exists today. Trying to justify it on the base of biological differences does nothing to fix it.


>By perpetuating the stereotype that "women are less interested in engineering" and suggesting that your chances of getting a good female candidate are lower, Damore is introducing an unconscious bias against women. After all, "it's likely that she doesn't really like this", "she probably went into engineering because her parents pushed her", "maybe she's great now, but she'll lose interest once anxiety kicks in."

A ("women in general are less interested") does not imply B ("woman job candidates are less interested"). A would only imply B if there were equal numbers of man and woman engineers. But there are fewer. It's entirely possible for "women are less interested in engineering than men" and "women that go into engineering are far more interested than men that go into engineering" to both be true.

So that hiring bias is based on non-logic in the first place. Considering the possibility of A does not legitimize B.


> That bias, by the way, exists today. Trying to justify it on the base of biological differences does nothing to fix

You presupposed that the bias is why the disparity exists in the first place. Its plausible that we completely fix all biases in the industry and the gender ratio does not change whatsoever, or even gets worse.


Well, really, the bias is the problem, not the disparity. So if we fix the bias, sexual harassment, and sexist behavior, that is a good outcome in and of itself, regardless of the gender ratio.


> You presupposed that the bias is why the disparity exists in the first place

What in my comment tells you that? I made a conscious effort not to bring that up.

> Its plausible that we completely fix all biases in the industry and the gender ratio does not change whatsoever, or even gets worse.

This argument sounds like the global warming denier argument "What if it's not true? What if we make the world a better place to live for nothing?"

It is plausible, but right now we have no way to measure it. We do, on the other hand, know that unconscious bias is affecting prospective female candidates. Why don't we focus on fixing the existing problem first?


My apologies.

> Why don't we focus on fixing the existing problem first?

Sounds good.


The problem with this view is that you assert such unconscious biases exist, but provide no evidence. Moreover it's a classic "she's a witch" kind of accusation. Nobody can refute it because the entire theory is that everyone (or every man) is guilty without even realising it.

You should know that unconscious bias training has been shown to make no difference to outcomes. The science is dubious. Of course, you can always try to fix the theory by claiming the impact is minimal but ... if the impact is so tiny, why worry about it?

Diversity initiatives have long since left the realm of debatable science and fact and turned into a new religion. Science is replaced by faith. I don't think I'm biased, I can't perceive any bias in myself, but I KNOW it's true. I must believe.


> You (along with many others) seem to be conflating the major point of the memo between interests and abilities

Sorry, this is wrong.

Direct quote (emphasis added): "I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes"

See Damore's own mirror: https://firedfortruth.com/


Yes, this is a case of context. In that exact quote it states "preferences and abilities" in terms of biological associations.

However, biological traits and abilities != career ability. Even more so since these are average indexes with vast overlap between groups.


Okay, let's try another approach.

On what basis do you think that preferences and abilities are two mutually exclusive traits?

We know interest is influenced heavily by environment. We also know that ability is influenced by both interest and environment. Carol Dweck's work is a good source for this type of study.

It also seems intuitive that ability influences interests, although I'm actually not aware of what studies exist in that area.

I don't think you're standing on as solid footing as you think when you're making accusations of others conflating topics.


There's another conflation between skill and ability. Lots of people can do lots of things, some are better because they're more interested (leading to more practice, etc).

Just because interests and abilities influence each other does not mean they are not exclusive. You can do a lot of things that you probably have never even considered before too.


Plus where is the outrage when newspapers title: "A scientist proves that women can do two activities at the same time" and "What makes women better at management"?

Many women believe they're statistically more intelligent than men and less violent, by fate of biology.


I think a charitable way of taking that particular statement might be:

"The distribution of preferences and abilities of different groups differ."

Note the binding emphasis to both sides of the 'and'.

Also the focus on any specific cause for that difference should be addressed elsewhere, if at all. Not in an over-simplified singular soundbite.

Edit: what flavor of markdown hell is HN using... I always forget.


The important point here is that Damore triggered a massive threat response in the colleagues he characterises as being below "the bar". He explicitly talks about that bar being lowered, which by implication undermines a proportion of employees at Google (and people that are inclined to defend that group).

Furthermore he attacked 'diversity' hires as a whole, but only presented evidence on male/female differences not racial ones... so there's significant precedent for him making points that aren't backed up directly. I don't think he should get the benefit of the doubt there with regards to subtlety of meaning.


> This burden has fallen on women since they were teenagers. To expect them to do it yet again, to have to defend themselves at work this time, is ridiculous.

See "Self made man" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-Made_Man_(book), for a real-life experience of living as a man vs as a woman. Her conclusion at the end was that women have it much, much, easier, and she would much rather live as a woman than as a man.

i.e. maybe work is sexist and makes women prove themselves more than men have to. But that's only one aspect of peoples daily lives.


IIRC at the end of those 18 months Norah Vincent had to check herself into a psychiatric hospital because of the severe depression she developed.

Besides saying that men don't really have it better[1] she also commented[2] "When you mess around with that, you really mess around with something that you need that helps you to function. And I found out that gender lives in your brain and is something much more than costume. And I really learned that the hard way," which is less "women have it much, much easier" and more "women, living as women have it much, much easier".

[1]: gender stereotypes hurt everyone, and in [2] she spoke about how "They don't get to show the weakness, they don't get to show the affection, especially with each other. And so often all their emotions are shown in rage"; but they can't be discounted because of this. [2]: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Entertainment/story?id=1526982


As a white man the burden has fallen on me since I was a pre-teen to explain why I shouldn't be discriminated against.


>This burden has fallen on women since they were teenagers. To expect them to do it yet again, to have to defend themselves at work this time, is ridiculous.

Why does research regarding this and the burden has to fall on women? If research is solid why does it matter if it was generated by a specific gender.


Why would women need to "defend themselves"? He wasn't attacking them. The entire point of it was, that for whatever reason, women are statistically less likely to be interested in computer science. He never said anything about their ability.


I guess we didn't read the same memo?

"I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."


> This was addressed in the article. This burden has fallen on women since they were teenagers. To expect them to do it yet again, to have to defend themselves at work this time, is ridiculous.

You can't have it both ways. If you don't want to get involved in the argument, you don't have to, but getting involved and then doing any of the things GP is decrying is actively toxic.


Women don't have a choice as to whether we participate. It comes up everywhere. It comes up in our workplaces, and as the minority group in conversation, we have to be there to contradict the people who take it as justification for the (evidence-based) unlevel playing field in tech, sexism etc, and we will be the ones affected if we don't ensure that our colleagues and people we respect don't go therefore shrug and decide that everyone thinks that way.


Nothing in your comment is a reason you have to participate.

> we have to be there to contradict the people who take it as justification for the (evidence-based) unlevel playing field in tech, sexism etc, and we will be the ones affected if we don't ensure that our colleagues and people we respect don't go therefore shrug and decide that everyone thinks that way.

If you are concerned about third parties being swayed if you stay silent, that makes it even more important to not engage in the behavior I am decrying. Doing nothing is unlikely to impact most people's opinions. Appealing to platitudes (or worse, actively misrepresenting your opponent) will be actively counterproductive.


So basically its ok to discrimate against Men because Women are 'opressed'. Thats not an acceptable argument imo.


You're begging the question. Also, don't put something in quotes that was not a quote.


Which of his premises were assumed in his conclusion?


to have to defend themselves at work this time, is ridiculous.

Let's just agree on two things then.

_Every woman at google has every right to be there.

&

_The number of women at google relative to the number of men is not the result of mostly imperceptible, malicious actions by men, but rather due the fact that the personal interests between the sexes varies substantially on average, and this results in skewed sex ratios throughout the entire workforce that match nearly perfectly with what scientific evidence shows us.

Women are more interested in working with people and nurturing professions and men are more interested in working with things and abstract, theoretical, mechanical and spatial professions.

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


> Women are more interested in working with people and nurturing professions and men are more interested in working with things and abstract, theoretical, mechanical and spatial professions.

Don't agree with number 2 at all.

Half of all new attorneys are women. There is nothing "nurturing" about the profession--it's adversarial and conflict-oriented by nature. And you spend most of your time dealing with abstractions, not people. More than half of accountants are women. That profession isn't any more people oriented than programming, and you work entirely with abstractions. 70% of tax preparers are women. 60% of insurance underwriters are women. Etc.

Conversely, professions we think of as "people-oriented and nurturing" are dominated by men in other countries. E.g. teachers in India are 80% men.


Doesn't that vary a lot depending on what kind of law you practice?

At least for some kinds, there is a lot of non-adversarial human interaction. For example, in patent litigation you are usually part of a team and spend a lot of time working closely with the other lawyers on your side, paralegals, outside experts, inventors, and other people involved with the patent on your side.


Litigation is explicitly adversarial, and that includes many kinds of law that might seem "softer" at first blush. When you do housing law, you might spend a little time talking to an evicted old lady, but your real work is suing the landlord. Transactional is less overtly adversarial, but while the business guys are thinking about team synergies the lawyers are focusing on how the parties could try to screw each other if expectations don't pan out.

Lawyers work in teams, but programmers work in teams too. Having done both there is a lot more interactivity in programming teams (weekly status meetings, pair programming, dropping in on a neighbor to discuss APIs). (Legal teams are much smaller and cases are much less interconnected than large codebases).


E.g. teachers in India are 80% men. Source? My personal anecdote would be close to 50-50% with variance at higher college level and school level.


Teachers in India are nurturing?


Do men and women go equally into all fields which an attorney can practice in? As in, do corporate attorneys have the same gender ratio as family law attorneys? Do environmental attorneys have the same gender ratio as IP attorneys?


Law could be nurturing. There must be thousands of people that need legal help but can't afford it, or aren't in a position to seek it out even if they need it eg victim of abuse or assault.

In which case the attorney may double as a councillor of sorts.

This dual role is common in lots of jobs though. Maybe defending people is more appealing than maybe mentoring junior devs.

Maybe accounting is due to stability? In western countries you always need an accountant. You could probably make an argument about women not being risk takers.

Your last point is why statistics in developing countries are always brought up. At least one thing is clear, we can change the environment to get more women into STEM.


The 50% number applies to new large firm lawyers, not just "public interest" law. And your examples are unrealistic. Sexual assault victims don't get legal counsel. They might have (minimal) contact with the prosecutor, who is statistically likely to be a man. The accused rapist, meanwhile, might have (again, minimal) contact with a public defender, who is equally likely to be a man or woman. Both of those positions are primarily adversarial. Public defenders don't have time to nurture their clients--they try to get they are facts necessary to argue in court or negotiate a plea.


Can't agree on number 2, because it's a false dichotomy. The gender imbalance cannot be simplified to being because of any one specific cause (like a difference in personal interests). There is a whole cluster of causes, including:

1. Malicious actions by men. This undoubtedly happens, let's not pretend otherwise. However, it might not be very common.

2. Non-malicious but annoying behavior from men directed towards women. This could include unwanted flirtation, accidental condescension, inappropriate jokes, etc.

3. A male-oriented culture. Even if the guys don't act in an annoying way, being in a significant minority is usually less appealing than being in a situation where you have a more even gender split.

4. Boys and girls are nurtured in different ways, which can drive them towards having different interests as adults.

5. Biological differences between men and women. Personally, I think this is one of the least important factors, and it's also the only one that we can't change.

Whether or not (5) is an issue, (1-4) can and should be addressed, so that women who are naturally inclined to CS are not nudged away from the industry by their life experiences.


This is a great point, and it highlights something about these types of conversations that is so strange to me. So many parts of the gender/workplace conversation are quite sophisticated. But when it comes to explaining why certain industries ended up with gender imbalances, people are content to assume a monocausal theory of career "preference" on the part of women. As if that "preference" isn't shaped by problematic environmental pressures.

