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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



A common criticism by each four of the female engineers is how the memo effected them in their job and how they had to prove themselves afterward. This strongly reminds me of about a case a year ago when a kindergarten teacher was tried and charged for rape against several children. After a lot of media attention, many male teachers all over the nation reported to constantly having prove to parents and fellow female teachers that just because they are male and chosen that profession it doesn't mean that they are criminals or are higher risk employees. Not only that, but many school implemented procedures that limited what male teacher were allowed to do, furthering pushing a second class status on them. Many also received threats of violence, and since both the left, the feminist movement, and the right fanned the flame against male teachers, many just gave up and left the profession. If memory is right, one news article ended with "I just wish I could go to work and do my job, but that is no longer possible".

I would very much like to see a discussion on how to solve this kind of problem.


The feminist movement as a whole is very much against gendered norms about who should and shouldn't be a kindergarten teacher. Which feminist movements did you see fanning these particular flames?


To be fair, movements are generally made up from people self-identify as members and thus movements get judged based on what those people say.

This happened in Sweden, and in one article I recall reading the comment that "there is no need for male kindergarten teachers" from local politician from the left block which identify as feminist (current left block call themselves as a feminist government). The left block was also in power during that time which created those restriction for male teachers. One argument used to defend those restriction was that science showed that most criminals of this kind is male, and thus argued that male employees were higher risk.

It would be hard to say anything about "The feminist movement as a whole". At the time, no movement was stepping up in support of the male kindergarten teachers.


Like with all movements, there are a lot of people who join on and don't seem to really understand it. Intersectionality is catching on among feminists, but "men bad, women good" is still a way too common sentiment.


3rd wave, whose actions betray their true goals: men as second class citizens.


Please keep ideological talking points off HN. If you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; otherwise please don't comment until you do.


The onus is on you to disprove them, they made no irrational claims. If you have some problem with any of their concepts, say so.

Your attack on whether his comment is 'thoughtful' or not is weak.


As a moderator here I'm commenting purely procedurally. The comment breaks the HN guidelines and when people do that we ask them not to.


If you could point out to us here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-wave_feminism where it says that all so-called or self-described third wave feminists see men as second class citizens that would be super helpful in this debate.


Please don't take HN threads further down generic ideological rabbit holes, or rather black holes. Nothing good comes of them and the thread never returns.


Understood. No problem.


There we go. Thanks.


I desperately want make male childcare workers for my children. I honestly could careless about women in tech. Installing a more even view of gender on our kids will prob do a lot more good for women in tech in the long term than any amount of screaming now.


I've known of at least one child care/early education facility that employee fairly equal numbers. It's interesting how some kids (male and female) just respond better to men.


Yeah, I am a good mom and all, but the kids do interact somewhat differently to my husband. I support diversity. It's good to be diverse jsut in general, life is more interesting that way, and it really bugs me how in such a critical period of a person's life, their exposure is so so so not diverse.


Do tell me where in the country is this daycare located at....


http://hilltopcc.com/

Great place.


For the lazy, because it takes some doing to figure out - this is in Seattle.


If you/anyone would like to watch an exceptional narrative based on this exact premise, you have to see The Hunt w/ Mads Mikkelsen [0]

It really sums up this issue well and gave me lots to think about.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunt_(2012_film)


This was my first thought on the male childcare thing,too Could not make it past the first 30 minutes, felt so much empathy for Mads' situation and anger at the teacher/administrator for assuming guilt immediately. The fact that the director/writer gave us an omniscient view point with the sex acts happening in front of the child at home sort of forced one into Mads' corner right away.


[flagged]


When I (male) told my high school teachers that I was thinking about going into education they strongly recommended I not do it - in 1984.


I suppose this is the one point I always find myself pondering when these women in tech arguments arise, why is there no push to for women in the oil-manufacturing industry? How many women do we have working on oil rigs? It's a very well paying job with a lot of opportunity for people with less than stellar backgrounds, but trying to get their life on track. There are lots of jobs out there that are close to 100% male, and some don't even require a lot of physical strength. Where is the outcry?


I'm sure there's similar movements in other industries, and I'm sure there's someone in their forums saying something similar.


Maybe you have a point, I should look into this and see if there are forums where women are trying to push into this field. I have family that works on off-shore rigs, and I've never heard a peep about it. But that is anecdotal.


Any proof of that ?

Of course I only have a myopic point of view of the software industry but I don't hear the same noise from other industries


Not that myopic; gender in tech is front page news in the mainstream press. Not so much about any other industry.


It's a very well paying job with a lot of opportunity

Dangerous tho'. By the way, apropos of nothing, 95% of workplace deaths are men.


This so much; after a pedophile case hit in Amsterdam, where a day care worker molested 80 kids, a lot of male daycare and elementary school workers either lost their job or quit from all the distrust. There's rules everywhere that men aren't allowed to be alone with children.


>both the left, the feminist movement, and the right fanned the flame against male teachers

I find it hard to believe that this would be generally true. Source?

Edit: obviously you're always going to have some twats doing things like that, but that's true for everything. I'm looking for evidence that it's more than average here.


I think it is a lot of crazy moms that fan the flame, just from my observation. Adn the crazy moms are fanned by the media of creepy dudes. Do you know how frequently on my mommy group will be some dude's photo show up "this guy was taking picture of my kid!!!" ....... all the other moms are like. OMG OMG OMG!! Call the police.. Then there are always a few moms go like, FOR WHAT??!! for being a dude and taking some pictures at a public place.. You know there hasn't been a child missing in this neighborhood since 1995.... Then all the other moms yell at the reasonable mom..etc etc. There is a mix, I don't think it's limited to leftist or conservative moms. If anything, I found the really really rich moms (not conservative per se, but lean that way more) to be a bit more crazy in terms of thinking the world is dangerous and if their kid scrap their knee they need to go to the ER..


I second the request. I spent several years as a K-5 teacher, I didn't perceive this dynamic at all. All US teachers are rightfully extremely wary of being alone with any child, and from what I've seen that is a concern for teachers of all genders.


The specific case was in 2015, Sweden, Kristianstad (if you want to search for sources). The media storm grow a bit extra since the individual had worked as a substitute in 26 different schools and the potential list of victims was very large. Now in 2017 I hope that most of the male-only restrictions are gone. People forget, new fears replaces old fears, and risk assessments get realign.

Random article of the time: https://www.svt.se/nyheter/lokalt/skane/pedofilanklagelserna...

Random article #2: http://www.tv4.se/efter-tio/klipp/barnsk%C3%B6taren-mitt-liv...

It was a couple years ago and I could not hope to find all the media articles from that time, including radio and TV reports. But I wish that no teachers should ever need to be wary of being alone with a child. It seems similar when I hear people that they should be wary of being alone with female coworkers in fear of being accused of sexual assault.

Edit: I did consider when I wrote the above comment yesterday that I might be doing the exact same harm that the Female engineers in the article was worried about by bringing up the case. At the same time it was one of the reasons why it so strongly reminded me of this case. As a teacher, do you find it that writing this on HN is harming teachers by bringing up pedophilia in the context of kindergarten teachers?


Yeah, what? The standard bearers of leftist feminism, soccer moms?


I really enjoyed the well reasoned discussion. I think a lot more constructive dialog is happening now that people have calmed down.

Of all the sentiments expressed in the article, I mainly disagree with the comment that Damore did the company harm.

He posted his thoughts on an internal discussion board and someone else leaked this internal document to the press. The leaker did harm to Google not Damore. In fact, I think the memo had been posted for a week or two before it was leaked. If your argument for firing Damore is that he did the company harm, you should look at the person who took an internal company document and made it public.

There are many people who believe he should have been fired anyway for offending his female coworkers and perhaps making them feel unsafe, but that is a different argument all together with its own merits and faults depending strongly on your stance on what constitutes tolerable speech.


Lets assume that we're in an alternative universe where the document was never leaked.

The document still did harm. Just read this quote from the posted article-

> When I walk into my job at a tech company, how do I know which of my colleagues thinks I’m an outlier among women versus someone who was hired because I’m female that doesn’t deserve the job they have? How do I prove myself to people one way or another? The additional mental and emotional burden on me just to do my job is not negligible at all, and it’s also a pretty crappy way to start every day thinking: “Will the team/manager/VC I talk with today realize I’m qualified, or will they be making stereotypical assumptions about my abilities and therefore make it harder for me to do my job?” To me, that absolutely makes for a hostile work environment, and it’s an unequal burden my male coworkers don’t have to deal with every day.

That quote wasn't caused by this going public in the way it did, it was caused by it being posted in the first place. There is real harm done if women who work at a company don't feel they are welcome there.


From your quote:

> When I walk into my job at a tech company, how do I know which of my colleagues thinks I’m an outlier among women versus someone who was hired because I’m female that doesn’t deserve the job they have?

Your perspective is that this is harmful because the memo caused self doubt, so the memo was the problem.

From Damore's perspective, if there were no quota/diversity hiring programs at that place of employment, the woman in question would have no reason to suspect the latter. The hiring policy was the problem.

Totally different interpretations of cause and effect.


I've met engineers who have expressed a belief that women are often hired if the recruiter found them attractive, and that those women shouldn't have been hired. While those engineers are able to find employment there will always be places where women don't feel welcome, even with diversity programs in place. It is simply the case that some engineers are grossly sexist and will always think a woman has been hired for some other reason beside technical merit if they have an opportunity to. If Damore can't see that then he hasn't enough experience to be talking about hiring.


Google doesn't operate that way, they has strict hiring policies and procedures. Recruiter or anyone else has no way to influence hiring without doing something shady (doing selective interview like what Damore claimed they were doing).


Damore literally said they were "lowering the bar". You can't have it both ways here.


He said "Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate".

He did not say they were lowering the bar, but that by rejecting (proportionally) a greater number of qualified male candidates than qualified female candidates, the bar is effectively lowered.

If what he says is true, that there is a higher false negative rate for men, it's hard to imagine a system where the bar isn't effectively lowered.

The one possibility I saw argued elsewhere is that you could take all qualified men, and randomly reject some of them. At that point, you would expect the bar to be level.

If however you rejected qualified men in a non-random way, which is more plausible, the effect would be to change the bar.

I hadn't ever really thought about this kind of selection effect on the statistics of populations, so would love to hear if this sounds wrong or what the real expected outcome should be.


