Eighty percent of Google’s technical employees are male. That’s a hard thing to square for a company who has long sought to be a leader in diversity, and views it as a necessary predicate to growth.
“I walk around the campus where I work and see a vibrant mix of races and cultures. Every one of those people has a different voice . . . a different perspective . . . a different story to tell.” Google CEO Sundar Pinchai wrote in a 2016 memo. “All of that makes our company an exciting and special place to be, and allows us to do great things together. We are urgently working to become much more diverse, because it is so important to our future success. I firmly believe that whether you’re building a company or leading a country, a diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.”
Gender and racial diversity perhaps, but if the recent firing of James Damore is any indication, the desire for a “diverse mix of voices” and people with “different stories to tell” definitely does not extend to viewpoint diversity. Damore’s sin was penning a memo attempting to cast a light on population level differences in the “distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women,” which are likely to exist as more than just a “social construct,” and thus could serve a a potential explanation for the technology sector’s gender gap.
“I hope its clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority,” Damore wrote. “My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology.
“I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not just as another member of their group (tribalism).”
For this Damore was labeled a sexist and fired.
But doesn’t he raise a legitimate point? Is it truly Google’s fault that 80 percent of their technical employees are male, or is the real problem that 80 percent of computer-science and engineering majors are male? And really, is it a problem at all given the range of academic disciplines that women dominate?
None of that is to say that Damore’s treatise should be the last word on Google’s diversity policies. Indeed, Damore’s memo, which attempts to focus on population-level differences between men and women, was unsurprisingly (though perhaps wrongly) read as individualized attack on the women who have chosen to work at Google, or in the technology sector more broadly. These women go to work everyday in a male-dominated environment, and so to have their psyches generalized and their abilities distilled, was no doubt a slap in the face.
As David Brooks writes in the New York Times, the two sides of the argument created “legitimate tension,” that in better days could have sparked a productive conversation, but is now often resulting in scapegoating.
What we have is a legitimate tension. Damore is describing a truth on one level; his sensible critics are describing a different truth, one that exists on another level. He is championing scientific research; they are championing gender equality. It takes a little subtlety to harmonize these strands, but it’s doable.
Of course subtlety is in hibernation in modern America. The third player in the drama is Google’s diversity officer, Danielle Brown. She didn’t wrestle with any of the evidence behind Damore’s memo. She just wrote his views “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.” This is ideology obliterating reason. …
The mob that hounded Damore was like the mobs we’ve seen on a lot of college campuses. We all have our theories about why these moral crazes are suddenly so common. I’d say that radical uncertainty about morality, meaning and life in general is producing intense anxiety. Some people embrace moral absolutism in a desperate effort to find solid ground. They feel a rare and comforting sense of moral certainty when they are purging an evil person who has violated one of their sacred taboos.
Sadly, society seems unwilling to have that conversation at the moment. To understand why look no further than the reporting of the memo, which was labeled as “anti-diversity” by The Atlantic, ABC News, Reuters, CNN, and USA Today, among others. Not only does mischaracterization pervert Damore’s argument, it effectively ceases any necessity for debate. The mob, with the media at their back, successfully “othered” Damore, which made him not just unworthy of reasoned argument, but easily done away with through a prompt firing.
“If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem,” Damore wrote in his letter.
Sadly, the only problem the left tends to see today is that divergences from their preferred opinion continue to occur.
Photo Credit: Neon Tommy