The case of James Damore: defending the Google engineer who was fired over a ‘controversial memo’

Yesterday, news broke out that Google had fired their engineer James Damore for disseminating a memo which was meant to be an invitation for open and honest discussion on Google’s left bias. CEO Sundar Pichai said the engineer had violated Google’s code of conduct by ‘advancing harmful gender stereotypes’.

DasKapital calls Damore a ‘diversity hater’, and Metro News calls him ‘anti-women’. The Guardian calls the memo ‘sexist’ and shamelessly maintains that the memo argues for the “biological inferiority of his female colleagues, and how this made them less suitable for tech.”

Reading through the 10-page memo myself, I find the memo very reasonable and I stand behind it 100%. Like Damore, I believe that we should stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.

What is Damore arguing against?

Damore argues that “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.”

The several discriminatory practices that Google has instituted as a result of their left bias are:

  • Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race.
  • A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates.
  • Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate.
  • Reconsidering any set of people if it’s not “diverse” enough, but not showing that same scrutiny in the reverse direction (clear confirmation bias).
  • Setting org level OKRs for increased representation which can incentivize illegal discrimination.

In short, Damore argues that:

  • Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
  • This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
  • The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
  • Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression.
  • Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression.
  • Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

What did Damore write about women?

Damore writes that women and men differ biologically and that this results in different personality traits, preferences they hold, and the career choices they make.

On biological differences

Damore writes that men and women differ biologically in many ways and that not all differences are socially constructed:

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.

On personality differences

Damore writes that women, on average, have more openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. This makes them have a stronger interest in people rather than things and explains in part why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas.

In addition, women express their extraversion as gregariousness and agreeableness rather than assertiveness.

Women, on average, also have higher anxiety, and lower stress tolerance which makes high stress jobs less attractive to women.

Compared to men, women on average also look for more work-life balance.

Damore’s overall message

Damore explains his overall message as follows:

I hope it’s 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. 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 as just another member of their group (tribalism).

Again, I think this is extremely reasonable. Unfortunately, in a world driven by irrational and zealous egalitarians, those who use logic and reason are easily labeled bigots.

Reference

Damore, J. (2017). Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber

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