This is so wrong and so frequently asserted that I think a better approach to any gender/workplace convo would be to start here, recognizing the falsity of the monocausal career preference hypothesis and work backward from that toward the rest of the conversation.


Go through this list[0], a widely divergent sex ratio for a given job is the rule, rather than the exception.

Which of these divergent sex ratios are caused by "problematic environmental pressures," and which aren't?

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


I'm having trouble following the logic here. There are different gender ratios in various career fields, therefore (!?) attribute all imbalances in all cases exclusively to womens preferences and ignore any other casual inputs.

It would make more sense to say that different careers are affected by different dynamics that need to be analyzed on their own terms, with the environmental constraints that affect "preferences" being different in each case.


Super interesting. I'd love to see people in this thread comment on this. It is a little odd how "diversity in tech" is so over represented in the public debate when there are clearly many other jobs that are even more heavily skewed and in both directions, i.e., plenty of jobs with >80% men AND plenty of jobs with >80% women.


I don't think "diversity in tech" is actually overrepresented in the public, although the current affair has temporarily made it more prominent. But if you are in tech, you are more likely to hear about debates that involve tech. Diversity in tech, JavaScript fatigue, the Rust Evangelism Strike Force, whatever. Just because it's popular on HN doesn't mean it's popular everywhere.


I was about to write a reply saying whilst that might be true I'd never heard of big well funded initiatives to get women into firefighting, but then I decided to double check on Google and found this:

http://nypost.com/2015/05/05/fdnys-unfit-the-perils-of-pushi...

If you’re ever trapped in a burning building, just pray the firefighter climbing up to rescue you isn’t Rebecca Wax. Or someone like her, who’s been given an EZ-Pass through firefighting training for the sake of gender equity.

This week Wax, who repeatedly flunked the rigorous physical test required by the New York City Fire Department, will graduate anyway, The Post reported.

All over the nation, fire departments are easing physical standards, in response to litigation to increase the number of women firefighters.

Disturbing.


1. this happens but I agree not very common

2. totally true and I'll go on the limb to say that part of it probably because of men biological differences which force men to be eager to reproduce at all times

3. yes, but you already addressed malicious and non-malicious annoyances so this has to be "annoyances" where men treat women as other men. If men treating women as other men is a problem then this is proof that we are not the same and need different approach. (I am open to be completely wrong about it, please educate me if you think this is wrong or I misunderstood something)

4. Agree

5. This could be related to #2 and #3


This. Attempting to reduce such a complex issue into a single root cause ("oh women simply aren't interested in this field") is deeply misguided, not to mention intellectually lazy.


0. Unconscious bias.


Can agree on number one. Can't agree on number two. Here's why: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-...


This is addressed in TFA.

> [W]hen I go to work, I go to work, and not to a debate club. Some people at Google reacted by saying “well if he’s so wrong, then why not refute him,” but that requires spending a significant amount of time building an argument against the claims in his document. On the other hand, if I remain silent, that silence could be mistaken for agreement. I should not be forced into that kind of debate at work. (Ida)

> I’m just exhausted by having this same damn argument over and over again since I was a teenager and the amount of time and energy I keep having to spend to counter it. (Edith)

Also, none of the "quoted phrases" that you criticized appear in TFA or in any parent comment.


It seems like you're holding a significant double standard here, which is exactly why Damore feels his views are systemically quashed.

For example, that line of reasoning would go: Damore saw practices he feels are discriminatory based on the available evidence. His silence could be mistaken for agreement. He should not be forced into that kind of debate at work.


Ideally, the one whose views are the least congruent with reality in a harmful way should feel more pressure and less freedom to express their opinion (because people won't be interested in hearing nonsense).

Finding the approaches and views that are most coherently grounded in reality is obviously a continuously difficult task.

We shouldn't treat people poorly just for being wrong, unless their expressions of views is actively harmful. Making that determination can also be very difficult.

Lastly, as a slight tangent, no human knowledge is or ever will be 100% certain and robust (although in some specific domains we can attain incredibly high confidence). We should keep this uncertainty in mind when we act.


This would be a reasonable take to me if the issue he took up could reasonably be described as significantly affecting his everyday work life; the key difference I see in your "double standard" is that the woman can't walk away from being a woman in a male dominated profession.


> [W]hen I go to work, I go to work, and not to a debate club.

Sure. But people on the wrong side of the Google monoculture feel like they have to be closeted at work. They don't want to feel that way either. There has to be a way for everyone to be professional and honest here.


> Sure. But people on the wrong side of the Google monoculture feel like they have to be closeted at work. They don't want to feel that way either

Everyone has to be closed at work; it's a part of being in a professional environment. For example, you can't go up to your co-worker and tell them you think they're a complete idiot even if you think so.

In social settings this is possible because relationships can just end, but that's not the case for a business where you are expected to interact with the same people often.


> For example, you can't go up to your co-worker and tell them you think they're a complete idiot even if you think so.

Sure you can - if you are supported Trump, or were even just he prevailed over Hillary, thousands of people in Google either called you an idiot or agreed with the statement. You should have heard the tone of conversation on the 9th. Between that and the cry-ins that were hosted, it was an absolutely disgusting, pathetic display of personal bias and lack of understanding of a large swath of America.


>There has to be a way for everyone to be professional and honest here.

I agree, but just because there has to be a way for everyone to be professional and honest, that doesn't mean that what Damore did was professional and honest.


I'm not prepared to fault him because I don't see how he could have been both professional and honest in discussing this issue. I think workplace norms need to evolve in one direction or another.


Not being able to come up with a way to do what you want does not mean you are correct to just do what you want anyway.


I'm not sure anyone can come up with a better way to discuss the issue. I'm open to ideas if you have any.

I've asked this around HN many times over the last week. Most of them boil down to letting people who probably disagree with you edit your thoughts before you release them. Or not releasing your thoughts in any meaningful way.

If you were Damore, what would have been a healthier way to start a broader discussion on the issue?


Ano/pseudonymity.


Hindsight is 20/20. But honestly falling back to ano/pseudo feels like a loss.

Would this have happened if the paper had been written by a woman?


Sheer indignation changes nothing.

The "diversity culture" Left has been very succesful in a kind of cultural engineering where any deviation from accepted consensus is inches from being labeled "hate". Lone wolf kamikaze-type performances will only strengthen it.

What the fucking alt-right has been doing about this is trying to ignore the facts altogether, which may have populist impact but will alienate the professional/intellectual circles where this consensus takes root.

Maybe it's worth looking at the much-cited-in-this-thread Wired piece that agrees with Damore about everything substantive and then in full non sequitur condemns him.They're doing something effective.

----

Frankly, I have no idea of what to do about the toxic change in culture we have been experiencing. I try to avoid this kind of thining altogether -- it's a huge distraction from just trying to become the best version of me, etc. But I do understand that indignation and anger on our side is a windfall for theirs. If you're really willing to take them on you need to think seriously about strategy.


Good. People who think we don't need diversity efforts or that think studies of aggregates should be applied to determine efforts for smaller specialized populations or individuals should keep it to themselves. I wouldn't want a racist to feel comfortable quoting Bell Curve "research" or criminal population composition numbers at work,for many of the same reasons.


So you're saying that any research or argument that comes to a conclusion you disagree with should be equated with the research and arguments that Neo-Nazis use? How progressive, open-minded, and forward thinking. That this is a widely held viewpoint on these things ought to be more disturbing than the memo.


No, that's not at all what I wrote.


> People who think we don't need diversity efforts

The memo in question explicitly supported the goal of improving diversity and provided concrete suggestions on how to do so.


[flagged]


Am I correct in understanding that you think he's a conservative who is lying about supporting diversity? What led you to this conclusion? It seems odd to me to believe a conservative who doesn't support diversity would write a memo that ascribes negative consequences to right wing viewpoints and provides suggestions for improving diversity.


> a racist

i can't help but feel that this is more and more just a boo-word that doesn't actually mean much.


being closely followed by "nazi"


I sympathise with the woman saying she'd much rather just focus on code rather than social justice debates. But, as flippant as it is for a guy to say it, it's their cross to bear isnt it? Women in tech. Because, if they don't speak up, then what? Where does that leave us? Should the "other side" also not speak up? Just focus on code? Should they suppress real emotions that they're feeling?

I'm not flaming, just wondering what the best-case way forward would be that mollifies both sides.


This seems roughly cognate to "There are people who want to do their jobs, and there are people who want to poke the people in Group A with sticks. Should an employer constrain Group B from poking the people in Group A altogether just because Group A doesn't want to participate?" I think most people would easily answer, "Yes, we should prevent people from going around poking unwilling coworkers with sticks, and they should also be prevented from getting around the rule by throwing sticks around and just 'happening' to hit those coworkers, because it's not useful to have people doing that in your workplace and it disrupts Group A." I don't think anybody would really say, "Getting poked with sticks is just Group A's cross to bear."


Fair points, and as I said, even I tend to fall in the camp of "work is for work" a lot of the times. On the other hand, to play devil's advocate, I think you're being uncharitable by comparing them to "stick pokers" as if they've nothing better to do. I tend to believe that the topic is important enough that, "just let me do my work" isn't an adequate answer, and trivialises the concerns of a sizeable swathe of even Google employees.


Except that people are just discussing ideas in a rational way, at least aspirationally. There aren't any physical sticks.

This is complex because people desire for fairness and respect in incompatible ways. If we analogize away one of those problems, of course the right decision seems obvious.

EDIT: I think the incompatibility is a result of some rules and norms that need changing. I don't think the conflict is a law of nature.


I don't care if the women I work with don't speak up. If I see sexism I will (and in fact have on more than one occasion) call it out. I use discussions with my wife and with women I've worked with in the past regarding how sexism in the workplace works to help me identify it in cases where it may be ambiguous or even something I'd never considered to be sexist.

It does help identify those cases when women do speak out, though. My view is we should listen more to them about what sexism is and how it works.


I actually know people who are still working on refutational evidence bombs like that. The problem is that actually finding sources and addressing his points in all their "but I really meant" vagueness is a huge piece of work, and people have day jobs. In the meantime, his shit is out there. If it's ok for anyone to read and agree with it without going through to confirm his "facts" and "citations" on the spot, then it's equally ok to read and disagree with it.


Exactly. One of the biggest wastes of time I incurred last week was trying to argue with someone here who wouldn't specify what the memo said, but would deny anything I said about it with "but he never said that!" It went on for days.


Workplaces are not free speech zones. Employers have a legitimate interest in maintaining internal harmony and making people feel comfortable. There are lots of things that you should be able to say in general that have no place in the office. E.g. you should be able to maintain a blog detailing your sexual escapades, but emailing those descriptions to all your coworkers is quite reasonably grounds for termination.


But Google is a free speech zone for Democrats voters, with company resources dedicated to promoting their point of view.


This would be good. I've seen 0 criticism of it that falls into this category so far. For the most part, it's essentially just been "I don't like the conclusion so I'm going to call you a sexist and make a straw man of your argument while ignoring the details."


Dr. Sadedin's Quora answer is pretty good:

https://www.quora.com/What-do-scientists-think-about-the-bio...


I'm not sure I agree. I don't think we read the same memo. Additionally, while this isn't entirely rational, it's hard to take anything seriously that gets started with trying to tie it to a "covert alt-right agenda". Someone who starts off with a variant of the "you're a Nazi" argument does not come across as someone without significant ideological biases.


I think Sadedin does a great job with the biology, and is a little weaker on the morality. The one point where he really goes wrong is here:

>paradoxically insists that authoritarianism be treated as a valid moral dimension, whilst firmly rejecting any diversity-motivated strategy that might remotely approach it.