> Your perspective is that this is harmful because the memo caused self doubt, so the memo was the problem.

It's not about self-doubt, it's about creating a stereotype by which other people (managers, peers) will prejudge you even before you write the first line of code. This prejudice already exists as is, Damore's memo doesn't do anything to help it. If improving women's opportunities at Google was his objective, he failed miserably at it.


I don't think the memo does that. I've not been convinced by anything I've read trying to indicate that it does. I am convinced that people saying it does seem to read more into it and are upset by perceived implications.

If I felt the memo implied or created that stereotype I'd denounce it as well.


Let me put it in a different way:

It is widely acknowledged that there are social factors that might affect the number of women entering the field. He could've made as valid an argument about the hiring practices affecting diversity, without bringing up the supposed "biological" factor altogether. Not bringing it up would have probably put him in the right side of the Code of Conduct.

At best, it was poor judgement for him to bring it up when it didn't add anything to the conversation. At worst, it betrays a certain level of misogyny. Those of us who tend to assume the worst, might be more inclined to believe the latter, but I wouldn't blame people for believing the former.


I appreciate your response and insight into how people might arrive at a more negative conclusion based on what values they read into the text.

One takeaway I have from this is that discussion about biological differences between sexes is often misused, so should be avoided in discussion related to diversity if you want people to not form an emotional reaction.

The whole thing was a meandering stroll of possible reasons. I absolutely don't see this memo creating a hostile workplace or illiciting the pushback it has garnered simply by what I read in the text. I read a document referencing population level differences between sexes(relevant in the context of attempting to explain differences in preferences that account for the difference in size of the groups) that have no bearing on individual differences between sexes(not even slightly relevant in hiring)

My internal reader probably filled in the benefit of the doubt.


> One takeaway I have from this is that discussion about biological differences between sexes is often misused, so should be avoided in discussion related to diversity if you want people to not form an emotional reaction... I absolutely don't see this memo creating a hostile workplace or illiciting the pushback it has garnered simply by what I read in the text

Right! There's been enough people using biological differences as excuses for all kinds of things before, so it's probably better to resort to that argument only once all other factors have been removed. I believe that's one of the biggest reasons people reacted so badly to this memo. It certainly was the first thing that popped into my head as soon as I started reading his reasoning.

A bit of context is important. Anonymity on the internet has facilitated a rebirth of the "men's rights" movement. Don't get me wrong, there's definitely a place for "men's rights" when it comes to recognizing that sexual abuse happens to men too, which is what some of the groups got started, but some of the notorious forums (like the now banned "TheRedPill" subreddit) are virulently misogynistic. There are people openly defending rape, calling women "inferior" and posting fantasies about what they'd do to women who they perceive as "pushy" or holding some power over them. Feminists are demonized to no end. A lot of the rationalization around their rhetoric builds on some of the same bases Damore used for his "biological argument." I'll leave it to your judgment to decide if Damore giving one of his interviews to Stefan Molyneaux - known men's right activist - has anything to do with that or not.

It's that context that made my internal reader go for the worst possible scenario instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt. I guess I'm way more jaded person than you :)


The author of that quote clearly wasn't describing her fears that she had been hired only because of affirmative action, but the claims about her innate inabilities, however slight.


Yes, but this raises the issue of affirmative action causing bias about innate abilities, and that's absolutely true.

If you knew there were a lower bar for people who had red hair, for example, because there's a pay gap and their population ratio isn't represented equally, every time you'd have someone on your team with red hair, you'd wonder if they were there because of the exception made for them or if they got there on pure merit. Thus, affirmative action causes people to question that merit (bias).

Worse, the redhead who got in never knows if they got accepted based on merit or based on some quota, which contributes heavily Impostor syndrome, negative self image and confirmation bias based on that negative self image.

You combine these two things over time and there is absolutely an impact.

Damore's ultimate points were: let's discuss this and, by the way, please don't ignore me just because my opinion is unpopular.


You can flip this argument on its head. As a man I'm often thinking about why the unequal gender distribution of roles and salary within my company is the way it is. I often wonder how much of my own success is due to opportunities and encouragement that women generally don't receive.


The memo didn't cause self doubt, the memo was intended to inspire others to look for doubt (hence the "lowering the bar").

The memo specifically targeted diversity hires as a lower bar. Imagine if a memo started circulating that asked everyone to question whether or not you were hired for your skill. That's a terrible environment to create.


Lowering the bar for a cohort is going to create different distributions of skill in that cohort, this person wasn't the first and won't be the last to come to this conclusion. I think damaging organizational cohesion is never the right choice but both sides of this argument contribute to that damage.


There is no evidence of lowering the bar. Companies like Google aim to cast a wider net at candidates, the bar stays the same.

On the contrary, there is evidence of bias against women, which logically means that the bar is lower for men by default.


I'm telling you in plain mathematical terms that the way you go about hiring effects the distribution of candidates skill if you introduce any bias into the system regardless of whether or not its a literal or figurative bar or a bias on any parameter. I don't think anyone is going to disagree that biases exist on both sides of the aisle. Arguing about what google does or does not do is futile exercise I made zero claim about google and only believe they have introduced some biases in their hiring in some form.


The thoughts of one twenty-something engineer posted to an internal message board (for these kinds of discussions I might add) does not create a hostile workplace or harm Google in any way.

Basically, in any other context we expect people who have vastly differing views to be able to put them aside and work together. The only exception to this rule seems to be around leftist issues, where if you disagree you are out of luck.

You would expect, for example, the Jewish people and the Islamic people at a company to work together.

The idea that toleration for one memo form a nobody employee marks an entire company as unwelcome is insane. This zero tolerance attitude is a recipe for disaster.


> The thoughts of one twenty-something engineer posted to an internal message board (for these kinds of discussions I might add) does not create a hostile workplace or harm Google in any way.

Considering how all sixteen of my female teammates were pissed off about it, I'm going to go ahead and say you are demonstrably wrong.


How many men take offense to hiring quotas but keep their mouths shut so they don't end up like Damore? You just set up an environment where how someone feels is more important than logic/reason/truth and that is never a good position to be in.


Some people take offence to the fact humans are related to apes and that the earth is more than 6000 years old. Doesn't mean we should tip toe around their ridiculous sensitivities.


Does your workplace have a very large group of young Earth creationists? Does it go out of its way to recruit them? If so, have you posted a ten page memo that says that the hiring bar has been lowered by that effort?


Ok, what happened to Demore would be like me working at a company of young Earth creationists who had an internal message board for discussing controversial religious subjects and then firing me because I brought up natural selection. Is it wrong for me to bring up natural selection or is it wrong for my hypothetical company to entrap me?


That's...a surprisingly good simile.

Yes, it would be wrong of you to do that. You remember how in the Big Lebowski, Walter asks The Dude "Well, am I wrong?" and The Dude replies "You're not wrong, Walter. You're an asshole."

You don't want to be Walter.


So are you literally defending the act of firing people who tell the truth?


I'm defending the act of firing people who are assholes. Whether they're telling the truth or not is irrelevant.


The problem is that 'asshole' is completely subjective. You can have someone state a fact that a tiny hurts a tiny group of peoples' feelings and they will think he/she is an asshole. That can't be a fireable offense.

Suggest that a piece of code is un-maintainable and that the group should rebuild it and there is a good chance someone will think that makes you an asshole.

You can't go around firing everyone because some idiot gets triggered.


We're talking about a specific case here where twenty thousand people in the company managed to get pissed off, not one person.


I wouldn't even think about bringing up natural selection to my young Earth creationist coworkers. Not touching that with a 10 foot pole, it would only end badly. There's a reason they say don't talk about politics or religion with your coworkers. Harmony is good for getting work done and I go to work to work.

I'm saying that as some who has actually worked with young Earth creationists before.


I won't speak for all young Earth creationists, but I don't have a problem with natural selection as a means of selecting from existing genetic diversity within a kind, especially as that process is observable and repeatable around us.

Where I contend with evolutionists is the typical narrative that the existence of natural selection implies a process that creates said (structured, positive) genetic diversity from which to select. This latter process is disputed, not the former.

I would be curious to hear your colleagues perspective.


Nope.

Someone taking offense is not demonstration of anything, other than someone taking offense.


The post I was responding to said that it did not create a hostile working environment. I explained how it did do that. Are you trying to claim that causing offense to a large group is not creating a hostile working environment?


It's too fickle a criterion for fairly firing someone. Especially if you consider he likely didn't mean to offend anyone.

If you think he did mean to offend people, the firing makes more sense.

I don't think "he should have known better" is very fair when neck deep in a discussion about diversity. Sometimes diversity looks like someone not knowing cultural rules.


Hostile work environments are created because of impact, not intent. It doesn't really matter what you meant to do if your actions made thousands of women feel diminished in the workplace.

I also don't think Damore's totally naive when it comes to diversity issues. He did a lot of research and evidently even discussed his concerns with HR. I think it's pretty clear he knew what he was getting into.


> It doesn't really matter what you meant to do if your actions made thousands of women feel diminished in the workplace.

So it's objective and fair? Or it is too fickle but it doesn't matter?

> I think it's pretty clear he knew what he was getting into.

I think he would have hired a publicist and lawyer before publishing the memo if he knew what was coming.


(let me just disclaim right away that I'm pretty liberal)

> So it's objective and fair? Or it is too fickle but it doesn't matter?

Whatever the ideological or scientific opposite of Damore's memo is, I would never publish it to anyone -- not even a single person -- at work. I don't think I'm alone in thinking that discussing race or gender issues at work is out of bounds, regardless of your position.

> I think he would have hired a publicist and lawyer before publishing the memo if he knew what was coming.

Aha that's probably true but I'm not talking about the backlash. I'm saying he knew he wasn't just asking to be proven wrong about migratory patterns of ducks. He's aware diversity is a sensitive topic.


> I don't think I'm alone in thinking that discussing race or gender issues at work is out of bounds, regardless of your position.

But most tech employers already broach the subject in many ways. It's not right that employers get to have controversial opinions, including during work hours, but employees do not.

Things like this need to be addressed if we want corporate power to be moderated.


> But most tech employers already broach the subject in many ways. It's not right that employers get to have controversial opinions, including during work hours, but employees do not.

What controversial opinions are you talking about?


