In a mind bending move, Google has fired the author of a memo that suggested that bias against women at the company — and in tech fields in general — may not be as much about gender discrimination as about biological differences and the preferences of women.
It’s mind bending because in the statement following the circulation of the memo around the company, Danielle Brown, Google’s new VP for for diversity, integrity and governance, said that James Damore, the author of the memo, violated the company’s code of conduct which includes an “unequivocal” belief “that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company.”
“We’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul,” Brown’s statement said.
Diversity and inclusion, but only of the approved and accepted kind, apparently.
And Damore — who was officially fired for perpetuating gender stereotypes after being slammed by his fellow employees as someone not fit to work with — didn’t express the right kind of diversity ideas and therefore should not be included.
As I said, mind bending.
In any event, Damore’s memo (published in full here) goes into the biological differences between men and women, with his mention of higher “neuroticism” in women and higher “drive for status” in men being particularly difficult for those at Google incapable of digesting and giving thought to the merits of ideas not their own.
I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.
What’s fascinating about this situation, given the discussion over the last several years about a dearth of females in STEM careers is that Damore is actually hitting on something that Google could have been one of the first to get in front of if they wanted to make a real difference.
Girls are apparently about even with boys in STEM classes in high school, but choose not to go into those careers at the same rate. And there are several studies that suggest that it is mostly about preference on the part of girls. But those studies are almost never cited, according to a piece in Psychology Today. (The entire thing is worth a read)
Despite claims that gender differences are typically “small” (Hyde, 2005), Su et al found a gigantic gender difference in interests. Women preferred working with people, whereas men preferred working with things, a preference that is detectable within the first two days of birth and among our close species relatives, rhesus monkeys! To be sure, these differences were not absolute. Not every man prefers working with things, and not every woman prefers working with people. But the effect size was d= .93, and even if you are not familiar with effect sizes, this would make it one of the largest effects in social psychology; it is gigantic…
…Even if there is discrimination against women in these fields, it is not preventing women from entering those fields in droves. (Indeed, the logic of “gap = discrimination”—a logic I have repeatedly rejected but which runs rampant throughout the social sciences and general public—would have us believe there is widespread discrimination against men in most fields now).
Google could have chosen to talk about why girls choose to work with “people not things” and begun to change the way they appeal to women workers. Instead they did exactly as Ben Shapiro says:
Google: Women improve workplaces because they are different from men.
Memo Guy: Women are different, on average, from men.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 8, 2017
You simply cannot be inclusive if you refuse to look at all the data, Google. You, of all companies, should know that.