Even if we admit this is wrong he still does a good job, particularly on points #1, #3, #4, and yes, #8. I think it's important to call out the subtle racism whereby Damore attacks gender and racial diversity programs without actually providing any justification on the racial element. But I think this point (#9) is clearly wrong because if we accept it on its face it means that we cannot tolerate discussing any system of morality (in this case authoritarianism) which we do not want to see implemented, which is clearly wrong. I also cannot agree here:

>But in general, Google has done magnificently well without resorting to the binding [conservative] values — and let’s hope it continues to, because an authoritarian, fanatical and puritanical Google that dehumanizes outsiders would be very, very bad news.

First of all I don't think Google has ever truly avoided the binding values -- in fact the identity "Googler" has been more intentionally constructed, I think, than "Microsofter", "Facebooker", "Appler", etc -- and second I don't think that implementing them is necessarily "fanatical and puritanical", any more than implementing compassion is necessarily inviting to louts.



I take issue with at least Slate Star Codex's 08/07 post because it focuses on interest like some black box and pre-college education as perfectly non-gendered. There is a lot of research (see below) that shows that pre-college education is very gendered.

http://www.jstor.org/stable/20403143?seq=1#page_scan_tab_con...

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/0091732X01700126...

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tl.37219924906/fu...

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tea.3660270906/ab...

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4283768/


> I did not get any aggressive tone from his paper. I thought he was as polite as he needed to be and made the necessary caveats.

I agree with this too. There were issues of perception since the Gizmodo version had no sources, links or charts. Later leaked version had the charts and a full version was put up on diversitymemo.com (which no redirects to Damore's official website).

So a lot of people didn't get the full version, even if they read the whole thing. Overall I thought we was pretty tactful and did his best to express what he knew would be an unpopular viewpoint.


> Then the correct way to handle it is to drop another refutational evidence bomb attacking ...

Well from a strategic perspective, that's a losing attitude though. You start in a defensive position in a debate you didn't call. You are stuck in the specific frame the author has decided to limit his own argument. He also restrict the time you have to prepare such a refutal piece as every minute he spend with his argument unchallenged, the weaker the counterarguments look.

Sure the average Google employee is more fact minded than emotionally driven, but it is a loaded subject in general but even more in IT.

What's the best possible outcome of crafting such a reply anyway ? Shutting down one single guy because nobody will engage in a friendly debate after live shots have been fired.


You're under no compulsion to refute the author or to engage them in a debate, except that you've taken issue with their statement of their position and you've chosen to attack it.

Do you feel that viewpoints that you disagree with should not be allowed to be stated publicly and remain unopposed?


well, the easiest way to refute is to call him racist, sexist, and ageist, all the while beating the "FIRE HIM NOW" drum.

it works rather effectively.

(seriously, the dh0 "u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!!!" is a terrifying force, when seen and used as in a group or mob.)


>Then the correct way to handle it is to drop another refutational evidence bomb attacking his primary points instead of picking the low hanging fruit of claiming it's "too confrontational," "poorly written," "naive," or whatever other secondary problems exist (this is aside from wilfully misrepresenting his claims, which is definitely a bigger problem).

The brute problem is that it's too long to be addressed in a reasonable and productive debate, and because it was posted on an internal company messageboard it is his responsibility to ensure that it can be responded to in a reasonable and productive way. If he presents his complaints in a format which is likely to cause problems, he can be penalized, and a manifesto is certainly such a format because it lends itself so well to "viral" sharing, and it was precisely such "viral" reposting of the document that made it a practical problem for Google in the first place. Had he made his points in an ordinary discussion thread, it would have been harder to publish it everywhere as a unified whole, since discussion threads by their nature will contain counterarguments.

For example, if I think another employee is biased against me in code reviews, it does not do me any favors to write a multi-page manifesto indicting said employee on a variety of points for his/her alleged biased review practices. Good debates do not generally come from duelling essays, and it is unfair to participants -- practically unfair, in that it drives them from the debate and so deprives the conversation of their contributions -- it is unfair to participants who do not have the time to invest in researching every point of a ten-page document that they feel they must address the whole awful thing in order to say anything. In fact I try to limit the length of my HN comments for this very reason: long comments are hard to respond to well.

Internal company messageboards do not lend themselves to the publication of manifestos, and it is not reasonable to expect them to.


That's not the way to do it. The right way to do it is to pick one statement (the weakest one) from his argument and refute that one solidly. Then repeat the process with the next weakest, the second next weakest and so on. You only have to do that about four or five times before you have established that the author is full of shit.

That's the standard method you use for refuting arguments presented in essay form.


> I think many people were just so unprepared to hear any argument from an opposing viewpoint that they read into it what they wanted to.

also, may be due to backfire effect? Oatmeal did a brilliant job explaining it [0]

[0] - http://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe


I seriously question whether that was a minority viewpoint expressed in the memo. I went to school with loads of people like that. I think the reason such viewpoints get blowback is because they basically argue for the status quo when the system is not serving large swaths of the population.


It's very difficult to convince people who aren't interested in being convinced. There are too many people out there with a different, maybe wrong, opinion.

Why waste your time with those who don't seem genuinely interested in opposing evidence?

I didn't find his tone aggressive but he didn't at all seem interested in having a discussion. If I remember correctly he didn't rebuke any opposing points, let alone present them, which makes me think he didn't bother looking for them.

It's like hey I have this point I want you to listen to but I'm not even going to make an attempt to look up answers and instead force you to listen to me before I listen to you. It's like trying to answer someone's question without even understanding what they're asking, which I am sad to say I have seen far too often at Google.


You have to remember that this was a rough memo that he never meant to spread as widely as it has been. More like "here's some ideas I've been kicking around and some evidence for them, someone want to take a look and see what I'm missing or mistaken about?"

This was originally just posted to the Google Skeptics group, with the implication that it would be (fairly) contested and debated.

People keep presenting it as a "manifesto" but that's a term that Gizmodo used, not him. I really would like to have seen what would have come from it being fairly critiqued by his peers and edited until it was presentable to the public (if that's even possible).


> I think many people were just so unprepared to hear any argument from an opposing viewpoint that they read into it what they wanted to.

You hit the nail on the head, and it isn't limited to this memo. We have a serious intolerance problem in this country that goes far beyond Nazis and racists. Over the last 25 years our culture has warped to the point where opposing viewpoints are considered by many to be offensive. Kids have been raised in an environment where they are told that they (and their opinions) are always worthy of respect (no matter how uninformed or ignorant those opinions might be). Those who show insufficient respect (in the eyes of the person being "disrespected") are seen as hateful aggressors who must be attacked or silenced. In today's society, many people (especially young people) don't want vigorous debate between those of opposing views. They don't want to live in a marketplace of ideas where logic, morality, and the ability and willingness to articulate and defend your beliefs in a public forum are valued. These younger people have been conditioned to appeal to authority when they are offended or their beliefs are challenged, rather than answer the bell and debate the merit (or lack of merit) in an idea or statement.

Unfortunately this withering of public discourse is a bellwether for authoritarianism. You need look no farther than the recent outcry against the ACLU for their defense of free speech. There are very dark days ahead.


It's the school system, imo.

When you spend 12+ formative years telling kids to sit down, be quiet and do nothing but listen to authority or else, they aren't going to somehow come out of it as stellar, well-rounded debaters.

They will, of course, project how they were treated onto others, by holding deeply ingrained beliefs such as, "When someone is being disruptive they need to be punished."


I blame postmodernism. Really. Postmodernism says that all discourse is about power, not truth. People are starting to act consistently with what they've been taught.


Currently reading "Simulacra and Simulation" by Jean Baudrillard. This is a really fascinating book, probably one of the biggest in Post-Modernism.

It is the primary inspiration for the movie "The Matrix". When Neo takes the disk from the hacker at the beginning he actually puts it in a hollowed out version of this book.

Anyway Post-Modernism has lots of fascinating points and sub-topics and skilled writers, however if you read too much into it you can quickly become a very annoying person.

Great stuff, but read in caution and in moderation.


It's not postmodernism. It's hot cognition, and this sort of behavior isn't limited to the left.


Arguably the most important of the Jedi mind tricks: to install a gatekeeper wherever you know one is needed. Having one watching this hot/cold dial is important I recon. Knowing you can do this and that you have a choice about how you feel while thinking is something that ought to be taught.


I'd argue that it's objectively aggressive. His twitter handle "@fired4truth" makes the intention to be so rather obvious (the content he's promoting on that handle is an entire additional ball of wax)...

A 10-page manifesto, regardless of the content, when circulated internally without management's consent is in itself hard to view as anything but an act of mutiny.


Without stating anything regarding the merit's of Damore's arguments either way:

There is a long tradition of this kind of memo inside Google. Many products you probably use every day are better because of one or another.

This genre is not exactly encouraged, but lots of good stuff comes out of them.

Whatever else that memo was, the genre is common, and the genre itself not considered mutinous within Google.


[flagged]


One of the basic contexts of the debate is the question of whether tech workplaces are hostile to women. The tone of the email making claims about women in the workplace is relevant.


I disagree. He mentioned in an interview[1] that he was looking to be proven wrong which is what led him to share it with the Skeptics group at Google, which is when the document propagated. He had actually wrote the document weeks prior but was unsatisfied with the lack of discussion on his document.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEDuVF7kiPU


That seems an odd approach tbh. Many 'Skeptics' groups (Skeptic / Rationalist YouTube) online at least would agree with his reasoning. It strikes me as odd that he was seeking to take down an ideological echo chamber but published it initially in the echo chamber most likely to agree with him.


His first group he sent it to was a diversity group. I think it reasonable that a skeptic group who, ostensibly, would side with reason would be a next logical step.


Yes, even if they agreed with the echo chamber idea on the whole, they'd still seek to point out flaws and fallacies in his arguments.


The skeptic tribe is extremely politicly polarized.


Scepticism is a methodology, not a political group. I think it just looks that way because the term has been kind of hijacked by anti-regressives.


> hijacked by anti-regressives

Would someone please explain what this means, wouldn't an anti-regressive be a progressive? If so, why not state it that way?

Also, I thought the term "skeptic" had been hijacked by conspiracy wackos. When I think of a classic skeptic, I look to James Randi and the like; critical thinkers who expose quackery. But, for the last 15-20 years, conspiracy theorists have taken the term over (e.g. vaccine/climate/GMO skeptics). I fall into the Randi group of skeptics, but I sure as hell don't describe myself using that word, for fear of being lumped in with the second lot.

Real skeptics tend to be progressive, conspiracy skeptics tend to be regressive.

Based on the spelling, I'll assume emsy is a Brit... maybe things are different over there, but Randi was always more popular in England than in the US. I'm missing something.


I'm German. The skeptics I were talking about and presumably the comment I answered on, were the YouTube skeptics. What I meant with anti-regressive was that these skeptics mostly tackle so-called progressives that use racism and sexism for their arguments or policies.

I've never heard the conspiracy theorists called skeptics, so I'm sorry for the misunderstanding.


Thanks for clearing it up. It looks like certain groups are using terms in ways that I'm not accustomed to.

Now I need new words. Damned kids and your identity politics!


> Would someone please explain what this means, wouldn't an anti-regressive be a progressive?

Kind of, but just like skeptic the word "progressive" was hijacked by groups like BLM that started advocating for things like a return to segregation.

I used to be happy to call myself a skeptic and a progressive, but that was 10 years ago when the world made more sense.


> That seems an odd approach tbh.

If that's odd, then what is firing just to prove him right?


> If that's odd, then what is firing just to prove him right?

Google is a company with shareholders and P/L. It's not a thought experiment, a family, a social commons, or a debating society. It exists to make money.

Google took the decision to fire him based on what was likely to create a conducive atmosphere for its workers.

His memo, however construed, made it likely that he could no longer be able to contribute as effectively to some teams.

Google's responsibility to Damore begins and ends at their mutual alignment of economic interests.


> Google took the decision to fire him based on what was likely to create a conducive atmosphere for its workers.

They did the opposite, someone said it's not okay to shame people into silence, and then they did just that.

> made it likely that he could no longer be able to contribute as effectively to some teams.