Well, apparently all this is still controversial. There are rumors that Zuckerberg might be running for office. CEOs and other leaders giving speeches about politics and participating in political demonstrations. Lobbying the government about political issues unrelated to the core business of the company.

To be clear, I don't think all those things are necessarily bad. But I think letting corporations and corporate leadership have free reign and a big microphone while expecting employees to censor themselves is inconsistent to say the least.


No I mean what position does Google have that is controversial?

> It's not right that employers get to have controversial opinions


Well diversity programs is the obvious one. The fact that Damore wrote the memo and so many agreed shows that they are controversial.


Controversy and hostility are not the same thing.


'hostile work environment' is a technical term, isn't it?


x% of the population are Trump voters.

They tend to be offended if you criticize Trump.

Therefore, you are not allowed to criticize Trump.


What does this have to do with a hostile working environment?


To quote you:

> Are you trying to claim that causing offense to a large group is not creating a hostile working environment?


One person taking offense is not demonstration of anything. Sixteen out of sixteen taking offense comes a lot closer to demonstrating that it was offensive, though.


I mean, 90% is bigger than 90% of the other numbers. Like 40% for instance.

What is truth when you have a gun to your head.


Would you please stop posting unsubstantive and/or flamebait comments to HN? We're trying for a higher level of discussion here. (Trying and failing, but we can always fail a bit better.)


My apologies. Comment was low effort and not clear enough on the point it was making.

To substantiate that comment:

http://yudkowsky.net/rational/the-simple-truth/

What powers should define truth? Sensory / populist / ability to take life.


How many of them read the memo, as opposed to misleading characterizations of it ("Women can't do engineering", "misogynist", etc)?


All of them.


>You don't get to determine how people receive a message. You >can only take care to send it in a way that would be >received well. If everyone in a large and diverse group > >receives the message poorly, the problem is not with the >group. >If you're worried about an angry mob firing you, start >communicating with care.

This is absolutely false I do get to tell the group how to receive the message. When a group is intolerant the problem is with the group. When people were against interracial marriage and intolerant of other opinions the problem was with the group. When people were against African Americans riding in the front of the bus, the problem was with the intolerant group.

No candy coating, sensitivity training, or messaging was required to tell the angry, intolerant mob that they were wrong, just like they are here.


> This is absolutely false I do get to tell the group how to receive the message.

I only hope for your sake that you learn otherwise before you put your foot in your mouth in a very big way someday, rather than after.


Suppose that fifteen of them were pissed off and one was not. Would the sixteenth have felt psychologically comfortable in your team expressing the fact that she was not pissed off?


I am saying that they shouldn't have been so pissed off. The bar shouldn't be so low for defining a hostile workplace. Anyone could then get an intolerant mob together and get someone fired for expressing themselves.


You don't get to determine how people receive a message. You can only take care to send it in a way that would be received well. If everyone in a large and diverse group receives the message poorly, the problem is not with the group.

If you're worried about an angry mob firing you, start communicating with care.


Apparently one of the things that prompted the memo is that google is not diverse. There are plenty of different skin colors and genders, butit's an ideological echo chamber.

Additionally people are not protected from offense in the workplace. They're protected from harassment and an abstract memo that doesn't single out individuals is not harassment.


> You would expect, for example, the Jewish people and the Islamic people at a company to work together.

No one wrote a memo claiming that Google hires too many Jews who don't meet the same quality bar due to diversity efforts.

No one wrote a memo claiming Google needs to have mandatory anti-terrorist training because they've recruited a lot of Muslims lately (putting aside the fact that white christian terrorists are far more likely to be your cause of death in the USA).

>Basically, in any other context we expect people who have vastly differing views to be able to put them aside and work together.

Yeah and the way this works is not to bring up potentially offensive or sensitive topics except with coworkers you know really well. When you do bring it up acknowledge other people's viewpoints and ask lots of questions instead of making grand pronouncements.

All workplaces are political. Software development is about working with people and that is inherently a political activity. Took me a very long time to realize that but it is 100% true. The quicker you accept it the further you will go in your career.

>The idea that toleration for one memo form a nobody employee marks an entire company as unwelcome is insane. This zero tolerance attitude is a recipe for disaster.

What if his memo was arguing that black people aren't suited to be engineers period?

What if his memo argued that black people should be sent back to Africa and that the USA should be for white people only? What if he said he only believes this should be the law but so long as it isn't the law we must respect that and treat people equally until the law is changed?

Should Google "tolerate" someone being openly racist simply because they haven't called for violence?

Let's make this even more abstract: what if an employee openly states they think the company is evil and they disagree with the entire mission and direction of the company? Do you really think they won't spread cynicism and negativity? Do you really think they can be effective? Is there really no risk to morale?

Even if he were completely correct (he wasn't) by doing such a sorry ham-fisted job he made himself a liability. Even if he only angered or offended 10 other engineers that alone is reason enough to get rid of him. Hiring and training engineers is expensive.

Corporations are not free speech zones. If you become a liability the company will drop you like a hot-potato and don't you ever forget it.


>(putting aside the fact that white christian terrorists are far more likely to be your cause of death in the USA).

This is not true. Even ignoring the 3,000 people killed in the twin towers, the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting alone killed more people than all right-wing attacks since 9/11/2001 combined. And that includes non-Christian attackers. And such things as neo-Nazis killing pedophiles in prison.


When I walk into my job at a tech company, how do I know which of my colleagues thinks I’m an outlier among women versus someone who was hired because I’m female that doesn’t deserve the job they have?

Isn't this an argument against any form of different hiring practices based on race/gender? Even if distributions of abilities are equal in nature, if a college has a lower bar based on gender, then abilities won't be equal among graduates of that college. Conversely, even if abilities are on average different, if a college has the same bar and same standards based on gender, then you won't have to question if a graduate really deserved to have that credential.


Google's stance, as stated in the article, is that they divert more energy in to finding minority candidates. That's not the same as a lower bar. Abilities are expected to be distributed equally still.


In an interview, Damore said part of the "lowered bar" is extra interview rounds for minority candidates. You could call that "more energy", but it also reduces the chances that a given candidate suffers from bad luck.


Luck doesn't reduce skill, it alters opportunity.


Consider a 90% free throw shooter vs. a 50% shooter. To get the job, you have to make 3 shots. But the 90% shooter gets 3 shots and the 60% shooter gets 5 shots. All of a sudden the 60% shooter is more likely to get the job.

It highly depends on the details of the interview process, which I don't know, but just to discount it with that logic is impossible.


This analogy doesn't work at all. 3/3 shots is 100% success rate whereas 3/5 shots is 60% - you're literally describing lowering the bar for the 60% shooter.

Additional rounds of interviews are more like trying to accurately diagnose a condition using multiple different tests because the initial test is known to have poor sensitivity and will produce false negatives. Doing multiple rounds may, of course, increase the chance of false positives (reduce specificity); but the assumption in this case is that when hiring minorities the sensitivity of the interview process is much worse than the specificity.


Right, that's why I said it depends on how the interview process is done. Some companies do thumbs up / down by round.

On a reread, Damore actually implies that Google's policies as applied to their interview process are "decreasing the false negative rate" for minorities. Whether this is harmfully discriminatory or not is open to opinion, but what I think is clear there is that the statement is favorable and understanding of his minority peers - the policies did not let anyone through who should not have been. I certainly don't think he should be fired for having given that statement.


I don't see how you don't recognize this as effectively lowering the bar (if not intentionally).

>Additional rounds of interviews are more like trying to accurately diagnose a condition using multiple different tests because the initial test is known to have poor sensitivity and will produce false negatives.

The difference is that what they're testing for isn't a binary proposition (do you have the disease or not), but a spectrum (what is your skill level). Viewing this in terms of false-positives or false-negatives is insufficient. If we think of programming skill as a spectrum, we can ask what is the average top-% of candidates who pass the interview (we might guess its top 5% of all developers). If everyone has the same test then the average top-% is unchanged regardless of any efforts to get more minorities to take the test. But once you start giving more tries to minorities your average top-% necessarily reduces.

Whatever your test is designed to admit (say you're interested in hiring only the top-10% of developers), the average of those who pass will be higher precisely because of the chance factor. Being significantly better than the intended cutoff gives you a better chance at passing and so those who pass skews towards better than the intended cutoff.

I'm not saying whether this is a good or bad thing, but the average skill of those who pass must reduce. It is very straightforward to see this as effectively lowering the bar.


Your hypothetical is self-fulfilling.

Imagine that if you're a minority, you have nearly a 0% chance of getting hired if you're the only minority in the hiring pool [1]. As an employer, wouldn't you want to counteract that by making sure that the decision to hire/not-hire isn't affected by status-quo bias, so you don't overlook qualified candidates?

https://hbr.org/2016/04/if-theres-only-one-woman-in-your-can...


> Google's stance, as stated in the article, is that they divert more energy in to finding minority candidates. That's not the same as a lower bar. Abilities are expected to be distributed equally still.

That has a very pernicious effect across the industry though. Think about what that policy does to other companies.

The other companies won't have as many high quality women because Google scouted and hired them already, but will have just as many low and medium quality women who aren't good enough for Google, and more high quality men who were displaced from Google. Which skews the gender ratio even more and creates the impression that women at those companies are lower quality than the men there or else they would have been hired away by Google -- because it causes that impression to be the truth.

And you can't fix it by having all companies adopt that policy, because it would still transfer high quality women from lower tier companies to higher tier companies, causing problems for all the women who don't get to work for the companies in the highest tier. Even the high quality women who are still in second tier companies.

The lower tier companies are where almost everybody actually works -- small and medium companies employ more people than huge companies because there are so many more of them.

Google is being quite selfish with a policy like that.


Only if you assume that finding qualified minority candidates is just as easy as finding other qualified candidates. Or that hiring chances are equally distributed.

HBR found there's an innate bias against any minorities in hiring pools [1], and considering that women make up a much lower percentage of potential CS positions, the deck is probably stacked against them. This means that for other companies, they have already passed on hiring the qualified minority candidates. Speculatively, Google could be trying to counteract this by diverting more energy into finding minority candidates.

Also, is it Google's responsibility to make sure other companies have the best candidates, minority or not?

[1] https://hbr.org/2016/04/if-theres-only-one-woman-in-your-can...


