‘Women in Tech’ Flap Shows Authoritarians Run Google

Street art by Sabo
 The 10-pager composed by newly unemployed James Damore was provocatively composed (not due to inciteful rhetoric, but tempered reasoning), yet also was imperfectly executed. It would be difficult not to stumble when dealing with an extremely hot button issue over 3,000 words. Imagine you were assigned a thesis titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” with a subtitle of “How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion,” and see how you do.

Damore deserves credit for tackling head-on such an emotionally charged topic, with which he triggered a passion power-surge. The CEO of Google subsidiary YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, immediately responded at Fortune.com with a “what will I tell my daughter” screed, ignoring Damore’s salient points, and fomenting simplistic “gender bias” accusations.

“When I saw the (Damore) memo that circulated last week,” Wojcicki wrote, “I once again felt that pain, and empathized with the pain it must have caused others. I thought about the women at Google who are now facing a very public discussion about their abilities, sparked by one of their own co-workers. I thought about the women throughout the tech field who are already dealing with the implicit biases that haunt our industry (which I’ve written about before), now confronting them explicitly.”

Of course when questioning the liberal Silicon Valley techno-corporate culture you don’t chalk up gender employment disparities to simple biology as Damore did – at least you don’t and still keep your job. Yet Damore’s point was simple – there might be other reasons than sexism for the results we see with regard to higher employment of men than women in certain tech jobs. He might be right, he might be wrong, but all he was doing was to invite an “honest discussion” while calling attention to his company’s unconscious “left bias” – while admitting he had his own “classical liberal” biases at the same time!

Unfortunately Google’s firing of Damore only confirmed a significant point in his thesis:

…When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence,” he wrote. “This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.

And then Damore transitioned to his discussion about gender differences and how there can possibly be other explanations for employment disparities between the sexes, other than sexism and prejudice against women, which are charges he said are cited excessively.

“For the rest of this document,” he wrote, “I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.”

And that’s the difference that Damore emphasized – the results that are manifested in gender employment disparities in the tech industry, not the presumed inputs that are presumed to be driven by sexism, misogyny and sex biases. He explained that “men and women biologically differ in many ways” and that while not “all” men and women differ in the ways he outlined, “these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

But the difference in “outcomes” (Damore’s contention) vs. “inputs” (not Damore’s contention) got lost when he outlined gender personality differences, specifically saying that women, on average, have more:

  • “Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in ​people rather than things​…
  • “Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness…
  • “Neuroticism​ ​(higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance)…”

This is undoubtedly where Damore lost many at liberal-laden Google (and the larger tech industry and political Left) with regard to trying to persuade them, or even engage them in discussion and debate. All the undiscerning reader would likely see is that Damore sees women as neurotic and emotionally unstable, who can’t keep their mouths shut. It didn’t matter that with these characteristics he outlined many positives for female job candidates and highlighted their suitability for positions of leadership in the tech world. The nuance was lost.

In his analysis of Damore’s memo and subsequent firing, conservative pundit Erick Erickson wrote in The Washington Post that “Damore made clear that he, too, wanted to increase diversity at the company.”

“It is, for example, true that Damore said women suffered from ‘neuroticism’ more than men, but he made clear he was using the psychological, scientific terminology for suffering higher anxiety and having a lower stress tolerance in job and life situations,” Erickson wrote. “He did not mean it as a pejoratively as the Left painted it.”

But that’s not how the careless readers in the authoritarian groupthink movement view things. All they can see is that lower tech employment and lesser pay for women must be the result of being kept down by men.

Undoubtedly there have been many cases where women have been taken advantage of by men and not given opportunity, but an illustration that helps make Damore’s point is the example of the life of Katherine Johnson, whose work as a mathematician for NASA in the 1950s and 1960s inspired the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures.” Despite the segregation of the time (which the movie exaggerated greatly compared to what happened historically), in a field dominated by males and whites, Johnson’s brilliance forged a path for herself to a critical role with the space agency. Her qualifications created her opportunity, despite whatever prejudices against her that may have existed.

“I didn’t feel the segregation at NASA, because everybody there was doing research,” Johnson told WHRO-TV in Norfolk, Va. in a 2011 interview. “You had a mission and you worked on it, and it was important to you to do your job…and play bridge at lunch. I didn’t feel any segregation. I knew it was there, but I didn’t feel it.”

In other words, whatever bias that may have existed against Johnson was overplayed and overstated (especially by Hollywood). In fact, NASA employed many women and minorities to serve as their “computers” in the early days of the space program.

But rather than celebrate and reward genuine achievement and place workers in roles where they are most likely to excel and their gifts and abilities contribute the greatest to the company, regardless of gender or race, Google instead installs authoritarian quotas and re-education programs (as Damore pointed out) to create artificial diversity that in the end diminishes the effectiveness of the company. And anyone who doesn’t adhere to that mindset is ostracized and even expunged from the Google cocoon.

That’s both a bad input and a bad result, when Google just as easily could have put Damore on YouTube for a companywide discussion with some of his peers that disagreed with him. Imagine how good that would have looked instead of what actually happened.