What does "as effectively" mean? What are "some teams"? If someone sweats a lot, and a million other things, the above would also be technically true. Or hey, if a company fired someone over something like this. That will make a lot of bright people, both male and female, think twice before even giving Google a consideration.

> Google's responsibility to Damore begins and ends at their mutual alignment of economic interests.

It's not about responsibility to him, but about their responsibility for themselves to not shit the bed like they did.


Then Google's calculus is simply different to yours. For what its worth, I don't think Google's response to this is going to have a significant impact on Google's ability to hire talented people, or that white, heterosexual, cisgendered people are going to feel that their opportunities at Google are likely to be curtailed. Females, I would say, or any other minority within Google, are even less likely to.

Amazon attracts talented staff despite a widespread perception that it's a hellhole to work at (https://www.theverge.com/2015/8/15/9159309/you-probably-dont...). Google, to most people, will continue to represent a dream job.


> Amazon attracts talented staff

Yet you don't know if they would have even more talented staff being more decent. They're by definition stuck with what they can get.


I think a large number of people in tech simply have a straight-to-the-point style of talking. They don't follow through with the HR-like "we appreciate your thoughts and comments, but going forward, we must politely decline to touch base again" style because the expectation is just to say "you're wrong and here's why." What's inviting to some people is insincere to others. What's straight-faced discussion is rude and problematic to others. It's hard reaching a middle ground, because when you try finding a middle point for a group the size of the whole tech industry about such a divisive topic, at least one person will accuse you of trying to appease (insert enemy political group here) and see it as worse than just taking a side.


It was apparently a live-document (like etherpad) and the intention was get feedback directly in-line if I understood correctly. Not an unusual way of doing things for an engineer.


It's usual for an engineer to understand something outside their field of expertise by submitting a draft of what they know to others who aren't domain experts, either?

Wouldn't an actual engineering process have started by submitting a document for feedback from somebody whose field of expertise deals with unequal gender representation in the workplace?


He has a master in systems biology.


As someone with a very debate-loving personality, I disagree. Saying how I'm wrong is the best way to start discussion.

Now of course, not everyone will be the same. But for those that like to debate and have discussions, then just tell me why you think I'm wrong and we can go from there. I don't need you to coddle me.


I don't think anyone needs a special invitation to have a discussion! "Hey Alice/Bob, I read your memo and I disagree. here's my point of view...".


One thing I find problematic about the memo is that it conflate three issues: Google's diversity programs, Google's echo chamber, and the left/right politics.

If you want to talk about diversity programs, the other two appear to be attempts to shut down further discussion. If you want to talk about the problem of living in an echo chamber, diversity is, or ought to be, an example, not the focus. If you want to talk politics at work, don't.


Exactly. People seem to get confused easily about what "discussion" means. Discussion requires real interaction between humans with different views.

It doesn't seem like Damore really tried to do that. His apparent goal with the "memo" was to change the policy of his company.

So much of philosophy is really just identity politics disguised as rational inquiry.


I read the full memo ( https://medium.com/@Cernovich/full-james-damore-memo-uncenso...) and it didn't seem like that at all. Saying that discrimination exists but differences in gender representation aren't necessarily caused by discrimination didn't seem like 'you're all wrong', not do the 'suggestions' seem like something someone writing authoritatively would make. Not a female engineer so appreciate I may be missing something - what is it?


The first page or so is not about gender diversity, but about "Left biases" and "Right biases" and the statement that "the media, and Google lean left".

He then follows with "Google's left bias has created a politically correct monoculture".

So the difference is between these two statements:

a. I believe X, and

b. You are all leftists. Leftists believe Y. Y is wrong. The answer is actually X.


Saying Google's culture leans left doesn't mean everyone in Google is a leftist. Nor does acknowledging bias imply that people with that bias is wrong - just biased, Eg looking at a specific part of a larger picture. There's a difference.


Be honest here -- do you _really_ think there's a way to present the argument that --gasp-- men and women might be different in their abilities that _wouldn't_ trigger a meltdown? I think this memo really highlights the fact that there are Some Things You Just Can't Talk About.


No, you can't, because there isn't evidence that biological differences cause people to choose different careers.

Why would put forth a theory that is opposed to a company's values of equality if you don't have proof?

Most evidence points to socialized factors, not biological ones.

If Damore really cares about this issue, he should study biology and make his case there. He will do more to move the debate forward from within the relevant scientific community by gathering evidence than from the outside.


"Most evidence points to socialized factors, not biological ones."

I'm loathe to post in discussions like this because it's so useless, but points like this make me wonder if I'm just living on a different planet. Do you have children? Of different genders? Because literally every parent I know who has both boys and girls has the simple, non-ideologically-biased experience that boys and girls are vastly different, even if you treat them just the same. My youngest is a boy who was surrounded by pink fairy castles and butterfly coloring books until he was 2 or 2,5. And yet the moment he got his hands on a stick, he'd use it as a play weapon.

And from that observation that boys and girls are different, I wouldn't call it a stretch to assume that men and women might not be exactly the same, either. Why is this not blindingly obvious? I mean, how is saying otherwise not the very essence of "post truthiness"?


I have a similar experience with my children. From an extremely early age, my daughter has "tucked in" toys to bed, rocked them to sleep, etc. She was NOT taught to do this, but just did this as play. My sons can't seem to find a toy that cannot be used as a sword or a gun, to my wife's constant annoyance.

Even with the SAME toys, they are used very differently. For example, all of my kids play minecraft. My daughter loves to build houses with kitchens and bathrooms, bake, and invite people into her house for dinners and parties. My sons fight the monsters, build elaborate towers and castles, and play with explosives.

This image summarizes my experience: http://imgur.com/AT2Ak


The question is: Who has tucked in your children? You or your wife? Children know which parent has the same sex and they like to play grown up.

Regarding the shooting and the building, are you sure that you have encouraged your daughter the same way as your sons? Have you looked your daughter into the eyes and smiled when she first tried to fight with you?

And even if you were all supportive in that development, it's still not a fair experiment. As long as your children have friends with traditional values and your children watch TV with advertisements that present pink female princesses and male worriers and builders, children are locked down into their roles.


Well this one is easy to answer, because there have been (over the last 6 years) less than say 50 occasions where we didn't put them to bed together; apart from those 50 occasions, my wife travels a few months out of the year, in which periods I put them to bed. So overall, there is no doubt (no matter how subconsciously biased my 'accounting' might be) that I did the majority of the putting to bed. (to bed putting?)

And well of course there's always the no true scottsman argument - no matter what, one can always put the 'true' equal treatment to question. If you're asking whether I ran a double blind experiment in my home, no I didn't. But we're nit talking about a tiny difference in one observation here. We're talking massive differences in dozens of families (from my observations). And this is for a social context where the ratio if dads and mums and the school gate is roughly 50% (yes I count sometimes), and where the lowest level of education is a bachelor's degree and the median is a PhD. Meaning, we're not talking about representative sample of the population, which you would expect to show the same properties as the population overall; we're talking about a population here that shows high levels of gender equally along many metrics. And despite that, the children show (very) unequal behaviour.


Well, that's a convincing setup.

I still think that peers and media consumption could explain the development but I don't have any data to back that up.


"Equal treatment" is not enough to remove socialization factors.

Kids learn from what their parents do. If a boy's dad is a truck driver, he may prefer playing with trucks, even if given a choice of truck vs. doll. The boy could similarly pick up non-verbal gestures from the dad or mom handling a doll vs. a truck.

Research is often inconclusive or difficult to replicate for these reasons.

Putting forth a theory that gender, on its own, impacts career choices is pretty useless. It probably does, but not in a way that we can adequately quantify. It depends on too many things.


"Putting forth a theory that gender, on its own, impacts career choices is pretty useless. It probably does, but not in a way that we can adequately quantify. It depends on too many things."

head explodes

So you're saying it probably exists, but then conclude it doesn't because it can't be quantified how much? I'm not even saying biological differences explain everything, or even a substantial part; just some part, but you deny that any aspect of difference between preferences in men and women is due to biology? I mean I cannot interpret what you're saying in any other way no matter how hard I try - you're saying that if we can't measure something exactly, it doesn't exist?


> you deny that any aspect of difference between preferences in men and women is due to biology?

head explodes

I don't know how you can read what I wrote and come away with that interpretation. I said it probably does.

I said links between biology and occupation are extremely difficult to measure and there isn't research that does so. This is why a lot of research focuses on babies.


The question has been answered. The dimorphism in gender preferences has been demonstrated (a decade ago) in a very similar fashion in primates who are really not inculcated with "traditional values" or "cultural role models":

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2583786/

Is that a "fair" experiment?


I don't think that the study directly answers the question. Choosing role models is different from choosing toys.

If anything, the study suggests that women are equally capable of becoming engineers:

>Unlike male monkeys and like girls, female monkeys did not show any reliable preference for either toy type.

If you follow the pattern of the study, then men would reject 'female' jobs but women are interested in both 'male' and 'female' options. Women not only tuck in toys but also like playing with guns.

However, according to that article, male monkeys like to play more. You could argue that IT is all play and thus it's a better environment for men.


> Do you have children?

Do you teach your children everything, or send them to school / daycare?

> And from that observation that boys and girls are different, I wouldn't call it a stretch to assume that men and women might not be exactly the same, either

It is a giant leap in logic to conclude that a slight difference in average personality must undermine women's professional abilities in software engineering.

There is no scientific consensus that toy preferences are linked to prenatal testosterone or career choice. Those who say they are linked, such as Damore, are pushing scientism– using undercooked research to back up the status quo.


For me personally, my children went to daycare since they were 3 months old, but for people I know who stayed at home until the children were 2.5 or 3, it's the same. So from observation, I don't find your argument convincing.

I mean, let's be clear here - are you saying that if boys and girls would be kept in isolation, well at least not exposed to the outside world which would fill them with tradtional gender role behaviours, until they are say 3 years old, you're claiming that boys and girls would end up both playing with dolls and playing dressup, and play fight with sticks and climb trees, in equal amounts? Or at least that the ratio of boys/girls having a preference for one thing or another would be the same? Because to me that sound just as preposterous as denying climate change, and it requires a similar level of fact distortion to believe.

As to the second point, I'm not going to argue here what this google guy did or did nit say, I didn't read the thing and frankly I don't care much either. But if one would assume (humour me here) that men and women and not the same (as in, have different preferences - not morally or so), how would that not logically lead to some professions being more preferred by one gender? It would be an extraordinary claim that despite differences, the outcome would be that every profession had people to a ratio matching society in general, along many axises - gender, skin color, etc.

I realize that it's easy to spin my argument as saying that some people are good managers and others can run very fast and that's just the natural order of thing, but that's not what I'm saying at all, so let's all spare ourselves the effort of going there.

And then finally, if some people with certain traits prefer one thing over another, is it then not perfectly obvious and even inevitable that there will be more people of that group doing that thing, and just as inevitable that that does not mean that those who are not like that, aren't automatically unqualified? If you combine two normal distributions, with different modes, isn't the outcome then a mathematical certainty? Including an explanation for the statistically expected properties of each individual?

I'm not saying anything here about software engineering, just trying to establish a baseline to understand your argument. Because you seem to be saying that there can be no differences ever, which is so obviously non-intuitive and irrational that I can't believe this would actually be your standpoint.


> you seem to be saying that there can be no differences ever, which is so obviously non-intuitive and irrational that I can't believe this would actually be your standpoint

Where did I say that?

The notion that either biology or environment determines everything is outdated, according to one environmental biologist [1]. She says modern research is based on the view that "neurological traits develop over time under the simultaneous influence of epigenetic, genetic and environmental influences. Everything about humans involves both nature and nurture"

That said, it's a huge leap to assume that sex differences can determine whether or not someone is likely to be a good software engineer. You said you didn't read it. Well, Damore wrote this,

"I'm simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."

