Google engineer James Damore’s sexist rant has cost him his job. Bloomberg and other media sites are reporting that Damore was fired after he released an internal 10-page memo decrying the politically correct, leaf-leaning culture of the multinational tech company.
Before Damore was fired, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a note to employees that said portions of the memo “violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”
Damore’s appeal to conservative values is explicit. His “just-so” explanation of women’s “biological” inability to lead, which included mention of “neuroticism,” for example, is an age-old religious and conservative trope and is still employed all too frequently, not just in tech but in academia, politics — virtually in any arena where men do not want to relinquish power and control.
Some right-wing websites have rushed to Damore’s defense, saying his firing could be seen as a confirmation of some of the memo’s claims – namely that Google’s company culture does not allow for dissenting political views. This conservative talking point, however, is more than a little hypocritical, if not downright laughable.
“The truth is,” Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, tells Broadly, “the tech workplace is really infected with false stereotypes about women.” “Free speech is not protected if it creates a hostile environment for women.” Once Damore circulated the memo, says Farrell, he lost that protection. “Period. End of story.”
From The Memo (edited for format):
At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.
On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
● They’re universal across human cultures
● They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
● Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
● The underlying traits are highly heritable
● They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective
Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” 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.
Throughout the document, by “tech”, I mostly mean software engineering.
Women, on average, have more:
● Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).
○ These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.
● Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.
○ This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there’s overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women’s issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support.
● Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).
○ This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.
Note that contrary to what a social constructionist would argue, research suggests that “greater nation-level gender equality leads to psychological dissimilarity in men’s and women’s personality traits.” Because as “society becomes more prosperous and more egalitarian, innate dispositional differences between men and women have more space to develop and the gap that exists between men and women in their personality traits becomes wider.” We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.
Men’s higher drive for status
We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.
WikilLeaks founder Julian Assange, who until recently was facing rape charges in Sweden and is perhaps best known for his efforts to derail Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign via leaked documents, took the opportunity to offer Damore a job at Wikileaks.
This memo — as does the job offer — speaks for itself.