> Only if you assume that finding qualified minority candidates is just as easy as finding other qualified candidates. Or that hiring chances are equally distributed.

Nope, it's independent of any of that, because the effect is relative to what other companies do rather than any of those things.

And when you do that experiment in the real world rather than a lab, you get the opposite result anyway:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/07/1...

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-30/bilnd-recruitment-tria...

> Also, is it Google's responsibility to make sure other companies have the best candidates, minority or not?

It's not about who gets the best candidates -- presumably the men who are displaced are of equal quality and then go to work for the same other companies. The problem is that it creates an unfair black mark against every woman who doesn't get hired at Google despite Google having a special preference for them, and then leaves them in an environment with an even worse gender ratio than it was already.

And these other companies feed into Google. Plenty of women get their first jobs there and go work for Google later. If Google makes it harder for the women there and increases the number who drop out as a result, that's bad for everyone including them.


>The problem is that it creates an unfair black mark against every woman who doesn't get hired at Google

Can you elaborate on this more? Or give examples?


Suppose there are 5,000 women and 20,000 men with CS degrees who are seeking new employment right now. 500 women and 2000 men are above the 90th percentile, 500 women and 2000 men are between the 80th and 90th percentiles, etc.

Google has 2000 job openings. If they hired without gender preference they would end up with 1600 men and 400 women, but they make an effort to seek out women specifically and instead they hire 1200 men and 800 women. They've now hired all of the women above the 90th percentile and 300/500 between the 80th and 90th.

The gender ratio below the original 80th percentile is still 4:1, but above the 80th percentile it's 14:1 and above the 90th percentile there are no remaining female job seekers. People notice things like this -- that none of the available top engineers are women, even though there are still less talented or experienced female applicants. It creates stereotypes. It deprives the women below the 80th percentile of their role models and mentors. People start expecting women to be worse on average, because of those available to hire, Google has actually caused that to be the case.

And things go downhill from there very quickly if more large companies do the same as Google.


But those are just hypotheticals. Is there actually any evidence showing this happening?


It's not a hypothetical, it's arithmetic. The only hypothetical parts are the number of job seekers and the number of hires, but change them to whatever you like, as long as the proportion of women hired is different than it is in the applicant pool the effect still persists.


But isn't that true of any hiring practice? Should people start lowering their standards just so other companies can get better candidates too?


It's only true of hiring practices that cause the gender ratio in your company to be different than it is in the industry as a whole.


And then watch out if your company bases its diversity targets on numbers from the rest of the industry. All the good ones may be taken (in order to get to the mythical 50%), but now we want to follow suit (to get to 50%), but what's left? What a mess.


This is another of the "facts" that Damore's memo mentions but there's no empirical proof for. Do you have any?


Proof for what? Smaller number of available women? That's obvious. That if larger companies hire the best of them, the remaining supply/quality will shrink? That's obvious too.


No, that there's a hard number that Google recruiters are supposed to achieve (50% seems to what I've seen repeated around here.)

Does anyone have any actual proof that Google is aiming for 50% or to represent the general population 1-1?


It sounds like they kept meetings deliberately off-the-record, but then again here on https://www.google.com/diversity/index.html there's stuff like "we’re committed to making our workforce more reflective of the world we live in". Number goals are unlikely to be published for obvious liability reasons.


This argument reminds me of the "waterboarding is not torture" argument, both suffer from slothful induction fallacy.

If waterboarding is not torture then why would you apply it to detainees to confess information they otherwise wouldn't?

Equally, if diverting more energy in to finding minority candidates is not lowering the bar for them then why would you need to divert more energy to find them?


"If waterboarding is not torture then why would you apply it ..."

This applies to any sort of interrogation tactic along the spectrum between The Comfy Chair and Execution. Each step would not be applied if the detainees confessed at the next-below step.


>Equally, if diverting more energy in to finding minority candidates is not lowering the bar for them then why would you need to divert more energy to find them? reply

The point is to find the ones that can pass at a higher rate than you normally would. No bar is lowered, and your representation increases.


If you search harder for them, the bar is lowered by virtue of letting them be less outstanding / noticeable.


That doesn't follow if they're passing the same hiring process. It's not hard at all to get a contact for a phone screen with Google: I've been contacted by Google recruiters on linkedin with a barely filled out profile with one or two unremarkable positions listed. If you're counting the initial discovery phase as part of the hiring process, you're mistaken.


I believe the memo + followups included claims that the hiring process is not the same either.


If that's the case, then yeah definitely a problem


> If waterboarding is not torture then why would you apply it to detainees to confess information they otherwise wouldn't?

Actually effective techniques like building rapport aren't torture, and they get applied to get information out.


You are right, my argument is incorrect.


> ...it’s an unequal burden my male coworkers don’t have to deal with every day.

Maybe. There's a lot of diversity within the male gender.

I know I'm an outlier at work due to my politics, my religious beliefs, and other details of my background. I sometimes wonder which of my coworkers have something against me. I know all of them don't (or at least they are professional regardless), but people from my background are absolutely in a minority and are publicly ridiculed on a regular basis, including in HN comments.

I don't care to compare my experience to being a woman engineer, but the feeling described isn't foreign to me.


> I know I'm an outlier at work due to my politics, my religious beliefs, and other details of my background.

Right. Now imagine being an outlier due to your biology in a way that's impossible to conceal. I'm an outlier in some ways from my peers as well. But I just don't talk about those beliefs or those parts of my life. You don't have the option to do that if you're female or a visible minority.


> Now imagine being an outlier due to your biology in a way that's impossible to conceal.

Who said I was concealing anything?


Critical difference that you fail to understand is that you have a choice as to how you are perceived. You have a choice about whether to blend in where a woman or visible minority would not.


Who said being closeted is even in the cards for me?

Even if it were, aren't we supposed to be moving past the point where people need to closet who they are so as not to offend everyone else?


Beautifully put.


It's a ridiculously high standard.

The only way to not have to feel discriminated like that would be if you could control minds of all relevant people in the workplace and make absolutely sure they don't have any bad thoughts towards you. Otherwise if you're a type of person who worries about what others think about you, you'll always have a reason to feel crappy, imagining whatever negative thought may be going through other people's minds.

Way out of this is to find a way not to care so much about what others think. Or if you suspect particular person of actual discrimination, talk to them, or report them specifically if you can't do that or it doesn't work.

Solution is not to suppress discussion by firing people for discussing diversity. That just creates a truly hostile environment of fear of being fired for others. And discussion is not really suppressed anyway. Quite the opposite.


>When I walk into my job at a tech company, how do I know which of my colleagues thinks I’m an outlier among women versus someone who was hired because I’m female that doesn’t deserve the job they have?

That is a result of affirmative action, not of the memo. Shooting the messenger, if you will.


Exactly. Affirmative action causes everyone, including the person, to question whether they got there on merit or based on filling some quota. Multiple biases are created.


> Affirmative action causes everyone, including the person, to question whether they got there on merit or based on filling some quota.

Affirmative Action does not require having quotas (and, in fact, they are in mlst contexts explicitly illegal, even in venues required to have Affirmative Action policies). So, insofar as it “causes” the that result, it is largely by interaction with false information deliberately spread by its opponents.


> Affirmative Action does not require having quotas (and, in fact, they are in mlst contexts explicitly illegal, even in venues required to have Affirmative Action policies).

Fair enough -- quotas aren't the issue, but affirmative action is the issue.

> So, insofar as it “causes” the that result, it is largely by interaction with false information deliberately spread by its opponents.

That's a concrete conclusion based on unprovable/shaky reasoning.

And even if that were true and you could prove it, it wouldn't change the fact concerning affirmative action (in this case, lowering hiring standards for certain groups) causing bias for both coworkers and the employee. How do coworkers know an individual got there on their own merit? How does an individual who is on/above par, yet who happens to belong to an affirmative action group, shake the internal/external stigma that they got there based on the lowered bar? These things contribute to bias whether or not we like the overall idea behind affirmative action (which is to level the playing field). Nothing comes for free.


Do you completely reject the prescence of existing biases, conscious or unconscious, that give an advantage to males? I would hope not, since such biases have been clearly shown in blind studies by e.g. swapping names on resumes, etc.

But unless you do, you should agree that the choice is not between some biased "affirmative action" and a perfectly unbiased, meritocratic alternative, because the latter does not exist. The real choice is whether we try, in some least-bad way, to level the playing field or not.


>Do you completely reject the prescence of existing biases, conscious or unconscious, that give an advantage to males?

What the glass ceiling builds, the glass cellar destroys. Biases that exist when looking up reverse when looking down.

>swapping names on resumes, etc.

Recent study found an interesting result doing this.

>to level the playing field or not.

And thus some groups will always be looked at, internally and externally, as having the benefit of a better playing field. Perhaps that cost is worth it, but we shouldn't blame the ones pointing out the cost as if they were the source of it.


Affirmative action is strictly a US federal government policy. Google cannot implement affirmative action, however it can implement pro-diversity hiring policies. I honestly don't know what those policies are though, and reading through the thread it's unclear.

Affirmative action isn't actually a specific policy directive, so it's not like a checklist or a set of guidelines for hiring or anything. Every department does it differently. But the main idea is that Kennedy and later Johnson told the government to get its diversity house in order, and it did. Some private institutions choose to implement pro-diversity policies, for hiring and otherwise, but they're not in any way related.

What you're referring to is tokenism, which is an old concept: people of color, LGBTQ people, or women feel like they're only there because of their minority status. It's a familiar trope, especially amongst people of color because they've often been exploited that way.

It's certainly the case that at some point, someone gets a job or gets into a school because they're a minority. That's gotten a lot of play in this thread and in the broader debate. But what I haven't seen, and this happens far, far more often, is that minorities don't get jobs because they're minorities. It is hard to get a job as a software engineer if you're Black, if you're a woman, if you're a Black woman, or at all queer.

This happens far more often than White men losing out to "diversity hires", and I think we should start focusing on the fact that for minorities, you're often occupy a space between discrimination because of who you are, or tokenism because of who you are.

But at least with tokenism you have a job. I'm in no way saying we should settle for this; the situation's unacceptable. But let's stop acting like tokenism is the worst thing in the world for minorities and then use it as an excuse to get rid of pro-diversity policies and affirmative action; policies that have probably done more for minorities than any other policy initiative past like, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Reconstruction Amendments, the 19th Amendment, and the Civil Rights Acts.