"This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading."

He goes on to claim that there is a scientific consensus showing this, however, it's easy to see from his sources that there is no scientific basis for that claim.

[1] https://www.quora.com/What-do-scientists-think-about-the-bio...


"There is no scientific consensus that toy preferences are linked to prenatal testosterone or career choice"

This is weasel wording for "there are no difference". But just in case, let me ask flat out - do you think there are any differences between men and women in what sort of activities and/or behaviour they prefer to do, take part in or be around? If so, would it not be reasonable to assume that this would result in different preferences in job choice?

"Everything about humans involves both nature and nurture"

Well yeah that was obvious I thought, but at least we agree on this. So then, if preferences and behaviour are at least partially explained by biology, does it then not follow that men and women would have different preferences? Otherwise, to reach parity, the 'nurture' part should cancel out the nature part.

Again, I'm not going to be lured into saying something specific about software, but wouldn't it follow naturally from what you said (which is the uncontested scientific consensus) that women would, in the aggregate, prefer some other professions than men do, in the aggregate? Furthermore, even if you for some reason say no, do you find it offensive when people say so? Or do you feel that how people answer reflects on them as a person? Because to me, it's like liking hot dogs or not - something that does absolutely nothing to the way I think about someone. Whereas I get the impression that simple, factual things like this is really an identity thing for some - which I just cannot wrap my head around.


>> "There is no scientific consensus that toy preferences are linked to prenatal testosterone or career choice"

> This is weasel wording for "there are no difference".

Demanding research back up your claims is weasel wording? Okay..

> do you think there are any differences between men and women in what sort of activities and/or behaviour they prefer to do, take part in or be around?

Yup.

> If so, would it not be reasonable to assume that this would result in different preferences in job choice?

Yes, but not to the extent the differences affect gender capability overall in roles like tech or leadership, which is what Damore was talking about. That's far from the scientific consensus.

> does it then not follow that men and women would have different preferences?

Biology can play a role in forming different choices of two men. It does not follow that all men would be more suited, on average, than women for roles in tech or leadership.

> I'm not going to be lured into saying something specific about software

Not sure why you feel lured into saying something specific about tech or leadership. If you don't think there are differences there between men and women on average, then we agree.

> wouldn't it follow naturally from what you said (which is the uncontested scientific consensus) that women would, in the aggregate, prefer some other professions than men do, in the aggregate?

Perhaps, but research has yet to show it. I wouldn't assume this is true for things like tech or leadership.

> do you find it offensive when people say so?

No, however it is misleading to say there is scientific consensus about something when there isn't. If I had this kind of discussion with Damore in person, like some at Google did, and he persisted in believing that science says something it didn't, then I would believe he has some ulterior agenda. That politics was a primary agenda of his paper says something. Politics shouldn't be the basis for scientific discussion, in my opinion.

> Or do you feel that how people answer reflects on them as a person?

Everything does. Not much you can do about that is there.

> I get the impression that simple, factual things like this is really an identity thing for some - which I just cannot wrap my head around

I don't know how science is an identity. It can be discussed on its evidence, methods and conclusions. Identity doesn't need to play into it. Science can definitely be misconstrued. But I would say today's top peer-reviewed journals are all of high quality, and if you find a scientist who's published in that sphere, they can give a better overview of this subject than Damore did.


> he should study biology

He has a master in systems biology from Harvard.


Systems Biology doesn't generally have much to do with the study of gender and sexuality.


But it would likely cover topics which would suggest differences in gender. This entire debate is absurd. The link between gender and behavior is beyond plausible. Something as simple as psychological effects of being physically smaller than another gender could affect behavior; there are hormonal differences, and we know that decision making is influenced by hormone response. If physical differences between men and women are so obvious, why can't people accept the possibility of sexually dimorphism in psychology? How can one claim to be rational or objective while denying such a possibility?


> why can't people accept the possibility of sexually dimorphism in psychology? How can one claim to be rational or objective while denying such a possibility?

I don't see people denying the possibility that biology plays a role. I see people saying it hasn't been determined to play a role in determining which sex is better or more likely to choose complex modern professions such as software engineering. Damore makes it sound as if this has already been demonstrated by science:

"I'm simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."

"This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading."

The latter is a conclusory statement. Meanwhile, he continues to claim that his essay is fully backed by research. He denies that anyone has made a proper rebuttal, despite many scientists directly refuting his claims, including one he cited.


But there is nothing to rebut for a scientist without an agenda. Look around you; the plan of egalitarianism transitioned from experiment to propaganda decades ago. We do have scientific evidence of predictable gender differences in ability, the issue is that people like you are SO DESPERATE to deny these cracks in equality theory that such research into gender or racial differences has become taboo. Which means the scientific establishment has been biased and subjective in handling this topic.

Want more proof of bias? The google letter writer was attacked for his writing style and choice of discussion venue, not the contents of the letter. His subject was taboo and so people are still adamant about not discussing it, because in their mindminds, the science is settled. Thats the propaganda talking.

We can give people equal treatment before the law, but we need to recognize that differences in hiring ratios for not have to be indicitave of race or gender bias. It is possible for the numbers to be an emergent effect of group differences.


> But there is nothing to rebut for a scientist without an agenda

Science is the right place to have this discussion, not politics. Scientists have theories, not agendas. True scientists are not ideologues.

> The google letter writer was attacked for his writing style and choice of discussion venue, not the contents of the letter

People have pointed to flaws within both his conclusions and his writing style. His defendants first claimed that media is mischaracterizing what he said; they said they do not understand why people are upset. Then, when someone starts citing his words, Damorians complain they're cherry picking, being nitpicky, or being a grammar nazi.

The way one writes a scientific argument is important. Peer reviewed research goes through many drafts before it's even presented to the public. Thereafter, it can still be the subject of much scrutiny. One cannot simultaneously claim that Damore's paper is both,

(1) Representative of a scientific consensus, and

(2) Undeserving of critique for his writing style simply because he didn't intend for it to be released

> people are still adamant about not discussing it

I find this comment ridiculous as we're discussing it right now, and this has been national news for weeks with hundreds of articles written on the subject, commentary from scientists, etc. If you mean "not discussing in in the right way", then I don't know what to tell you. You don't get to decide how someone else makes their arguments. "Why don't you see it my way?" is not a useful debate strategy.

> We can give people equal treatment before the law, but we need to recognize that differences in hiring ratios for not have to be indicitave of race or gender bias. It is possible for the numbers to be an emergent effect of group differences.

Many do recognize that racism or sexism don't always play a role. I don't work at Google, but, I don't see women assuming sexism every time a male coworker gives a bad review of a prospective female candidate. The question here is whether affirmative action is an appropriate strategy for reducing gender imbalances. I understand many conservatives feel it's not. But, when asked how to correct for various socialization factors (not all of which are sexist or racist -- they can just be habit), their solutions would seem to keep the status quo. One of Damore's suggestions is to "reduce empathy". I can't think anything more inhumane.


> No, you can't, because there isn't evidence that biological differences cause people to choose different careers.

Women choose to become professional basketball players at a much lower rate than men. Is there no biological difference that can explain that?


> because there isn't evidence that biological differences cause people to choose different careers.

Oh? What about basketball players or jockeys?


Not sure what got you downvoted. There's even a South Park episode about it where Kyle has a surgery to become a black basketball player, which kind of goes in the same direction.


I was just thinking about height. Of course biology affects career choice, and a lot of other things. Doesn't mean men are engineers and women are nurses, but to pretend biology doesn't affect anything is more than hilarious. Which makes people who think that laughable, and they probably don't like it. But hey, you can't prove obedience by agreeing that the sky is blue or a circle is round, it's gotta be something more, like "biology doesn't affect career choice". So whatevs, if it's not that it's something else ^_^


Wasn't it posted on a board Google specifically set up for posts like this?


I don't see what's wrong with an "evidence bomb" and I've never seen the complaint that someone's position had too much evidence behind it. If Damore had no evidence, he'd be dismissed as a misogynist with no evidence. When he presents evidence, you dismiss him as an evidence bomber.


This is rather the page I've been on (outside of my personal disagreements).

You put it more concisely than I have previously.


I think if you want to critique author's approach to discussion, you need to learn first what it actually was.


It was a politically charged topic, he would have been crucified either way.

But by phrasing the memo the way he did, he covered himself legally.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear everything was run by a lawyer first.


What could possibly make you think he sought legal representation before writing that document? He was just looking for an argument/discussion.


It wasn't "let's have a chat", it was "here's an evidence bomb of how you're all wrong".

We shouldn't really take someone's degree of divergence from reality as somehow being a point in favor of their argument.

When people remove themselves so far from reality, ignoring significant mounds of evidence, nearly anything not divorced from reality is going to have the effect of an "evidence bomb."


> I do not think that anyone's ability to write should disbar them from discussion. We can not expect perfection from others. Instead we should try to understand them as human beings, and interpret them with generosity and kindness.

I'm a huge proponent of the principle of charity, but I found it impossible to apply to the Google Memo. Not because I'm deeply mired in political correctness (I have a range of views people in my circle consider right-wing) but because it's so badly reasoned it makes it hard to presume good faith on the part of the writer.

Damore points to studies showing that, e.g. women are more agreeable and more people-oriented. From that, he concludes women on average are less likely to prefer programming. We can diagram this reasoning as follows (the arrow with the line through denotes a contraindicator):

Women -> (agreeable + people-oriented) -> [???] -\-> programming

As you can see, there is an unstated premise:

(agreeable + people-oriented) -\-> programming

Damore's argument thus reduces to a bit of begging the question. We assume that programming is a "masculine" profession. Thus, being agreeable and people-oriented, which are feminine traits, must be contraindicators for preferring a career as a programmer. We have no studies that show this--we just assume it.

Edith, by the way, demolishes that assumption: "For example, students and professors I met in college that grew up in the USSR thought engineering was stereotypically women’s work." That demonstrates how the "gender" of various professions is a social construct. In India, where men are over-represented in teaching, it's not considered a job for "agreeable" "people-oriented" women. It's men's work. Law was historically considered men's work (it's analytical and adversarial, and could be called "people oriented" only if you hate people). But that view has been redefined as more women enter the profession. Likewise for medicine, accounting, etc. Accounting is an archetypally "masculine" profession (locked away in a back closet crunching numbers), but today more than half of accountants are women.

The moral of the story is that if you're going to make a controversial point, it had better be a good point. Damore's memo wasn't just badly written, it was badly reasoned, and deserved the scorn heaped on it.


> Damore points to studies showing that, e.g. women are more agreeable and more people-oriented. From that, he concludes women on average are less likely to prefer programming.

That's Diekman 2010:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20631322

"Although women have nearly attained equality with men in several formerly male-dominated fields, they remain underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We argue that one important reason for this discrepancy is that STEM careers are perceived as less likely than careers in other fields to fulfill communal goals (e.g., working with or helping other people). Such perceptions might disproportionately affect women's career decisions, because women tend to endorse communal goals more than men. As predicted, we found that STEM careers, relative to other careers, were perceived to impede communal goals. Moreover, communal-goal endorsement negatively predicted interest in STEM careers, even when controlling for past experience and self-efficacy in science and mathematics."


I found that study here: https://sc.lib.miamioh.edu/bitstream/handle/2374.MIA/6026/di...

"Participants were 333 introductory psychology students (193 women) who participated for partial course credit, and 27 paid participants (14 women) from STEM classes. The majority (86.94%) were of European American descent. The median age was 19 years, ranging from 18 to 43. "

"For each of the core careers, participants rated how much the career fulfills agentic goals (“power, achievement, and seeking new experiences or excitement”) and communal goals (“intimacy, affiliation, and altruism”; definitions from Pohlmann, 2001). Participants rated goals according to “how important each of the following kinds of goals is to you personally."

