Google’s “Sexist” Employee Fired for Telling the Truth

This past week, a Google employee was fired for sending a company-wide memo which criticized some of the specific practices which Google has employed in the name of promoting diversity within the company. While the company claimed that the employee was fired for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in the workplace,” Google is in the wrong for silencing an employee’s legitimate concerns in a memo meant to remain within the company’s digital confines.

For starters, the debate over diversity in the tech industry, whose leadership and ranks are largely occupied by white and Asian men, is one that has been diluted by false assumptions. It’s true that women leave the tech industry at much higher rates than men, and that the tech industry may have a legitimate problem with rank-and-file members who would rather work alongside male colleagues than men. Issues such as limited, and often unpaid, maternity leave are cited as reasons why women tend to leave the industry.

Not mentioned in reports that suggest gender bias is the primary reason for the disparity between men and women in the workplace is the reality that women, on average, tend to be less interested in entering such tech-heavy fields. It should be fairly obvious why white and Asian men tend to dominate the ranks of the tech industry, and those reasons tend to cross into other industries.

For some of these very legitimate reasons, one need look no further than the memo sent to Google’s employee network by James Damore, the software engineer who has identified himself as the fired employee. Instead of focusing on the variety of relevant, scientifically supported points which Damore listed in his case against Google’s pro-diversity measures, critics focused on his underlying assertion that men may be better suited for the tech industry than women, with many exceptions being allowed for.

After all, wouldn’t higher adeptness by white and Asian men toward a particular set of skills which the tech industry requires explain their disproportionate representation in the field?

Yes, it would. But instead of facing this likelihood, Google has decided anti-women and minority biases are to blame. Here are some of the points from Damore’s memo which Google’s leadership chose not to address:

  • 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).
  • These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.
  • Women on average look for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average
  • Women on average show a higher interest in people, and men in things
  • Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally feminine roles.

Each of these points is irrefutably true, and each help to inform the reasons why Google, and the tech industry as a whole, tend to see more men advancing the ranks as opposed to women.

However, as Damore also points out in his memo, the collective assertion that it is gender biases has led to the implementation of practices that are discriminatory against groups that are not seen as underrepresented in tech. These practices are, according to Damore, the impetus for his memo, not Damore’s simmering anti-woman bias, as some have said.

As Damore sees it, Google attaining its highest level of optimization, not diversity for the sake of perceived equality through social engineering, should be the end-goal of all Google does:

“Philosophically, I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women. For each of these changes, we need principle reasons for why it helps Google; that is, we should be optimizing for Google—with Google’s diversity being a component of that.”

With that in mind, Damore sees practices such as these- efforts Google employed after appointing Danielle Brown as ‘vice president of diversity and inclusion’– as discrimination in the workplace:

  • Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race [5]
  • 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 [6]

These practices are in the same vein of other policies supposedly employed to combat “discrimination” for which there is no evidence. And, just as affirmative action has come under fire from those who see it as counter to the tenets of a meritocracy, Google’s practices do effectively discriminate against those who don’t receive the benefits.

In this case, primarily white and Asian men.

While some may scoff at the notion that white men, and even Asian men, can be discriminated against at all, they would be well-served to heed the definition of discrimination:

“the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.”

It has been said before: one or more groups of people receiving preferential treatment- whether it comes in the form of preferential hiring or courses offered only to minority candidates- leaves the non-included groups as victims of discrimination.

Damore had a very sound point, and for voicing this point, he was fired.

Google, who was sued by the United States Department of Labor to release pay records that would substantiate or refute claims of systematic hiring discrepancies between men and women, is clearly on hyper-alert when it comes to their reputation. This investigation seems to be at the heart of Brown’s hiring as diversity director and Damore’s firing once his memo was made public on Twitter and other platforms by fellow Google employees.

Damore also accused the company of having a liberal bias that made it difficult for employees to voice their opinions, particularly on the matter of the practices meant to foster increased diversity.

His firing shows that Google, already on the defense, knows on some level that Damore’s accusations are rooted in truth. And, they proved that they are not a company that stands for its employees’ right to free speech, particularly when that speech gets at the hard-truth behind gender differences in the tech industry.

Making matters worse, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, along with Brown, publically criticized Damore, without mentioning his name, for his thoughts sent in a memo that was seemingly intended by Damore to remain private.

This type of railing against opinions that go against Google’s spoken mission of inclusion – a mission that seems disingenuous in light of the Labor Department investigation– goes far beyond the limits of corporate responsibility.

It is nothing short of a corporate crusade at the expense of one man’s livelihood.

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