My take on James Damore's Google diversity memo

CNN sums it up: They claim Damore "argued that women are not biologically fit for tech roles" (not linking to CNN because of their autoplay videos).

I read the memo. It says no such thing.

It does say that, looked at it statistically, women and men are different, and that it impacts what kind of jobs will best fit them. And he goes out of his way to make it clear that these are statements about groups of people, and don't necessarily apply to any individual members.

I can't really find anything offensive or even arguable in his memo.

The crux of his argument is this:

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.

I can't see that that statement is in any way arguable.

How much of the specific differences we see come down to biology, and how much come down to upbringing is something I don't know the answer to, but that would definitely be worth knowing.

The assumption behind a diversity program in tech seem to be that there's a large number of women or minorities out there who would love to, and be equally qualified, to work in tech if only it wasn't because stereotypes said they couldn't do it, or they weren't harassed for being female or part of a minority group.

And that may well be the case. But it might also be the case that even if we eliminated all of those barriers we wouldn't see a distribution of women and minorities in tech mirroring the distribution in the general population. Is that a problem? I don't think so.

My desire is that each member of society, each human being on the planet, is free to pursue the career and the life that most brings them alive. That sweet spot where their work doesn't feel like work, it makes them feel great, and they're contributing to other people in a massive way.

I happen to think that in an ideal world where that's the case, we wouldn't see equal distribution of men and women in tech. I'm with Damore in that my take is there is a statistical, in-born difference between the genders that would cause more men to choose this career over women. But I'm more than happy to be proven wrong by the facts.

So let's get all the assumptions on the table, and devise ways of testing our hypotheses, so we can create structures based on reality, and not wishful thinking. Exactly like any good software engineer would approach writing software. This is too important to be left to religion and superstition.

He has some great links that I've enjoyed writing. I'll post about those later.

1 comment

This is different outlook to the memo. Very opinionated and well written.

My desire is that each member of society, each human being on the planet, is free to pursue the career and the life that most brings them alive. That sweet spot where their work doesn't feel like work, it makes them feel great, and they're contributing to other people in a massive way - I agree on this and many more things you have said.

James Damore's memo and the aftermath has left many questions unanswered. I have written about the arguments he presented, the history of women in CS and the experience of being a woman in CS. My opinions would seem quiet different from yours though. Do read and leave a comment with your opinion :)

http://www.onmycanvas.com/2017/08/i-was-one-of-the-few-women-in-computer-science/

By Priyanka Gupta on Wed, Aug 16, 17 at 09:02 · Reply
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