James Damore, a Google engineer, was fired after a ten page memo he wrote on corporate culture went viral within the company, and then in public. He reflects on his firing:
… I committed heresy against the Google creed by stating that not all disparities between men and women that we see in the world are the result of discriminatory treatment. When I first circulated the document about a month ago to our diversity groups and individuals at Google, there was no outcry or charge of misogyny. I engaged in reasoned discussion with some of my peers on these issues, but mostly I was ignored.
Everything changed when the document went viral within the company and wider tech world. Those most zealously committed to the diversity creed—that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and all people are inherently the same—could not let this public offense go unpunished. They sent angry emails to Google’s human-resources department and everyone up my management chain, demanding censorship, retaliation, and atonement.
Upper management tried to placate this surge of outrage by shaming me and misrepresenting my document, but they couldn’t really do otherwise: The mob would have set upon anyone who openly agreed with me or even tolerated my views. When the whole episode finally became a giant media controversy, thanks to external leaks, Google had to solve the problem caused by my supposedly sexist, anti-diversity manifesto, and the whole company came under heated and sometimes threatening scrutiny.
It saddens me to leave Google and to see the company silence open and honest discussion. If Google continues to ignore the very real issues raised by its diversity policies and corporate culture, it will be walking blind into the future—unable to meet the needs of its remarkable employees and sure to disappoint its billions of users.
What did Damore write? Read “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” to understand for yourself. Conor Friedersdorf’s “A Question for Google’s CEO” is worth reading. So is Erick Erickson’s perspective. Excerpting/re-ordering some of Damore’s TL/DR here:
At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. … People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow, which is why I wrote this document. …
- 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.
… I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.
I’m mentioning and excerpting all of this primarily in order to look back on it in the years to come as a way to understand whether what Damore believes will come to pass, and whether Google will achieve an equal gender balance in its workforce.
Damore suggests that advocates of diversity now define diversity as meaning that “all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and all people are inherently the same.” I haven’t heard it defined this way before. If it’s a definition that captures the essence of the word as its used in practice, it would explain why so many seem to naturally react against it as something other than/foreign to the older aim of “achieving a pluralistic society wherein many different peoples and ideologies might live, strive, and succeed together.” but is something closer to a “diversity of universal sameness.”
I’m don’t mind hierarchies, but I’m also basically egalitarian at heart and very much believe in values like toleration and pluralism. But I don’t believe that “all differences in outcome” are due to differential treatment. I believe that all people are created equal and possess inherent human dignity. But I don’t believe that “all people are inherently the same” in the sense that age, race, gender, sexuality, and religious conviction, et al are simply social/artificial/meaningless constructs.
Isn’t the reason that tolerance and pluralism and diversity are worth embracing in the first place because they recognize that people are inherently complex and characterized by fundamental difference? And that despite our differences, we can still be “one people.” E pluribus unum, etc.