Last week, a very unknown software engineer at Google suddenly became a very well-known ex-Google software engineer.
James Damore, a 28-year-old provocateur, was fired after writing a 10-page, 3,000-word manifesto that argued the lack of women in Silicon Valley is attributed to more than just basic gender discrimination. He claimed women were more artistic, more sociable than men but less status driven in their career choices.
And he submitted that women exhibited higher anxiety rates and lower stress tolerance.
Damore’s missive at first was disseminated internally at Google, but once it permeated the company’s high-tech walls and sifted into the general populace, the rest was history.
The opinions of Damore, a competitive chess enthusiast as a teenager and now with a master’s degree in systems biology from Harvard, went viral on social media in a hurry — like a fast flash drive.
Though his controversial thoughts on the gender diversity issue appeared to vacuum up most of the oxygen in the room, Damore’s beliefs regarding Google’s political ideology deserve at least as much focus.
He wrote: “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming its dissenters.”
Translation: The Silicon Valley Thought Police advocate there is no place for conservative opinions and beliefs in the high-tech world.
All of which brings us to a ultra-complex question: What is diversity? Not just at Google, but at any shop or company, union or non-union. Especially in a hiring or representation sense. We hear the term daily in the professional world, but have we truly defined it?
Does diversity mean only hiring a certain number of women or black folk or Hispanic people as a means to achieve population representation? But what about thought diversity or political diversity or ideological diversity or intellectual diversity? We seldom discuss diversity topics beyond race, gender and ethnicity.
Is there some law that says everyone in Silicon Valley has to be a liberal Democrat? The same question undoubtedly applies to newspapers, national television networks, social activists and the like.
That query especially applies when the last nationwide election proved that a sizable number of Americans — particularly those in the U.S. heartland — voiced their affinity for conservative Republicans.
It’s easy to fire a manifesto writer to quash a controversy or rebellion, but there remains a problem at the core. We’ve seen this movie before. For the sake of comparison, the Los Angeles Dodgers washed their hands back in 1987 after team vice president-general manager Al Campanis told Ted Koppel of ABC’s “Nightline” that black candidates lacked “the necessities” to become major league baseball managers. Yes, Campanis was eviscerated, but, afterward, baseball still was embroiled in a black manager problem at that time.
Perhaps Elaine Ou, a blockchain engineer for Global Financial Access, a financial technology firm in San Francisco, explained the Google Conundrum the best when she wrote in a guest opinion article for Bloomberg View:
“Silicon Valley has a very peculiar definition of diversity that requires proportional representation from every gender and race, all of whom must think exactly alike. Given that Google has failed to reach this ideal despite nearly a decade of efforts, Damore might be right to suggest that it try a different tack. Google rejects 99.8 percent of job applicants, making it far more selective than any Ivy League university. It’s not unreasonable to posit that in this top 0.2 percent of the population, there may be various ways in which talent manifests differently between the sexes.”
Asked by InsideSources if she thought Damore should have been fired, Ou said, “No.”
And asked what would be an effective mechanism to improve gender and racial representation in Silicon Valley, she responded: “We can look to other countries for inspiration. The tech industry gender gap is lower in less-developed countries like Thailand, Zimbabwe, Russia, etc. More women study science and engineering fields there because it’s the best path out of the country. Things like law degrees or medical degrees don’t carry overseas …”
According to Google’s own in-house statistical data, cited in Time magazine in July 2016, the corporation’s employees were 69 percent male, with 31 percent female. In 2015, Google reported a 70-30 percentage ratio, resulting, of course, in a 1 percentage point shift.
However, when it came to women filling technical roles, only 19 percent were female, with 81 percent occupied by men. Again, there was a 1 percentage point increase from the previous year. As for leadership positions, women held 24 percent of those positions, an increase of 2 percentage point from the 2015 survey.
In terms of racial diversity, 59 percent of Google employees were white, with 32 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic and 2 percent black.
Damore’s conclusion said, in part: “I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100 percent fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology … ”
An intolerance that we see on multiple sides of the ideological ledger these days. No doubt.