Sifting through the shit show of James Damore’s “manifesto”

What really motivated James Damore’s grade 10 social science essay, ? Is he just mad that he can’t drink for free on Fridays anymore?

My feeds everywhere blew up with that ‘manifesto’ by (now fired) Google engineer, James Damore. The Facebook feed I’m reading right now is a debate between mostly, wait for it, white dudes.

I had lunch with a friend and colleague, also a white dude, who balked at the thought of Damore being fired. His sentiments on this are shared by many. But not me.

Every time someone in a position of privilege complains about any kind of affirmative action towards a minority, it reminds me of this guy in high school. In grade 11 philosophy, in a class debate, he told me in front of all of my peers that I didn’t have the right to go to university if my parents couldn’t afford to send me. His father’s hard earned tax paying dollars shouldn’t be spent on poor kids whose lazy parents can’t send them to school themselves.

There was an internal Google survey after that memo went out and it asked Googlers if they agreed with Damore’s position:

Now…how many of the respondents of this survey (0.41% of staff) do you think were white men? It makes sense that they would somewhat/almost/strongly agree with Damore’s point of view.

It is impossible for a white man to understand what it’s like to *not* be a white man, just as it’s impossible for me — a white woman — to understand what it’s like to be black, gay or to have a disability. What I can do, though, is be open-minded and listen and be aware that my life experiences, my privilege being white and heterosexual, means I see things through a different lens. I can try not to be a total ass when someone that doesn’t look like me complains of being treated unfairly.

Girls are pushed out of STEM as infants

I am bored of hearing men in tech saying that women are just not “biologically equipped” to maintain a server or write code and “that’s why” women are so underrepresented in tech.

Women are underrepresented in tech because when they were little girls, they learned that STEM was for boys. When was the last time you walked into a toy store?

(source: http://growingupgendered.weebly.com/toys-and-advertising.html)

The “girl toys” are filled with dolls, make-up, princess dresses, kitchen sets and pink everything.

(source: http://chngxinni.tumblr.com/)

The boys section? Action, adventure, science, sports. The same goes for clothing:

(Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/tesco-mothercare-sexist-marketing-childrens-let-clothes-be-airtred-boy-shoes-girls-a7881291.html)

Being a girl is about being pretty and maternal, and being a boy is about being smart. Girls are bossy, boys are leaders.

Girls are pushed out of STEM from infancy — by the gendered stereotypes pushed out by the companies making the toys we played with, the clothes our parents bought for us and the media we watched.

I had to take a drafting class when I was in grade 10, it was part of the curriculum. The “teacher” was actually the football coach. When I went to his desk to ask him for some help with something, he slapped my ass and told me “Don’t worry about it sweetheart, I’ll just finish it for you and you can just take a rest in the library. I’ll say you had your period or something.”

That same year, in my first ever “computer class”, I was totally grossed out when I caught our teacher standing above me looking down my shirt after I’d asked him a question. I started skipping class, along with many other female classmates.

These are not corner cases. All of these things teach girls that STEM is not for them. So when I started gravitating towards social sciences, it was because I was able to learn, ask questions and feel supported in an environment where there were a lot of girls. I felt more comfortable in a homogenous environment.

When I went to university for journalism, I was in the majority by far. There were very few guys in the programme. I don’t think that I, or any of my other female classmates, thought for one second that the reason why there weren’t more guys was because women were “biologically better suited” to the industry. What we did talk about was how amazing it was that the industry was changing — in the 70s, journalism was a heavily male dominated industry.

Back to James.

He begins his diatribe with the following:

“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.”

And yet.

In his section on “personality differences”, he states that “women on average” have:

“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).”

He cites one study to back up this view.

He goes on to say that this is why women like social and artistic jobs, and even in tech, that women work on front end more than men because it deals with people and aesthetics.

Are you angry yet?

And ladies? We earn less and aren’t in higher positions because we have “extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.”

I’m going to go ahead and quote in full for this next part…

“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.”

Ladies, if you want to earn more and lead, just ask! It is just that simple.

Am I being neurotic? James probably thinks so, since “women’s neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance) may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.”

Women are more stressed, it’s true. It’s because we push babies out of our vaginas, manage the vast majority of the household chores, bear the brunt of the child-centric responsibilities, sleep less and work our asses off at our jobs with a smile on our face. It’s super annoying — and stressful — knowing that I earn less (on average) than a male doing the same job as I am. It’s super annoying — and stressful — reading a bunch of white men up in arms about how “unfair” and “bias” it is to prioritise diversity in tech.

Acknowledging that men and women are different isn’t sexism, it’s fact. But arguing that these differences prevents women from being equal with men in skill, pay and leadership is sexist.

Calling Sheryl Sandberg.

I’d like to point James to some reading material about why diversity programmes and gender quotas are not simply “veiled left ideology”:

A common criticism against gender quotas is that they are anathema to meritocratic principles. This research on Sweden by Tim Besley, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson and Johanna Rickne shows that the opposite can be true: Quotas actually increased the competence of politicians by leading to the displacement of mediocre men whether as candidates or leaders. The results may also be relevant for judging gender quotas in business.

Of 366 public companies analyzed, those in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians.

In fact, working on diverse teams produces better outcomes precisely because it’s harder.

Gender diversity is associated with increased sales revenue, more customers, and greater relative profits.

James and his ilk prefer homogeny because it’s easier. You don’t need to worry about being offensive if everyone you work with is just like you.

He then goes on to talk about how men who speak up about gender issues are labelled as a “misogynist and a whiner” with some random citation to a blog backing up his claim.

“Nearly every difference between men and women is interpreted as a form of women’s oppression.”

I don’t even know where to go with that one.

Here’s another confusing excerpt:

“While Google hasn’t harbored the violent leftist protests that we’re seeing at universities, the frequent shaming in TGIF and in our culture has created the same silent, psychologically unsafe environment.”

James ends his essay with a handy list of action points for Google (page 9, 10):

  • Demoralize diversity
  • Stop alienating conservatives
  • Confront Google biases (on diversity and political leaning)
  • Stop programmes that restrict certain genders/races
  • Discussion about the costs and benefits of our diversity programs*
  • Focus on psychological safety, not just race/gender diversity
  • De-emphasize empathy
  • Prioritize intention
  • Be open about the science of human nature*
  • Reconsider mandatory unconscious bias training

*HE ACTUALLY WROTE THIS:

“Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts.”

My conclusion? James’ views represent a lot of tech. I would be worried too if I was a mediocre white man. Study after study shows that diverse companies outperform homogeneous ones. And at the end of the day, it all comes down to profitability. Working with people that don’t look like you and think like you might be less comfortable, but it produces better results.

So, bye James. Good luck on the job hunt. I hear the White House might be looking for a candidate just like you.

And thank you Google, you did the right thing.

Amandaaaaaamn, girl!

Written by

Wading through the dating shitshow. Tackling diversity and inclusion in tech. @amansterdam on IG and Twitter

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