So if I say "the average women is shorter than the average man", am I now liable for being fired for creating a hostile environment for my female coworkers?

That leap of logic - taking a general statement and interpreting it as a personal attack - strikes me as something I'd read in Dilbert. It strikes me as a justification for the outrage people want to feel.

It's an excuse; nothing more.


Well, I agree with the spirit of your argument. However:

> So if I say "the average women is shorter than the average man", am I now liable for being fired for creating a hostile environment for my female coworkers?

You wouldn't just be saying that. You'd be saying, "we know about implicit/explicit biases, but maybe short people are less interested in tech and that helps to explain the hiring gap." That and a series of studies about how short people, on average, have biological qualities that differentiate them from taller people, which you use to bolster your supposition. In effect, you'd be saying that, on average, short people are possibly just less interested in technology because they like other things, respond differently to stress and don't have the drive for status that tall people do.

So, while you wouldn't necessarily be _wrong_ for supposing that and people would be wrong to impute any further meaning than is represented (such as, short people aren't fit for tech, short people are not as good as tall people, etc.), you might be at least partially wrong for not being as clear as possible in your phrasing ... but not much else. Mainly, because his intention isn't to say women aren't fit for tech, but to point out why they might, on average, be less interested in tech, which would help to explain the gap in STEM interest.


But Damore didn't do anything to make women think they were hired only because of diversity initiatives. It's common knowledge that Google makes an effort to hire more women. That was already the case, and Damore merely brought attention to the negative aspects of it.


There's a huge difference between increasing outreach and lowering the hiring bar. One shields more candidates, the other one increases the chances of hiring someone from the same pool of candidates. The reason why Google (and many other companies) are increasing outreach is because they want to maintain a high-quality of engineers, otherwise they'd just open the floodgate and let everyone in and solve their diversity problem once and for all.

Damore's memo states a lot of things about Google's recruiting practices that are still to be proven truth. Lowering the bar is one of them.


Replying here because I guess there's a limit.

> His reaching out to alt-right media and having a "Goolag" shirt on the very first interview suggests that he was kind of ready for it.

Which alt-right media did he reach out to? I've been paying pretty close attention and I saw him being interviewed by the likes of Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro, but they are not alt-right media. They are both classical conservatives.

> As anyone who's worked for Google (I have) will tell you, that's highly discouraged. You don't want to put Google or yourself into a weird legal position for posting publicly about this (for example, Google would have to track you down and make sure to archive all your internal emails moving forward for possible discovery, etc.)

Then all we have to go on are theories and the question: what's to be gained from him lying about this?


> Which alt-right media did he reach out to?

His very first interview was with Stefan Molyneaux, a self-described "fighter for men's rights" (yeah, I know.)

> what's to be gained from him lying about this?

I don't think he was outright lying, I think he was just uninformed and made a lot of assumptions and drew conclusions (biased by his own political views) out of those assumptions. I do think his inflammatory approach to accusing Google and Googlers of "leftist bias" was a way to get attention.

About what's to be gained? Well... he's been interviewed by the New York Times and he'll probably get a book deal out of it, plus whatever money he might get if he manages to successfully sue Google.


I've been told that his first interview was actually with Jordan Peterson. The Stefan interview with simply the first to be published maybe, or widely seen.


You might be right. It was definitely the first I saw pop up.


> Damore's memo states a lot of things about Google's recruiting practices that are still to be proven truth. Lowering the bar is one of them.

That's true and an excellent point. If he's lying about Google's recruitment practices, either by misunderstanding or by outright false accusation, then large parts of the memo are moot.

On the other hand, I would make the counterpoint that the only reason his honesty has come into question is because of the negative reception his memo has had. Also, what are the odds that Damore misunderstood things? I'd say low.

Additionally, I have yet to see any fellow Googlers publicly calling him a liar, but we shall see.


> I would make the counterpoint that the only reason his honesty has come into question is because of the negative reception his memo has had

I'll be honest, that's what ticks me about Damore: after presenting the ideas in his memo a couple times and not getting any traction, he made a case of sharing them publicly inside Google. Not with a group of friends, not with the diversity team, but publicly. As you say, he's not a dummy, so he probably expected this whole controversy. His reaching out to alt-right media and having a "Goolag" shirt on the very first interview suggests that he was kind of ready for it. I'm not 100% sure he's being honest about his intentions to "help Google."

> Additionally, I have yet to see any fellow Googlers publicly calling him a liar, but we shall see

As anyone who's worked for Google (I have) will tell you, that's highly discouraged. You don't want to put Google or yourself into a weird legal position for posting publicly about this (for example, Google would have to track you down and make sure to archive all your internal emails moving forward for possible discovery, etc.)


Damore advocates removing "hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar", so he's actually proposing a solution to this problem. Also, he himself isn't stereotyping women as crap engineers. He says "Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women".


Quoted argument doesn't make sense. If the hiring standards are the same for women an men then you know that any women at the company is as qualified as any men at least until you get to know more about them, there is just less of them - no reason to prove anything.

If on the other hand any kind of affirmative action is in place then you would be right to assume average women is less qualified than an average man because that's what affirmative action is: lowering the bar for certain groups.

The very presence of affirmative action ("diversity efforts") should be the reason for women at the company to feel unsafe because then the prejudice against them becomes rational.

This should be obvious in my view. The place to take action is in early schooling to get more women interested in tech or give them more opportunities to get involved not in hiring more of them from already smaller job seekers pool.


If what you say is true then in workplaces without affirmative action programs we should not expect to find any workers who thinks the women that work there are less qualified than the men who work there. (Because the "cause", affirmative action, is not in place.)

Do you really think that is the case?

> The place to take action is in early schooling to get more women interested in tech or give them more opportunities to get involved not in hiring more of them from already smaller job seekers pool.

Yes, this is what many of Google's diversity programs are intended to do.


>>If what you say is true then in workplaces without affirmative action programs we should not expect to find any workers who thinks the women that work there are less qualified than the men who work there. (Because the "cause", affirmative action, is not in place.)

Sadly that's not the case. Affirmative action makes prejudice rational but it's not the only reason people display prejudice. If A implies B then removing A doesn't make B false.

>>Yes, this is what many of Google's diversity programs are intended to do.

Good for them. They really should keep discrimination when hiring away from it. "We don't lower the bar but we look for more candidates among X group" is discrimination. The same way "We don't lower the bar but we look for more candidates among white people" is discrimination based on race.


Are you arguing we should spare factual discourse for the sake of someones subjective feelings?


Why don't you go ahead and read this:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2017/08/sloppy-scien...

Simply put, unless you are mindful of someone's "subjective feelings" you will never be able to have a "factual discourse" with them. People are individuals and not statistics. You can quote statistics and average all day long, but if you offend, anger, or harm someone with your words, that person will not listen to you.


The situation is more dire than that link suggests.

It isn't just that some people are too emotionally reactive to be directly involved in a reasonable conversation.

We are currently shutting down even the possibility of a conversation among any set of a large group of people, because some people in that group are uncomfortable with it.

They aren't even willing to sit out the conversation that makes them uncomfortable, they are insisting that nobody else be allowed to have the conversation within the larger community.


I think this interview with 4 female engineers gave a lot of ways how that discussion could have had. Have you read it yet?


> Simply put, unless you are mindful of someone's "subjective feelings" you will never be able to have a "factual discourse" with them.

Isn't that a catch 22? How do we know their subjective feelings if we can't discuss contested issues?


No, not really. For this specific example, Damore knew the issue is a divisive one. If he didn't, then he does need to have some basic sensitivity training. From what I remember reading, he did acknowledge the issue was contentious. In that respect, there are ways and techniques to have that conversation. What Damore did was not that way. He should have consulted a resource like Crucial Conversations (https://www.amazon.com/Crucial-Conversations-Talking-Stakes-...) first.


Damore self-identifies as autistic [1]. Are you seriously suggesting that the proper course of action is that a mentally ill individual should receive training on how to speak and think from his corporation? What has the world come to where this is sanity.

Liberals today: "Embrace diversity of thought, color, and sexual genitalia! Wait I don't like that thing he said, fire him. Wait, he's mentally ill and thus persecuted, he needs to be protected. Wait, autism isn't a metal illness, he's fine just the way he is. Wait, he's a white male, he's not fine just the way he is, he's evil. Wait, he's self-identifying as autistic, he's not really autistic, a doctor has to diagnose him. Wait, no, that's different than self-identifying your gender, that's totally fine."

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/JamesDamore/comments/6thcy3/im_jame...


Sensitivity training would not have helped and is not required here.

He went out of his way to praise women engineers and to emphasize he supports diversity.

There are just certain that intolerant people cannot discuss rationally, like biological gender differences.

The fault lies with the intolerant minds, not Damore's approach.


Yes, the fault lies with intolerant minds.

If we forget this, then intolerant minds will have awesome veto powers over what the rest of us will be allowed to discuss.

Intolerant people are likely to use those veto powers.


That's victim blaming. His claims that he supports diversity are nothing more than false virtue-signaling. I have yet to find a person who would say there are no biological gender differences. The problem is assuming those differences are the underlying cause for why women and minorities are under represented in technology. Were you aware the first programmers were females? There are -many- reasons why women and minorities are underrepresented. The biological differences are not a significant one.


Damore is the victim of an aggressive and intolerant mob. I am certainly not victim blaming.


> Were you aware the first programmers were females?

That was when there were some low thousands of software engineers in total. Hardly statistically significant to compare with today's population.

The first few engineers were female because of sexism in the 1970s. The only mainstream jobs they were allowed to have were teaching and programming. There are fewer females now because of lack of sexism not due to it. As society became liberal, women started becoming doctors and lawyers, which matches with their interests much more than programming.


The problem is anger and offense are caused by, and mechanisms for dealing with, having our minds changed. The only things you can attempt to persuade someone to change his mind about, without making him angry, is something he doesn't much care about in the first place.


Thanks for the link, but I disagree with your interpretation and the analogy here. I interpreted this link as saying "don't speak in absolutes", not "don't hurt someones feeling". More often than not, there's information you find out later, and its very likely that you could be wrong. EG: nobody can run a 4 minute mile.

This memo did not say women were bad engineers.


Why don't you reread that article?