I really found this study not very compelling as jumping from point A to conclusion B. It seems more than they've proved that women from the small subset in this study prefer more "communal goals" and the STEM careers are not perceived that way.

I can say as a women in STEM, I sort of choose tech on a whim. I came to see coding as a tool for many of the creative aspirations I had. If anything, I think some of the STEM career paths are poorly understood and marketed to women. Though I probably would have answered my questions about my career decisions in one way when I started college, it would have been different by the end of it. And after understanding what to expect out of a career, being years into my career, I would answer what's important to me in yet another way. So I really question this study.


Let me just say this is why "show me the study" is never a productive line of debate.

If someone agrees with the point the study seems to support, they say, "Hah! Studies!" and call anyone who disagrees "anti-science".

But if someone disagrees with the point, they pull up the study, pick out some section of it where any type of subjective judgment call was made (usually the details of the sample, because that's the most clearly subjective thing, making it the easiest thing to criticize), and say "There are real problems with this study, how about a real study? [that is, a study that agrees with my point]". Also popular is "Yes, but this author is affiliated with former employer x, y, or z".

This is true of all sides, all the time. Very rarely do you see a study actually impact anyone's opinion about an important topic. It is usually only the impression that more studies support a specific position (that is, "the consensus", aka social pressure to appear studious and informed, which affects academics as much or more than it affects non-academics), that does it.


> But if someone disagrees with the point, they pull up the study, pick out some section of it where any type of subjective judgment call was made (usually the details of the sample, because that's the most clearly subjective thing, making it the easiest thing to criticize), and say "There are real problems with this study, how about a real study? [that is, a study that agrees with my point]". Also popular is "Yes, but this author is affiliated with former employer x, y, or z".

This is virtually impossible to do effectively unless one is an expert in the field. Studies that have been published by reputable journals have gone through a rigorous peer review process. A layperson criticizing such a study is highly unlikely to discover any valid points that have escaped the experts.


Given the power we see in 100+ study meta-analysis in medicine, I think we have to move towards a model where research grants in other fields (psych, sociology, etc.) are jointly awarded to multiple independent groups to jumpstart the meta-analysis for a given new topic from the outset. How to keep the "independent" groups from colluding will be a challenge unfortunately. As will funding for the extra replications. For the reasons you cite, single, stand-alone studies are almost useless these days.


She's done some research since in this area, see publication list: https://miamioh.edu/cas/academics/departments/psychology/abo...


That study doesn't support either of Damore's premises. It doesn't address biological tendencies--it was conducted on adult women. Nor does it address traits actually linked to professions. It focuses on perception. That's an important distinction. In the age of the internet, software is much more about fulfilling communal goals--e.g. helping people communicate with family and friends--than many women-dominated professions like accounting. To the extent women perceive the opposite to be true, a strong argument can be made that it is the result of a male-dominated profession characterizing itself as such, rather than anything inherent about the profession.

Peoples' perceptions of various professions are the result of socialization. For example, my mom grew up in a society where teaching was a male profession--it was characterized as being about instilling wisdom and discipline in children. She found it very upsetting that teachers in the US were overwhelmingly women.


> Peoples' perceptions of various professions are the result of socialization.

But interests come first. If women on average perceive technology as not fulfilling communal goals and therefore avoid the field, they must first be interested in communal goals. It's also not controversial that interests have some biological component. So both here and in your original comment, I'm not sure exactly what specific criticism of Damore you're making. Maybe a quote would help?

Generally, you raise the possibility that software engineering could be a very people-oriented profession now but misportrayed as such by male engineers. But surely there must be some non-people, thing-oriented job that is just hours of long hacking at a keyboard with zero to minimal social contact, completely male-dominated, which women on average would tend to avoid. Why wouldn't that be some form of software programming?


Here's an actual citation to prove the USSR anecdote as true: http://www.asee.org/public/conferences/20/papers/6985/downlo...

> Since the Communist Revolution of 1917 and during the ensuring Soviet times, the role of women in engineering and engineering education was strong with almost 60% of the engineers being women. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian women in these engineering careers has fallen to below 40% of the engineering workforce with a continuing downward trend.

I had completely forgotten about this - my own mothers' class in Moscow Aviation Institute (rocket engineers) in early 80s had more women studying than men.


does this not provide support for Damore? Once Russian women had a greater choice of career opportunities in post-soviet russia STEM participation declined.


Absolutely not - Russian women had less choice following the collapse as the country's economy declined.

The paper I cited does not claim that USSR had managed to transform an otherwise very prejudice society into an equal egalitarian one. Instead, soviets focused on full employment AND full Labor participation as part of ideology, leaving less room for contradictions such as gender discrimination on employment or education itself. Salary and promotion discrimination remained as there ideology provided less cover. Following the collapse, Russian society reverted to its old prejudice self. Lookup домострой if you don't believe me.

Another less from USSR for gender/family stays equality is that childcare access makes a huge difference. In USSR, parents were guaranteed state funded care from the point maternity leave ended to college. On paper that still exists, but in practice it's a shadow of what it used to be.


The role of women in Russian society is very complex, but its not accurate to say that Russian women have more choices post-USSR. The best way to understand the situation is Soviet idealism against the reality of longstanding Russian patriarchy. The Soviets were at the forefront of encouraging women to enter the workforce, making abortion legal in 1920, making divorces easier, providing child care, etc. Those policies suffered fits and starts (Stalin rolled back abortion from 1936-1955) but were still in many ways far ahead of Western Europe. Post-USSR the idealistic stuff died out and there was a strong reversion to patriarchy (not to mention per-capita GDP dropped by half and only returned to peak Soviet levels in 2008).


So he was wrong. That doesn't make him the devil in disguise.


Sometimes if you are wrong enough and offend enough people you are guilty of violating a code of conduct. No one is sending him to hell or even jail. He just lost his job. We are not schoolboys. We are adults with a responsibility to follow the code of employee, or face the consequences.


The memo attempts to use references to what the author sees as well accepted science. If you have a disagreement with the science, you can disagree. However, the method the author to used construct the memo, i.e. referencing studies, is the correct method. At worst you could attempt to call it bad science mixed with ignorance.


Well said. I thought the memo was well written with poor reasoning as to causation. Though the memo said there were influences outside of biology, it spent no time exploring them.


I do not think that anyone's ability to write should disbar them from discussion. We can not expect perfection from others. Instead we should try to understand them as human beings, and interpret them with generosity and kindness.

You are completely right, but on the other hand if you are going to invoke "science" and you present your writing as scientific (he did), you have a higher bar. If you fail to be objective (see semi-related assertions about Marxism), or your writing obscures the point you are attempting to make, then you've failed as a writer of scientific content.

If your writing isn't good enough, then don't release a memo to your workplace of tens of thousands of smart and ideological people. Put it on a blog, write it anonymously, but expect whatever criticism you get.


It seems to be completely lost on a lot of HN people that Damore's memo was not very scientific at all for the subject matter he was tackling. It was written in a certain intellectual language that often provides a veneer of authority for those who agree with his conclusions and lack the domain knowledge to understand the nuances of why he's wrong. But a lot of these "bio-truth" type of arguments do the same thing.

Google had plenty of reason to rethink his employment, not just because of his poor judgement, but because of the fact that he tackled a new (to him) science is such an unreasoned and unscientific way.

All it would have taken was for him to run the essay past a couple of people with solid domain expertise, and they would have pointed out the dozens and dozens of problems with his assertions, reasoning and perspective.

As people have pointed out on HN before, there is something about computer science that leads people to believe they can out-think experts in other fields at their own game. And while reaching outside of your expertise is to be encouraged, it should come with a certain humility that is not common in our industry.


>>All it would have taken was for him to run the essay past a couple of people with solid domain expertise, and they would have pointed out the dozens and dozens of problems with his assertions, reasoning and perspective.

I don't think this squares with truth. There is at least one PH.D psychologist who mentioned the memo was generally correct.


The people he cited told reporters they disagree with his interpretations of their research. There's a wired article going around with direct quotes but I'm mobile and can't find it easily.


Of course they did. When the press is on a witch hunt, and somebody is made to be the scum of the earth, people want to distance themselves from them. And if they hear what said person said framed as an "anti-diversity manifesto" (as if that was what it was), "sexist" etc, they would obviously say they "disagree with his interpretations of their research".


So you're questioning the integrity of the scientists Damore cited...to give more credit to his argument. Neat how that works.


No, I'm mentioning a common reaction during witch hunting / moral panic / etc scenarios.

(Plus I don't consider people as solid blocks. One's reaction towards the media is not representative of the integrity of their work, one's family life is not representative of their public persona, and so on. Galileo bowed to the Inquisition, but his work is still solid).

Doubly so if, as it often happens, what they were asked to comment on were not the writings themselves in full, but a straw-man summarisation of them by journalists and related pundits (on which everybody seems to argue about).



Your third source claims that there is evidence of gender gap being due to biological differences that result in different interests. But Damore also made the claim that there is a biological difference in ability. Your source strongly disagrees, saying that "gender differences in math/science ability, achievement, and performance are small or nil." So they agree with some of Damore's memo and were careful to point out that they disagree with his claim about ability. If Damore had been that careful, he might still have a job.

Your fourth source includes one of the scientists who Damore cited. David P Schmitt's take is that "using someone’s biological sex to essentialize an entire group of people’s personality would be like operating with an axe. Not precise enough to do much good, probably will cause a lot of harm."

Hardly "many agree with him". And it bears repeating over and over that cherry-picking science facts (or even the opinion of scientists who agree with you) is not science. It's the same exercise those who believe in chem trails engage in. Let's stop. If you want information about the population Google hires from, do research on that population not the general public. You would be studying the smartest of folks, who are likely to graduate from the elite universities of the world. Studies of biological differences in the general population might have little bearing on the specific population Google hires from.


> he tackled a new (to him) science is such an unreasoned and unscientific way

So very much this. He presented very few facts and a tiny bit of cherry-picked research. He decided to tackle a big-boy subject with a sixth-grader's game.

Pro-tip: Don't dress up your opinions as fact. Pro-tip #2: Don't tackle large or sensitive topics with an air of authority Pro-tip #3: When addressing your colleagues find people who disagree with you or question you and incorporate their feedback.

#3 is the most difficult step. If you perform true self-reflection it can often lead to abandonment of the argument you were attempting to make because you realize you were wrong or simply that you don't know much about the topic.

> there is something about computer science that leads people to believe they can out-think experts in other fields at their own game.

This is very common among many fields of expertise. Go ask any physicist at your local university about crank papers claiming to have overturned Einstein (and possibly all of science). First of all they'll have a drawer full of them. Secondly you'll see over half are written by someone with an engineering degree.


> Pro-tip #3: When addressing your colleagues find people who disagree with you or question you and incorporate their feedback.

Which is why he brought it to the Google Skeptics group.

Edit: and it was they (or someone they shared it with) that leaked the document.


Your response is the kind of response that just builds support for him more.

What have I seen since this memo came out, from people who disagree with it?

His words are offensive. Poorly written. Yes there's science but it was cherry picked. He's a "sixth-grader" and "not a pro". He's wasting work time. He's naive. He's a bad person. He's "alt right". He wrote his memo with an air of authority that he should not have used. He doesn't understand the topic. OK, he's studied biology but not the right kind of biology. He said women suck compared to men. OK, maybe he didn't but he implied it. His memo was too long. Or maybe it was too short, because he cited 'very few facts'. Why is he "evidence bombing" people. He should have known readers would misinterpret it and that's his fault. He shouldn't have given interviews to YouTubers I don't like. OK, he interviewed with the WSJ but he was wearing a dumb t-shirt. He's the face of Silicon Valley sexism. Some women are offended and that's enough to stop discussing it. It's ridiculous that anyone agrees with him. He posted it to the wrong forums. Maybe he posted it to the right forums but he should have known it'd go viral. Why is he so naive? He deserves everything he gets.

