Compassion

My response to the ex-Google Engineer’s memo

Two questions before we get started:

  1. If you had a daughter who wanted to code, would you show her the studies that you have quoted to prove that she could only be second to her male counterparts?
  2. Would you prefer to go to work and only see men at the work place?

The reason I have put this in the perspective with a potential child is because only then will it help you to see the other side. I understand that you feel unheard at Google or pushed into silence. Here is the thing, I don’t see white men being judged all the time. I wish I could show you some scientific studies on how little white men are judged versus women or other people of other races when they go for a “coding” job interview. There are no studies, because it is obvious that they don’t exist.

In fact, contrary to your belief that Google is “lowering standards” because they wanted to help more females and people of other races, I have personally felt that many times I have been asked harder questions at interviews and it has taken a new team a lot longer to accept me as a good engineer compared to my male counterparts. It’s also interesting for me that you are so upset just because you are not able to raise your view points. Can you imagine how much agony we face for not only being able to find a job quickly, but once we do, to then be treated differently?

Here is the thing about scientific research (and since you are a “great” engineer you will be able to understand this). It’s all about the data. For instance, for a very long time, it was thought that there were inherently much higher risks when women had babies later in life (in their mid to late 30’s). They realized, however, that when this data was collected in the 20th century, there weren’t enough samples to help disprove this theory. In the 21st century, as more and more women have pushed this boundary and researchers have been able to collect more real data, they have, now come to believe that these risks are not as prevalent as they had assumed in the past.

All of the studies you have quoted have a similar problem in my opinion, because there are not enough women (yet… but that is quickly changing) who are competitive in the tech industry and given the opportunity of a level playing field. Only then, with an appropriate amount of data, can we really find out without unconscious bias, if women are indeed lower in technical ability compared to men. Since the jury is out on this, we cannot prove one way or another yet.

“Intelligence is not a static trait but one that can be achieved through hard work”

You are not born knowing how to add, read or even to reason, you must be taught. Many studies talk about hard work and grit as essential factors for people to do well in math and engineering roles. Isn’t that the kind of lesson that you would like to teach your daughter(s) when they come home from school crying about being bullied by a boy in Math class? Or would you rather side with the bully because his actions were scientifically motivated? I would think that instead you want to encourage your daughter to work hard and achieve her goals, by providing an unbiased opportunity to succeed at the very same things as the opposite gender.

On another note, your table on left and right biases is simply absurd. Who says that compassion and respect for the strong don’t go hand in hand? So many competitive people who respect the strong are extremely compassionate and thanks to that, we have so much philanthropy in the world. Many compassionate people respect the strength in others and try to strive for it themselves, like Mother Theresa. Can you imagine moving to a completely impoverished country and have a strong will to survive there?

In Buddhism, they preach compassion as one of the most important human traits. Compassion brings positive thinking, happiness, peace, joy and thus a longer life. It would have been refreshing if at the end of your memo, you appreciate what women have to live (with so much anxiety as you have stated), and yet still chose to pursue difficult coding jobs in tech companies. If only you could have acknowledged the compassion of companies and executives who choose to give women and persons of other races a lending hand, chances are it would have increased your life span by a good 5–10 years (scientifically proven, see studies linked above)!

-Vaish Krishnamurthy.