>The sloppy scientist says, "on average, across populations, left to its own devices, this group is [not as skilled] [neurotic] [hard to work with] [not as smart] [not as strong] [slower]" etc. They make assumptions without sufficient data, and the rigor is missing.

Here's the line: >The first problem is that human beings aren't averages, they're individuals.

His core argument was that there are biological reasons why women are under-represented in technology and that the initiatives taken by Google to reach out to females were illegal and discriminatory. He attempted to use science to justify his beliefs. That would lead many women, who already are self-conscience about their position, into wondering if they are present to their own merit, or because Google is trying to fill a quota.


In this case, it's not about "should factual discourse be allowed or not," that's a false dichotomy. It's whether the author of the memo knowingly took an approach to interpretation of the "facts" he selected that was actively harmful to his co-workers by creating a toxic and hostile work environment.

I believe he did, and the parent you're responding to seems to as well, but they didn't say anything about "spar[ing] factual discourse." You seem to be reading that into their comment.

And I would definitely say there are factual discussions that can be had privately between individuals who already trust each other that are better kept private in order to spare the feelings of non-participants. Other humans have feelings, taking them into consideration is not weakness.


"by creating a toxic and hostile work environment" can only be defined as such by those within it. I could say anything was toxic and hostile for any subjective reasoning. And it becomes "true" by your definition if enough people agree with me?

I'm arguing that line of reasoning is not constructive, and the collective's agreed upon opinions should not act as a barrier for scientific discourse. (which is what the memo was asking for)


Not much about that memo was "factual", whatever that means.


Some scientists did agree, even said he wrote an A worthy paper.

Others disagreed.

Even slatestarcodex argued a little for both sides.

Its clear scientific consensus has not been reached, and people need to discuss this openly with out censors.


It's pseudoscience at best.


The quote you mentioned results from the process he criticized, not his criticizing it.


This is only true if the process he criticized is actually real.


What reasoning does Damore have to lie?


You say lie. I say "be uninformed".


This is not the case, strictly speaking. It instead results from people perceiving there to be a lower bar for diversity hires; whether or not it is rational to describe things in that manner based on empirical data or what not is ultimately inconsequential. In that context, it is entirely possible for a poorly formulated memo to cause this type of damage, and likewise entirely possible for this perception to be perpetuated if institutions like Google do not properly back up its practices with compelling arguments to people who might otherwise have doubts.


> In that context, it is entirely possible for a poorly formulated memo to cause this type of damage

It's also possible, and more likely, for an overreaction to a memo to cause this kind of damage.


Surely "overreaction" is a matter of perception as well.


My point still stands if you replace overreaction with reaction.


I'm confused as to what your point was, then. It reads as though you're attempting to ascribe responsibility to organic social processes.


I would say that women already know that affirmative action hiring practices negatively affect people's perception of the abilities of those who benefit from them. And even if they didn't know, the hostile work environment[1] would already exist in the stereotypes women overcome, so publishing the memo would only give the opportunity to fight it more effectively for women who do not realize they face discrimination.

[1] I am not certain the extent to which this stereotype exists, so I am not sure it rises to the level of making the work environment "hostile", but I see that it could be the case.


I suspect both sides of the debate are now realizing what a hostile work environment preferential-hiring and rampant PC-culture is causing. One side has to walk on egg-shells scared of what they might let slip in conversation if they don't share the prevailing opinion of the loudest among-them. While the other side is constantly forced to question their abilities because preferential hiring appears to devalue their individual abilities, experiences and achievements.


I don't see any evidence of harm being done.

How is this harm? And how is that alleged harmed Damore's fault?


> The document still did harm.

Do you think she was unaware of Googles strong push for women in the workplace?

That seems unlikely.

Do you think she was previously unaware that many people might think diversity hires are less qualified?

That seems unlikely.

Did the memo guy state that diversity hires are lowering the bar? No. He went out of his way to say the opposite.

The most likely scenario is she has felt this way since she was hired and now has a specific person she can direct her anger/frustration/hurt onto.

> and it’s an unequal burden my male coworkers don’t have to deal with every day.

This is demonstrably false. Imposter syndrome is quite common for men in tech.

I would be interested to see studies on imposter syndrome between genders and between fields.


> There is real harm done if women who work at a company don't feel they are welcome there.

Using that logic, should every male feel unwelcomed because of the pro-female activity at google and in corporate america?

Can't damore and every male make the same argument?

Should men feel offended that ycombinator has a "Ask a female engineer" segment but no "Ask a male engineer" segment?


As far as I have been able to put things together as a non-Googler he went to an unrecorded "diversity summit" about a month and 1/2 ago, where, according to his statements in the Jordan Peterson interview, practices where put forward that he considered to be potentially illegal. He then wrote the document in his free time and posted it to a forum dedicated for feedback to the summit (? or more general diversity related). After engagement has been nothing to low he also posted the memo to an internal Google Group called "Skeptics" because he wanted to be proven wrong. Shortly after that the memo was leaked to the public (either without citations or the citations were then removed by the respective media), indicating that someone from this community did so.

I'd appreciate if someone could confirm/deny or add anything to this timeline.


Just to cleanup what you said:

1. He went to the summit, which wasn't recorded mostly to allow people to be open and share their private stories without fear

2. Something about that summit didn't sit right with him, so he wrote up this document and send it as feedback directly to the organizers (not openly)

3. When he got no response back (it's arguable if organizers should reply to every single feedback, but you can also argue that this was a pretty big one), he posted it to an open but not huge discussion board (skeptics) specifically made for people to argue ideas and have discussions.

4. Eventually, it caught some attention outside of the board and it blew up across the entire company

You were pretty close but just wanted to clarify a couple small points.


I have no factual information, but I know that when I write papers where I want to invite discussion, I don't make blatant statements based on a subset of the evidence I have and then expect people to dispassionately pick them apart for me.

Rather, I present my honest assessment of the strengths of the various pieces of evidence, pro and con. If I "want to be proven wrong", I certainly wouldn't present a falsely certain argument. That is not arguing in good faith.

And that's how I would argue a scientific question, not an argument about my coworkers ability.


I don't know, a lot of HNners seem to believe in Cunningham's Law, and it certainly seems to have held in this situation.


The leaker did harm to Google not Damore

I am 100% certain that the trackiest company in the world is perfectly capable of knowing exactly who leaked it. They have chosen to protect that person, for reasons unknown at this time.


How? Presumably tens of thousands of employees read it; how can you possibly know which needle in that haystack converted it to a different format and then sent it to a reporter? Especially if it was done over Tor or similar? How exactly do you track that? There are technologies that work that allow for anonymous means of communication.


Is there some positive net benefit of Google releasing the details of the person they fired for leaking the internal information? Companies rarely mention details about firing employees for misconduct.


Well, they didn't and it resulted in a war of leaks. Now anyone with inside information knows they can settle scores by doing it. I think we will see a lot more of it. Good for justice, not so good for Google...


Everything you write at a company should be assumed may end up printed on the froom page of the NY Times.


I find it frustrating that this is being downvoted - this is about the most universal piece of advice to be given to anybody in any job that uses computers to communicate with each other. I literally just read this exact line in "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," a book recommended to me on this forum.

Those that are downvoting, why do you disagree that this statement is not relevant to the current discussion?


The harm would have been done even if the memo was not leaked, due to the otherwise discussed effects on google employees.


Again, only if you believe a line was crossed, or whether he wrote a well-intentioned memo with the goal of supporting and increasing diversity that had some dubious conclusions based on controversial research.

He is also young and just starting his career. If this had been addressed calmly maybe he could have learned from this situation. Zero tolerance for a young man's folly instead turned him into a sympathetic figure and an alt-right star. It has reinforced the perception that the PC left is oppressive and reactionary. And worse of all he will never learn from his experience because the reaction confirmed his natural bias.

I guess there is no cutting people a break anymore in this era of shouting into the ether, virtue signaling, and political hellfire.


It's extremely charitable to assume that he is naive enough to not understand the implications of his associations with those alt-right sites. If he had been on techcrunch or some other media platform it would be one thing but he immediately started showing up on those websites with interviews.


Hopefully hes just ending his career now.

Google shouldn't be soaking up all these ignorant young college boys if they're not mature enough to handle a workplace.


Would you please not poison the discussion like this? Regardless of how correct your underlying points might be, it amounts to arson in a fire zone, and we ban accounts that do it.

Plenty of other users are able to express similar views to yours without violating the site guidelines. Please follow in their footsteps and post only comments that make the forum better, not worse.


Duly noted


> He posted his thoughts on an internal discussion board

An internal discussion board intended for controversial discussion no less!


I agree, and I suspect the attitude of cooler heads may act in Damore's favor when all is said and done.

The number of leakers has to be quite the headache for Google's StopLeaks folks. Between people leaking Damore's memo because they were upset by it, and people talking to Breitbart because they were angry he was fired, there's been a LOT of leaks. How Google approaches handling this issue is going to be interesting, there's a lot of hurt feelings on all sides.


It was fascinating to see how many Google managers operate their own "blacklists". That's got to be legally very dodgy.


Yep. No one is stopping them from having personal black list and refuse to work personally but they were claiming to ruin people's career inside and outside of Google and they were proud of it which is scary. Also someone was proposing public blacklist...


That's a huge one. I can easily see anyone who operates an internal "blacklist" of other employees as creating a hostile work environment. And from my understanding, those who did posted as such under their real names, so there's no investigation needed to track down who is doing it.

If there's an employee conduct we should all be able to agree is hostile, blacklisting coworkers would be it.


If I had been passed over for promotion or denied an internal transfer I was well qualified for, especially if I had gotten good performance reviews, I'd certainly be looking to have a judge subpoena those lists. That those managers felt so bold as to brag about it indicates that most of them are at it, or that they have tacit support from HR. And if I wasn't on one of the lists revealed, then we'd have to keep digging, or suspect someone had destroyed the evidence.


Google will be sued for it. It will be too enticing for lawyers to pass up.

It'll be open season on Google now, and they deserve it if the blacklists and age blacklist is true.


Yes, I agree.

And everyone maintaining age blacklists or ideological blacklists should be fired.


> In fact, I think the memo had been posted for a week or two before it was leaked.

a month ago.

> ... said he initially shared the 3,300-word memo internally a month ago.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-10/fired-goo...