These are all excuses to shoot the messenger. I am tired of reading them. They do not advance the debate at all, they are just ways to try and shut it down. And every time I see someone attack James Damore, or his writing style or whatever, instead of talking about the actual issues, I feel these people are losing the debate.


No one outside of science should be able to talk about scientific subjects or reference science? Really? Do you apply these arguments equally to people you agree with as those you don't?

As far as I can tell, nothing in the memo was wrong or "cherry picked". He presented some evidence that women have statistically different personality traits than men. That's absolutely correct! That's not very controversial. Then he suggests that different personality traits might lead to different choice of professions and interests. That shouldn't be a terribly controversial idea either.


I don't understand why this means that Damore shouldn't have shared his opinion.

We absolutely should not construct a credentialist edifice that says only people certified to have gone through brainwa---err, regent-approved programs--- can comment on a topic. That would prevent discussion on most topics, as virtually all topics of interest are complex and have many years of study behind them.

Overall, these comments are still criticizing the how instead of the what, which is what people do when they don't know how to criticize the what but want to express their offense anyway. It's much easier to criticize delivery and in fact it will always happen whenever anyone cares, because delivery is inherently contextual/subjective.

If Damore's paper was rejected from Nature or another peer-reviewed journal, that'd make sense, as it is not a rigorous academic work. It's just a conjecture on the state of diversity hiring and it expresses his reasoning for believing the way he does. If he is so wrong, it should be simple to disprove him, and we can all move on without anyone having to get fired.


>I don't understand why this means that Damore shouldn't have shared his opinion.

"Shouldn't have shared his opinion" and "should have shared his opinion in a different way" are two completely different things, and I don't see many people saying the first.


I think "should have shared his opinion in a different way" is moving the goalposts too far. I think anything that would have placated critics on this point would have neutered Damore's position.

Can someone produce a "diversity culture" critic (for lack of a better term) who provides a good example for Damore? One that is well received across the board?


To be fair to Damore, his paper wasn't intended for wide publication. It was a quick internal write-up intended to generate discussion among people who already had some frame of reference for Damore's background and professional trajectory. There was very little chance he would've been mistaken for a biology professor within the Google Skeptics discussion group.

A big four-paragraph disclaimer at the beginning would've been a big waste of everyone's time, and it could just as easily be interpreted as a sign of hostility or malfeasance. If people want to dislike something, there is an infinity of potential nits to fixate on.

I've always been brash so I've been through the "delivery ringer" many times. The conclusion I've reached is that frequently, the only way to avoid it is to be so opaque and listless in your communication that people aren't sure what you meant.

If you say something people don't like in a non-ambiguous way, they will be mad, and they will insist on finding a reason to dismiss it.


I saw so many people saying the first (on sites like Medium and Facebook). Not on HN, though.


I feel like a lot of the statements in this thread are arguing the first.


Damore shouldn't have shared his opinion (the way he did) because there is a huge gap between what he claims to aim for and what he actually does. He claims that open discussion, diversity and helping to improve the situation are what important to him. But in practice he does right the opposite: creates a hostile working environment with perverted reasoning, loads of bias perpetuating harmful stereotypes, ignoring how his tone will affect others and pretty agressive promotion of these views instead of politely sharing a well thought out intellectually honest opinion. Given the sensitivity of topic he tries to discuss, 'how' is an extremely important part of 'what', still he manages to twist his declared 'what' to the 180 degree with his 'how'. It seems that he was fired exactly for showing strong intention to continue the promotion of his highly biased opinions while completely ignoring what it actually does to people around him. Disproving the memo wouldn't help to stop it if this was the case.


First, you've crossed over from criticizing delivery into criticizing content, so it's clear that's actually the part that offends you. What you're saying is that Damore shouldn't have delivered his opinion unless it was first made to match something reasonably close to your own opinion. There is nothing inherently "dishonest" or "perverted" about Damore's memo; that is a subtext that you are choosing to read in because you disagree with its conclusions.

If Damore had pined on the tragedy of the modern economic structure while exhaustively disclaiming every potential discriminatory implication before he began the memo, I guarantee people would've read just as much "intellectual dishonesty", "perverted reasoning", and "loads of bias" as they did now. In fact, they very likely would've read more, taking the content that initially appeared friendly to their POV as a sign that Damore had malicious intent and that he was attempting to hoodwink people by pretending to be "on their side".

As discussed below, if someone wants to dismiss something they don't like, airy, abstract terms like "perverted reasoning" will get bandied around no matter what. These terms are great precisely because their subjective interpretation allows the writer to sound semi-credible in their condemnation without having to specify further.

Damore was fired because once this hit the mainstream press, it was the only way for Google to preserve a strong defense against inevitable discrimination suits.


> there is something about computer science that leads people to believe they can out-think experts in other fields at their own game.

That's the same stereotyping generalization found in the doc you oppose.


> Google had plenty of reason to rethink his employment, not just because of his poor judgement, but because of the fact that he tackled a new (to him) science is such an unreasoned and unscientific way.

This is emphatically not the issue. Suppose for argument's sake that he had made an air-tight case. Wouldn't he still be advancing "harmful gender stereotypes?" It wouldn't void a single one of Sundar Pichai's points when he fired him.

And turn it around; suppose an activist had sent around a poorly argued pro-diversity screed that "cherry-picked" shoddy research on implicit association tests, stereotype threat, etc. Would Google seriously be rethinking her employment for tackling research in an "unreasoned and unscientific way?"

Damore is out because he took on the left's sacred beliefs.


I'm glad to see that people are admitting that the memo wasn't a screed after all, and pointing out that Damore brought up some good points that are worth discussing.

But I would like to push back on the idea that it was poorly written.

Is he an expert in these fields? No.

Was his memo completely unassailable? No.

Did he anticipate every possible response? No.

But he was still quite careful about the conclusions he was trying to draw from the research, and a number of scientists from different fields have all defended the research he cites (to be fair, many criticize the research, too).

If his opponents and critics truly value dialogue, they'll show it by actually engaging in dialogue.


Your criticism is that he shouldn't have released a poorly-written memo to an enormous company. I would agree, however, I don't think that's what happened. I thought he brought it up in the internal Google Skeptics group, and then it got leaked and went viral. I doubt he wanted such an enormous audience for this draft, but I'm open to hearing statements to the contrary.


> then you've failed as a writer of scientific content

Had he been fired from a research position, I would see your point.



That wired article was excellent. And it proves one thing to my mind. Regardless of everything else, Damore's memo has lead me to vastly expand my knowledge of the debates in this domain, through just being a curious observer watching it all unfold. It's been wonderful, if extremely provocative, in generating proper debate on the subject, focussed on all possible angles, from writing style, to science, to hiring policies.

Amidst all this, Google firing him is the biggest shame.


What? The Wired article basically says "the social sciences of gender are still up for grabs/worthless, unlike nuclear physics".


Different strokes I guess. I liked that the authors took great pains to stick to highlighting the nuanced nature of the debate. They agreed with Damore where pertinent, but also disagreed with a lot of the conclusions that he derived.


I.e. the authors had to concede to Damore on the science, but proceeded to claim the conclusions where worthless because the science sucks. Note that the Slate Star Codex articles that have addressed the science in detail point out these are actually strong, large N studies and not just nitpicking. (They are, besides, echoed by studies in other fields showing that _gibbon and chimpanzees_ already present similar gender-behavioral differences re: which toys very young individuals prefer.)

Wired even feels the need to add a parenthetical reinforcing climate change is true because this is the general strategy of climate deniers: they have to accept the laws of physics and the general mechanism of GHG warming and hold on to the nonsequitur conclusion of "huh uh but this isn't the consensus/established science/it's just a theory" and come up with their own conclusions.

(Edit: GHG warming, not GHC. GHC is actually getting cooler all the time.)


The Wired article gets quotes from researchers cited by Damore and their interpretations vis-à-vis Damore's presentation of their work. In my opinion they remained respectful throughout but firm in their assessment that Damore really didn't go about using scientific research in a responsible way and drew rather specific conclusions from broad research.

On the flip side, his memo wasn't meant for wide release and he had to act as sole writer, editor, and fact-checker. So I can forgive his mishandling of facts to an extent. But he's been stirring the pot a lot since his firing and I don't think this will end well for him.


In what relates to winning the respectability game, he's already lost. He could have definitive algebraic proof; it wouldn't matter.

I haven't seen a single thing that Damore has said after the firing (I haven't seen the memo either; I don't care much for the subject, it's the reaction that bothers me) -- but I'd bet a burger with fries that he's going the Milo Yanopopopopoulos route: a provocateur that's admired for being a provocateur.

It's a living. How long has Ann Coulter been around?


The wired article truly is fantastic. And IMO it should be on the front page of HN, not this thread.


This one at The Economist is also very good.

"The e-mail Larry Page should have written to James Damore"

https://www.economist.com/news/21726276-last-week-paper-said...


'Page' argues that because Damore didn't mention that men score higher on aggression and lower on cooperation, this is evidence of motivated reasoning.

Counterpoint: Damore only lists personality traits that lead to interest in engineering, thus leading to an imbalance in the talent pool from which Google hires. Rarely is an extremely high propensity for agreeableness a motivating factor for getting an engineering degree at Stanford.


One interesting point that hasn't attracted much attention is that the author self-identifies as being on the autism spectrum [1]. If this fact were better-known, would accessibility advocates defend his memo — and possibly even attack its detractors for not being sensitive to his neurological differences?

1: https://www.reddit.com/r/JamesDamore/comments/6thcy3/im_jame...


He uses high neuroticism as part of his argument against female software engineers, high neuroticism is associated with autism. So it seems that even he isn't being sensitive to his own neurological differences.


> He uses high neuroticism as part of his argument against female software engineers

At no point did he argue "against female software engineers"


Apart from say the bit where he said women couldn't cope with stressful jobs as well as men and that's part of why they're underrepresented at Google i.e. the bit about neuroticism, that I was talking about.


Liberal ideology doesn't have a flowchart path for that one.


I'd actually say just the opposite - the memo seemed to be written as well and in as conciliatory manner as it could be written and the memo made good (or at least plausible) point and bad points. But the bad points were so bad that it was appropriate and necessary to fire Damore.

Essentially, as analogy, there's no way for a person to say "Black people are inferior and shouldn't be hired", as a message broadcast through their entire workplace, and not have that person be creating a hostile work environment for African Americans. If that person says "I don't mean in general, I mean inferior just for this occupation, I don't mean inferior, just 'differently talented, they've got great rhythm'", it doesn't matter, if that person says "here's a study which says this, we should consider this in an open minded fashion" it doesn't matter. The message is unacceptable. That person is done, that person should be done.


Damore never said that women were worse engineers or that biology makes them worse engineers. There was no implied inferiority.

It is largely the PC crowd who read implied-inferiority into any study of biological differences between male and female.

If you look carefully at some of the comments from female Googlers after the memo was leaked, they talk about fears of being perceived as less capable based on their biology.

See the memo itself isn't only dangerous, it is what it could lead to.

But that isn't at all what the memo said.


I think this has been talked about multiple times over - Damore did not have a line that states that women and/or minorities are bad engineers.

He does, however, clearly state that Google's hiring standards had 'lowered the bar' for women and minorities.

I think it's awfully charitable not to infer that he considers the women/minorities at Google (on average) to be inferior engineers.

Still, it's true that he never said that...


Do you understand what's happening here? Whether or not google "lowered the bar" (i.e. had distinct hiring criteria for men or women) is a fact and only a fact. It may be a true fact, or it may be a false fact. But it is not an opinion.

But somehow it gets turned into "This means he thinks women are worse, therefore he's insulting women, therefore it's a hostile workplace, therefore he got fired." That reasoning is a major leap, and it's not Damore's leap.

Taking a fact and turning it into a hostile-workplace-opinion is the real problem.