If you distribute material like that, it will get leaked. That should be taken foregranted. If I got that memo I probably would have leaked it to the press, too.


Anyone making arguments for/against firing him for the memo need to be reminded that we don't know why he was fired.

It's just as likely he was fired for lying about having a PhD from Harvard.

Edit: I stand corrected, he was just enrolled in a PhD program.


He didn't lie about having a PhD from Harvard.

LinkedIn doesn't allow one to differentiate between being enrolled in a PhD program, or having completed a PhD program

The common practice when enrolled in a PhD program is to list using a future completion date, making clear that you have not yet completed the program.

Google knew he was enrolled in this program when they hired him.


Good point, I wasn't aware of LinkedIn's abilities with that.


> There are many people who believe he should have been fired anyway for offending his female coworkers and perhaps making them feel unsafe.

I feel unsafe as a Man when people advocate that employers should engage in gender discrimination against Men to enforce an arbitrary ratio of Men/Women the workforce.

Do I have the right to feel safe? Do Men have the right to get Women fired because they feel unsafe and threatened by the ideas they express?

There is a double standard and institutional bias that is being perpetrated by corporations like Google. I see no attempt to address these issues in away that changes there institutional bias and affords equity to the opponents to these ideas. This is simply damage control.


> He claimed that Google’s diversity efforts represent a lowering of the bar. Google has stated many times that its efforts involve focusing more resources on searching for candidates in minority groups rather than lowering the bar for these groups. Such misrepresentation is harmful to those of us at Google who have to overcome the bias that we were hired based other factors beside our skills.

This to me is the most interesting question that hasn't been answered about the memo. There seems to still be two camps, those who believe Google does not lower the bar for women and those who do. They can't both be right and I'd imagine if we could take a look at Google's hiring practices it wouldn't be too hard to tell which is which. Of course, we can't Google keeps its hiring practices, at least the ones relating to diversity very hush hush. This was actually Damore's impetus for writing the memo, he attended a diversity summit at Google where he learned about his employer's hiring practices and also observed that this summit was, unlike other meetings at Google, not recorded for later viewing. Damore's conclusion was that the hiring processes were unethical and likely illegal, although afaik he's yet to say specifically what it was that he observed. Still I don't think it's very reasonable to say that Damore has caused harm with this misrepresentation unless you can show conclusively that it is indeed a misrepresentation, and so far I haven't seen anything conclusive that shows that.


Though if you read the memo carefully, Damore doesn't actually make the claim that Google lowers the bar for women in the sense that they hire women who are less capable. His complaint is that Google lowers the bar in the sense of reducing the number of "false negative" rejections of diversity candidates by paying more attention to those applications. He was calling for an end to this practice not because it was allowing unqualified people to be hired, but simply because he feels that the special treatment is unfair.


The devil's in the details on this stuff, and unfortunately we don't have the details so it's hard to say exactly how much devil there is in them.

How do they lower the false negative rate? A sibling comment mentioned Google's practice of giving diversity candidates a second interview if they fail the first. This would mean if you have a false negative rate of `n` your false negative rate would become `n^2` (which is lower because n is hopefully much less than 1). However, this also increases your false positive rate from `p` to `1 - (1 - p)^2`. So in effect, this is lowering the bar as it's giving certain groups a better chance of being hired when they're not qualified than others. I would be very interested to hear about a hiring practice that lowers false negative rate without affecting false positive rate. I can't think of one right now but it seems like it should be possible.


There's a demonstrable, statistical bias against hiring minorities that creates a higher false negative rate for them: https://hbr.org/2016/04/if-theres-only-one-woman-in-your-can...

Having an extra interview would seem a logical way of preventing the loss of qualified candidates, wouldn't it?


That's not really moving the bar though - false positives are undesired errors. Also, at Google hiring decisions are made by committees using feedback collected from the interviewers. Presumably they don't discard the first interviews, but instead consider all of them.


The way I understood his overall point was that in a perfect world were there is not socio-economical bias and a large enough sample size, we would still not have 50/50 split in every single field.

Now, even with that being true, that doesn't mean that whatever percentage we have right now is equilibrium either, but from my understanding, he was trying to say that we should be careful pushing too much towards 50% split.


He specifically mentions in an interview that minority interviewees get assigned to a second interviewer if one interviewer doesn't like them in the first round. He saw this as a 'second chance' when the committee might just be controlling for interviewer biases. Though, the fact that he jumped to this 'lowering the bar' line of thinking shows to me that he was fishing for a conclusion.


> Though, the fact that he jumped to this 'lowering the bar' line of thinking shows to me that he was fishing for a conclusion.

Let's focus on things we can actually know rather than speculating about Damore's state of mind.

I'd ask a few questions about this interview practice though.

1) Is this the entirety of Google's diversity practices in hiring? I'd be surprised if it is. So even if this isn't lowering the bar it still doesn't prove conclusively that's not what they're doing. Again I'd like to see a more complete accounting of what exactly it is they do. However, I'm certainly not saying that you need to provide this in order to have a legitimate argument, you don't have access to this information any more than I do.

2) This practice seems to have a somewhat narrow view of what a interviewer bias looks like. In particular it only tries to eliminate bias in the case of a minority being rejected. What would happen if we were to instead attempt to detect interviewers who were prone to bias by randomly giving rejected candidates second interviews and seeing which interviewers wound up frequently disagreeing with their peers? If the assumption that bias only effects minority candidates is true this would have much the same effect.

3) What if it wasn't a second chance but 100 chances? I.e. if you're a minority you get to interview for Google 100 times and if any of those say yes your in. White people only get 1 shot. Unless you think Google's false positive rate is 0, this would have to lower the bar wouldn't it?


Thank you for this. This is one of the most important comments on this page:

" Let's focus on things we can actually know rather than speculating about Damore's state of mind."

Or, at the very least, present speculation as speculation. It does "show" anything definitive.


"Let's focus on things we can actually know rather than speculating about Damore's state of mind."

So let us extend him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't extend the hiring committee? How about we extend the benefit of the doubt to everybody involved, which would result in him never writing this memo and second guessing the hiring process.

The rest of your points seem to be just a whole lot of speculation, which you just told me not to do. The article shouldn't have been written without clarification on these points and conclusive evidence. Maybe go talk to the hiring committee about their motives/state of mind first Mr. Damore?


We're not extending Damore any benefits by not speculating about his state of mind. We're just avoiding discussing a topic about which we can't hope to learn the truth and which isn't necessary to understand whether or not Google's hiring processes do indeed lower the bar.

My "points" are indeed speculative, that's why they were presented as questions. I don't know the truth and it's impossible for us to talk non-speculatively about Google's hiring process because we simply don't have that information.

The original memo (not article, this distinction matters) did indeed cite a great deal of evidence, you may or may not consider it conclusive, I found it quite compelling. But I think it's important to remember that the memo itself was a request for clarification, posted to an internal message board for skeptics in the hopes that somebody would be able to tell him why he's wrong.


It was a lot of scientific studies he cited (since contradicted by meta studies), nothing about Google's processes. Another commenter on this thread seems to suggest that almost all interviewers can get second shots, which (albeit anecdotally) makes his argument weaker (showing restraint here in not calling him an outright liar)

I know with my (again anecdotal) experience with large SV firms, if Google had these kinds of holes in their hiring process they would be standing alone in the valley. Also, "lowering the bar" is not consistent with their absolute global market dominance.

He also claims in the same interview that he had already done his fact and opinion finding, and incorporated feedback into the memo by the time he posted it[1], so I don't know how much of this was a "request for clarification". He even had action items.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4WoeOkj2Ng


I've yet to see a meta study which contradicts those studies. Would be interested to see one. I've seen studies that say in X% of studies about differences between men and women the differences found are negligible. That's not a contradiction though, and it's not really meaningful at all. The % of studies which find negligible differences can be arbitrarily inflated because it's simple to find as many axis along which there are no gender differences as you want. It doesn't matter how many you find, even if it's .000001% of studies that find a difference if those differences happen to be particularly important that still means there's a meaningful difference. Scott Alexander has a more in depth explanation of this here: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagger...

If all interviewees have the same access to second interviews then I agree that it does nothing to lower the bar. In general if a policy doesn't concern itself with the identity of the candidate I don't see a way that it could be lowering the bar. However, my understanding, based on previous comments, is that diversity interviewees get a second chance immediately while the others must wait 12 months before they get a second chance. If that's the case then Damore's argument (and mine) stand.

I don't think Google's market dominance can be used as evidence of good hiring practices since I believe in the early days they didn't have such practices and wound up with a very undiverse company. This didn't seem to stop them achieving market dominance, draw from this what you will about how much they need diversity to succeed.

I'm having a bit of trouble understanding how you simultaneously believe that he "had already done his fact and opinion finding, and incorporated feedback into the memo by the time he posted it" and "The article shouldn't have been written without clarification on these points and conclusive evidence." It seems to me that not only did Damore make an honest effort to seek out clarification but that you're well aware of this fact.


Tonnes of speculation. So I'm just gonna stop refuting all that.

"had already done his fact and opinion finding, and incorporated feedback into the memo by the time he posted it"

I didn't claim this, he did (see: Youtube link). My point is that he didn't actually look into or ask hiring committees why they were doing what they did. Instead, he made bold recommendations, that (like the OP link shows) made women in tech feel like they didn't belong.

He wasn't open to a discussion as many characterize, in his mind, he'd already had discussions and incorporated feedback (his words)


The bar for all candidates at a non-Google company: Pass your first interview.

The bar for white male candidates at Google: Pass your first interview.

The bar for minority candidates at Google: Pass your first or second interview.

Of course it lowers the bar for hiring. Maybe it's justified, but it's certainly not raising it. It's not keeping it the same. Maybe it's still tougher to get hired as a minority candidate than as a white one, but that doesn't change what the policy does.


Google seems to track which candidates, even if you're white and male, have done well enough in the interview process where they think it's a false negative, and give you another interview after 12 months.

It's not just minority hires that interview more than once at Google, so there's no bar lowering. There's just trying again, and everyone can try again.

So really it's what you'd expect:

The bar for all candidates at Google: Pass your interview.


Just some candidates get more attempts at that bar than others, systematically, as a result of explicit policy ensuring that’s the case.

You can call it justified, leveling the playing field, or whatever else, but it’s still lowering the bar to getting hired.