You are completely incorrect. Whether or not Google did in reality lower the bar to hire more women is a matter of fact. That Damore felt that in order to meet the goal of hiring more women Google had to lower the bar is his _opinion_, and it is a telling opinion about how he thinks about the capabilities of women.

"You had to buy inferior wood to get enough to build this house. I don't think there's enough good wood to build the house, therefore in order to get enough you had to buy inferior wood."

The fact of the quality of the wood is separate from the opinion of the availability of quality wood.


If the supply of qualified female candidates ready to be hired now is thought to be restricted (so that the bar must be lowered), that does not imply the same thought about the capabilities of women. The problem with diversity could be thought to be in the talent pipeline: young girls wanting to be programmers, gaining interest and experience in high school, going to college to study computer science, staying the field to reach higher levels, and so on.

In fact, we find that the field was way more diverse before the 1990s, and the talent pipeline for female programmers only started choking in the late 80s (for reasons we could argue, but one popular theory involves boy-oriented PCs and video games).


Except no, he did not say google "had to lower the bar." If you read the memo, he says :

"Google has created several discriminatory practices: ... Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate" [Mind you _lower the bar_ is a hyperlink, to a gdoc I don't have access to, so he's citing another document as evidence of this practice].

So he is in fact arguing a factual claim, that google has applied inconsistant standards in practice, as I suggested in my prior post.


You say he didn't say that Google had to lower the bar, then you quote where he says explicitly that? "Google does X. X lowers the bar."

>So he is in fact arguing a factual claim, that google has applied inconsistant standards in practice, as I suggested in my prior post.

Yes. Re-read my comment. Whether or not they apply inconsistent hiring practices is a factual claim. The idea that the only way to achieve the goal of hiring more women is to apply inconsistent hiring practices is his opinion.


I don't know what you're arguing anymore. I'm thoroughly convinced you either haven't read the relevant sections or have forgotten them since this discussion started.

Please show me where he says anything like "The idea that the only way to achieve the goal of hiring more women is to apply inconsistent hiring practices is his opinion."


>practices which can effectively lower the bar

He merely states that it can have that effect.

>Yes. Re-read my comment. Whether or not they apply inconsistent hiring practices is a factual claim. The idea that the only way to achieve the goal of hiring more women is to apply inconsistent hiring practices is his opinion.

It looks like a logical conclusion to me. Care to explain why you think it's not?


I made this comment a few days ago, but I think a lot of readers are getting tripped up in his (likely very artfully deployed) wording and avoiding his underlying messages.

The passage in which that quote occurs clearly implies that the bar has already been lowered - in fact, the second half of the sentence offers the mechanism through which the 'bar had been lowered' ("Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate")

> No one would find it weird if I claimed that women aren't able to run a 100 as fast as men. Yes, there might be some exceptional cases where women can compete, but they are just that, exceptions to the rule. Most of the time women compete among themselves since they would never qualify for anything if they competed in the same category as men. Why is it unacceptable to make the same observation about intellectual endeavors, or programming specifically?

I guess I'm surprised that this is controversial (in response to your most recent comment to a sibling poster) - the reason we don't accept that women are worse programmers than men is... we don't have evidence that women are worse programmers than men.

There are data about physical strength (and amazingly clear biological correlates - most HN posters will never outmatch a top female athlete, and we only need to do a quick lab test to determine this). However, female/minority intelligence has been, and continues to be, a politicized issue - until the more overt instances of discrimination are eliminated, how can we jump from blaming the obvious societal barriers to blaming biology?


>He merely states that it can have that effect.

He "merely" says that Google is doing it, and that doing it lowers the bar. Therefore he's saying that Google lowered the bar. It's a pretty simple a = b = c scenario

>It looks like a logical conclusion to me. Care to explain why you think it's not?

Because women can achieve at the same level as men? I thought it was pretty obvious.


Let's look at the quote again:

> "Google has created several discriminatory practices: ... Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate"

Please note the last 5 words. Damore wasn't saying that diversity candidates got jobs in spite of being below the bar. He was saying that decreasing the false negative rates for certain groups is discriminatory towards those who don't belong to said groups.

E.g., the point is that focusing on decreasing false negative rates for group A but not for group B, will mean that, on average, more people who are close to the bar will be hired from group A than from group B. This is unfair to group B, since they are much less likely to get "the benefit of the doubt".

In essence, the quote relates to how Google deals differently with uncertainty depending on the gender of an individual.


>Because women can achieve at the same level as men? I thought it was pretty obvious.

No one would find it weird if I claimed that women aren't able to run a 100 as fast as men. Yes, there might be some exceptional cases where women can compete, but they are just that, exceptions to the rule. Most of the time women compete among themselves since they would never qualify for anything if they competed in the same category as men.

Why is it unacceptable to make the same observation about intellectual endeavors, or programming specifically?

You claim that women can achieve at the same level as men. Let's assume they can for now. However, your gripe is with the under-representation of women at tech companies. So that claim doesn't really help you, you would need to show that women perform as well as men on average. Can you?


>Why is it unacceptable to make the same observation about intellectual endeavors, or programming specifically?

Because the observation is inaccurate. There is no evidence that it is true.

>However, your gripe is with the under-representation of women at tech companies. So that claim doesn't really help you, you would need to show that women perform as well as men on average. Can you?

We have no evidence they can't, why would we assume that to be the case?


> it is a telling opinion about how he thinks about the capabilities of women.

No, assuming that men and women who applied have the exact same distribution of 'good qualities', you have twice as many male applicants as female applicants, and you want to hire as many women as men, you have to lower the bar for women.


That's a completely made-up scenario. Google themselves have said that the way they're trying to hire more women is by looking harder for qualified candidates, not by lowering the level that meets "qualified".


By that logic, any criticism of hiring methods means you view the current crop of employees as inferior.

Is saying "we need more diversity" code for "white men are inferior"? You might be on to something.


Not exactly, preferring a diverse group over a homogeneous one doesn't mean that the individuals of the homogeneous group are inferior.

If the goal is to have a diverse group then a group composed only of women isn't ideal either. Diversity is not about raising or lowering the bar.


What if I prefer a homogeneous group then? It doesn't mean that diverse individuals are any worse, does it?


Of course not! I just don't know why someone would want that.


If I ran a debt collecting agency, I'd probably choose men with a Russian-sounding accent over any other group.


For a genetic study of prevalence of a genetic condition in Chinese males, you'd want a homogenous group of Chinese males.


I was referring about hiring people, not studying them. But I can't say you're wrong.


If we really dig for an example - mountain climbing guides for Mount Everest, certain groups of people have evolutionary advantages that make them more suited for the job.

In an extreme environment where advantages of the tail end of population distributions are important then it's less likely the market will choose a diversified workforce.


> He does, however, clearly state that Google's hiring standards had 'lowered the bar' for women and minorities.

He basically said the opposite, but people have been so interested in triggering off the 'lowered the bar' phrasing to show their outrage that they're (seemingly willfully) ignoring the rest of the sentence which completely changed the meaning.

But 'by lowering false negatives' is hugely important. Google's hiring process has a lot of false negatives. These are qualified engineers who weren't hired that could have been successful at Google. This allows for 'lowering the bar' without sacrificing quality by not subjecting minority/female candidates to the more arbitrary/capricious stages of the Google hiring process that eliminate so many otherwise-qualified candidates.

Imagine if one of the ways that we chose to address diversity in the tech workplace was to exempt qualified female/minority H1-B candidates from the lottery and automatically approve their visas? It wouldn't make them any less qualified, since they could've gotten their visa through the normal lottery process. But it would 'lower the bar' by making it significantly more likely that they'd get visas. The post-interview stages of Google's hiring process are similar in their often-arbitrary selecting of who gets through.

It's also, on Google's part, a smart move to address their PR concerns. It allows them to increase female/minority hiring, thereby satisfying public calls for more diversity, without sacrificing quality. All they have to do is look into their process at where qualified diversity candidates are getting rejected and stop doing that. It's a luxury that other companies with fewer surplus potential hires don't have when trying to improve the diversity of their workforce. But possibly more importantly, it's not helping to improve the diversity of the industry as a whole, it only helps to make Google's stats look better. Google's standards for engineers mean that their false negatives can usually get jobs elsewhere without much difficulty. By taking this approach to diversity hiring, they're just shifting their own workforce demographics without helping the industry as a whole do the same.


"lowering the bar" has an actual meaning.

"To lower the standards of quality that are expected of or required for something." -- http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/lower+the+bar

If he didn't mean to say that, he should retract that phrase and apologize for saying something he didn't mean to say.

You getting "triggered" by people using the standard definition of a common idiom isn't helpful.

Parents often tell their children that a lie about what they did is worse than the original crime. I hope Mr. Damore didn't take this smug "I didn't actually say that women were inferior, it's all about preferences" tone that seems to be the first line of defence online, in his HR meetings only to be asked "So, what's this bit about race and the "science" of IQ you mentioned? Is IQ a preference?"

I'll note that the argument you present about Google only diversity-washing themselves at the cost of others having lower diversity, is the same argument that people make about their green energy efforts. In that area at least they've gone to great lengths to ensure that they actually improve the whole industry, not just steal the glory for themselves and I wouldn't be at all suprised if they had some very smart people ensuring the same was the case in this instance.


He should call out his mistake, yes. But apologize? Expecting that from him seems beyond the pale. Language isn't like contracts where any mistake by the author gets to be interpreted however the reader chooses. Instead, we're supposed to look for the intended meaning, either using context or by asking for clarification. If you use the definition you cited, his sentence becomes self-contradictory and, thus, requires clarification, not an immediate rush to judgment. Instead, everyone has assumed the worst about what he said, gotten him fired and vilified him. I'd have a hard time apologizing to people who overreact like that.

Had the reaction been one of kindness, understanding and a desire for cohesiveness where people tried to point out misconceptions and alert him to how his language was being received ("when you say 'lowered the bar' it makes me think 'less qualified', so perhaps you didn't meant that?"), this whole blow-up could have been avoided. Instead people reacted with righteous indignation and jumped to labeling him a misogynist and a bigot. At that point, all hope of a productive outcome, for him and Google at least, was lost.

For my part, I'm less interested in whether Damore really is bigot and a misogynist or any virtue of his opinions. I'm only defending what he could have possibly meant because I see so many people jumping to their own incomplete conclusions. This whole incident, to me, was more about how unproductive our reactions are to anything relating to a sensitive subject. People are so quick to trigger off anything resembling an assault on one of their sacred cows that they never take the time to figure out the intended meaning. I'm so sick of walking on eggshells knowing that I have to watch every single sentence and word choice because they'll be taken out of context and used against me. We're losing nuance in our discussions and it's creating a polarization of thought on each side that I find dangerous and divisive...there's no room for middle-ground thinkers to participate without being attacked by one or both sides. This makes those people either gravitate towards one of the extremes or disengage entirely.


This is the type of resentment / thinking that he wants the company to steer away from. If they do encode 'lower bar' policies, it's an inevitable and rational conclusion to draw, which is incredibly toxic I agree. By taking other approaches to diversity at different stages in the funnel, that toxic inevitability is avoided.


I'm not sure how you're privvy to his thought process.

Also, the idea that finding ways to employ more women+minorities leads to poorer employees is exactly what many people don't after about - essentially, your argument is taking his opinion as fact, while I only wanted to point out the underlying message to his words.


>He does, however, clearly state that Google's hiring standards had 'lowered the bar' for women and minorities. I think it's awfully charitable not to infer that he considers the women/minorities at Google (on average) to be inferior engineers.

Yes, but that's simply how statistics work. If you require one group of people to score 90 on some test in order to be hired, and another group to score 80, then among successful applicants the second group will have lower average scores than the first. There's no getting around that.

The argument should be over whether or not Google's hiring practices lower the bar for particular groups of people. If they do, then the above conclusion about the average talent of various groups is inescapable.


> If you require one group of pe