It's trading off the false positive vs. false negative rate in the hiring signal. The question is what your assumptions are about the sources of error in that signal.

If you assume that the variance consists exclusively of false negatives due to discrimination, then the extra interviewers will work as Google claims and no bars will be lowered.

If you assume that the variance consists of randomly distributed error that's the same for all interviewees, then the second interviewer is just some statistical sleight-of-hand that's, on average, equivalent to lowering the bar.

Of course it's possible that the truth is in between.


>Of course it's possible that the truth is in between.

In this case, isn't the finding the truth pretty straightforward? Pull the performance reviews of the second chance hires. Check to see if there's a clear correlation in review and find a pattern.

Are we assuming that Google, which specializes in using data, does not bother to mine its own data with regards to its hiring practices?


Furthermore, simply look for interviewers who tend to reject women and minorities more often. Remove them from the interviewer pool.


It is an attempt to get past the type of issues that Dan Luu wrote about almost three years ago[0], where he referred someone to Google as one of the most impressive engineers he ever met in any field and that person didn't get past the phone screening as "not technical enough".

[0] https://danluu.com/tech-discrimination/


That definitely sounds like something that would lower the bar. If I was playing H.O.R.S.E. with an NBA player, if I got two chances to hit a shot for every one chance that an NBA player got, I might look competitive, even though I'm not very good at basketball.


> those who believe Google does not lower the bar for women and those who do.

That part aside - why does it matter? If you want to recruit for diversity and there is a smaller selection of one group, you are very likely to have to recruit the weaker candidate from the smaller group.

But why is that a problem? The whole argument behind striving for diversity is that "A diverse team is stronger than a non-diverse one". So the argument must be that regardless of whether you recruit the strongest individual or not, you are building the strongest team.

There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding that a) The strongest team is built by having the strongest individuals, or b) that the strongest candidate has a right to be recruited even though the team is not the strongest if he is.


>If you want to recruit for diversity and there is a smaller selection of one group, you are very likely to have to recruit the weaker candidate from the smaller group. But why is that a problem?

Well, from the linked article, one of the women stated that "When I walk into my job at a tech company, how do I know which of my colleagues thinks I’m an outlier among women versus someone who was hired because I’m female that doesn’t deserve the job they have?"

Thus, if a company engages in affirmative action-like hiring practices, whether or not the bar is actually lowered, inevitably some employees will feel that some exceptions are being made to fill a quota. As a result, all personnel who fit those sought-after demographics might be considered suspect, and unfairly labeled by some minds. I would absolutely not want my company to start recruiting weak candidates who resemble my general physiological description; I wouldn't even want them to announce they are considering it.

That said, you are right, there are merits to diversity. And I would rather err on the side of too much diversity than not enough. However, this is a complex problem which merits open discussion, otherwise we are bound to settle for suboptimal solutions, or worse.


> Thus, if a company engages in affirmative action-like hiring practices, whether or not the bar is actually lowered, inevitably some employees will feel that some exceptions are being made to fill a quota. As a result, all personnel who fit those sought-after demographics might be considered suspect, and unfairly labeled by some minds

I think this is impossible to avoid, but I also think it's an issue coming from the same flawed thinking, which is that people can be individually measured for their strengths. That's only true to a certain extent. Once people are qualified "enough" - the strength of the team is what's important. And if you want diversity you subscribe (whether it's correct or not!) to the notion that a diverse team is a stronger team than a non-diverse team. That also means that a diverse team of slightly weaker individuals is a stronger team than a non-diverse team of slightly stronger individuals.

The bottom line is: the company doesn't want the strongest individual, and the strongest individual donesn't automatically have a "right" to the available position. The strongest candidate is the one that would give the biggest improvement to the team, not (necessarily) the one that scores highest on tests, has the best experience or education, or that would be the best contribution to any set of other teams. Only the team in question matters.

For a (poor-ish) analogy: a college soccer team could select the 11 individually strongest players, and still not be the strongest team. If the 11 strongest players in the school were all defenders it's likely that the team would be terrible. Among the defenders recruited would be players that are individually "weaker" than some of the rejected attackers. The rejected attackers would complain that the defenders were recruited to fill a quota of defenders in the team. And they'd be right.


  Frances: ...if I remain silent, that silence could be mistaken for agreement.
  I should not be forced into that kind of debate at work.
And then

  Frances: ...I’m also disappointed that the men I know,
  including most of my male colleagues, remained silent
  on the topic.

  Frances: ...Many powerful men in Silicon Valley have
  huge bases of social media followers. By remaining
  silent on this topic or tweeting support for Damore,
  they are sending a message that philosophical arguments
  and principles take precedence over the lived
  experiences of many smart, talented female engineers
  and technical founders.
So, what? Is it just impossible to stay out of the issue if my silence is sending a message that philosophical principles and whatever matter more than women in technology? What if I just want to work my 9-5, treat all my coworkers well regardless of sex or gender, and let the PC warriors duke it out in the streets away from me? Can't even stay silent without sending a message.

While I agree with much of what is said in this piece, I find this pretty demonstrative of the "damned if i do, damned if I don't" situation I'm in as a male trying to survive in this PC crucifixion culture.


This section struck out to me too.

what I realized is that I am older, more world wary and far more cynical about anyone looking out for me than your average young millennial.

I think the dividing line is in that cynicism. I have never felt like anyone looked out for me.

"How do I prove myself to people one way or another?"

I have stopped trying to prove myself. I do what I think is right and am very wary of external validation that is not based on engineering data. Asking how you prove yourself seems very foreign. You always risk being wrong. You always risk being cast out.

If young social activists were less strident about how society stacks the deck for all white people- even the ones who have been abused, who had a shitty childhood, who have had bad relationships, who are suffering from depression or chemical abuse or other problems, then I think we'd stop running into this very boring and predictable conflict.

Everyone is suffering on some level. Stop talking about white men like we've never experienced pain.

I do think the memo was foundationally stupid. Compassion is needed on all sides.


>"How do I prove myself to people one way or another?"

I don't think this was about generic proving-to-others. I think it's about being prejudged by others at first glance which minorities in tech get in every interaction they have. I think that it's valid to say that's a significant struggle.

I have no expertise in this field of social ethics, so I'm hesitant to critique your comment when I'm as uninformed as anyone else, but I also think that your following comment shows an ignorance of that struggle:

>I have stopped trying to prove myself. I do what I think is right and am very wary of external validation that is not based on engineering data. Asking how you prove yourself seems very foreign. You always risk being wrong. You always risk being cast out.

If I'm interpreting this correctly as "This is what I did in response to my impulse to prove myself. This is what women in tech should do about their's as well.", then I think you are not considering the fact that you have the privilege of not needing to prove yourself. When people meet you, they don't assume a baseline level of incompetence. This same strategy that you use wouldn't apply to minorities who always feel like they need to prove themselves because of what they look like.

So I think this need to prove yourself stems from a serious, real issue, and so it's wrong to downplay this issue by equating minorities' perpetual feeling of needing to prove themselves with your feelings, to conclude that the problem exists inside them, and not outside them.

Apologies if I misinterpreted your words, but if not, I'd like to hear your response, because this is something I've been thinking about lately.


> I think it's about being prejudged by others at first glance which minorities in tech get in every interaction they have. I think that it's valid to say that's a significant struggle.

> When people meet you, they don't assume a baseline level of incompetence.

In a way they are prejudging him though. They consider the baseline for him to be one who assumes they're incompetent. He has to prove otherwise. Or perhaps not quite as severe, he is assumed to have privilege which you yourself stated.

It seems to be a problem with assuming things about an individual from population distributions. Perhaps we've forgotten how to treat others as individuals and be treated by others as an individual.


You are very cautious in your interpretation of my comments, and I think that is extremely valuable. Thank you.

>>If I'm interpreting this correctly as "This is what I did in response to my impulse to prove myself. This is what women in tech should do about their's as well."

I am very explicitly avoiding saying what someone should do. I try to celebrate different approaches than what I would have taken to the same problem. But I reserve the right to have an opinion bout the effectiveness of the approach. In this case, I think the outrage and fury directed towards a straw-filled white man has negative consequences. Maybe these activists will get what they are struggling towards, but not without consequences on how the quiet people perceive them. There is no monolithic group that will universally accept a position. Being restrained in your position will make people feel safe about expressing opinions that challenge your own.

>>So I think this need to prove yourself stems from a serious, real issue, and so it's wrong to downplay this issue by equating minorities' perpetual feeling of needing to prove themselves with your feelings, to conclude that the problem exists inside them, and not outside them.

I am not sure I agree that it is "wrong" to downplay it. This model has worked for me. Seems unhelpful to keep that perspective a secret. I have achieved a level of success I did not expect in my career.


> Stop talking about white men like we've never experienced pain.

What kind of discourse are you referring to? I hate that there's this notion that trying to hire talented people from underrepresented communities somehow requires oppressing white people.


I am not making the argument you are describing.

With respect to messaging tone, there are feminists and social justice people who end up being so tone deaf that they alienate otherwise sympathetic people.


> Is it just impossible to stay out of the issue[...]?

Yes, it's impossible to stay out of this issue. It's impossible to stay out of most issues. Certainly the ones that affect ourselves and our colleagues in everyday life.

You don't have a moral obligation to throw yourself into "the fight" on one side or another, but you do have a moral obligation to consider the impact of your behavior. If you were to witness a coworker being discriminated against, silence is not the same as ignorance.

To keep your head down and not get involved is going to favor one sides' agenda. If you want to do that, it's your right, but you should own that. We all have the capacity to get involved at whatever level we happen to be on. In our social circles, in our companies or in the public discourse. By interacting with those spheres, by choosing what we mention and acknowledge and consider we push on one side or the other.

It's fine to not be, "in the streets," but it's not fine to pretend these issues have nothing to do with you.

Edit: I've read some accounts suggesting people ask their parents what they were doing during the civil rights movements of the 1960s. People might have protested, they might have been appalled from afar. They might have thought it was much to do about nothing. Ten years from now, how would you explain how you felt today at a cocktail party? However you see it, I think we all have a responsibility to decide and not simply drift through society.


I would love to offer my support against misogyny and harassment in technology but I'm frankly terrified of saying the wrong thing and being vilified for it. This is such a sensitive subject that saying nothing is safer than saying anything, even words of support.

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