No,Google Should Not Have Fired the “Anti-Diversity” Engineer

by Evil HR Lady on August 8, 2017

Google fired engineer James Damore after he wrote a ten-page document about “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” Many people called for his head on a platter, and Google delivered. He was fired for perpetuating gender stereotypes and violating Google’s code of conduct. Fair enough. California is an at-will state, and if a company doesn’t want an employee to perpetuate any gender stereotypes, they are free to do so.

Except when they aren’t.

Employment attorney, Dan Eaton, a partner with the San Diego law firm of Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, wrote an article for CNN before the firing which gave three reasons why Google shouldn’t fire, or possibly even discipline Damore (who was unidentified when Eaton wrote this.)

To keep reading, click here: No, Google Should Not Have Fired the “Anti-Diversity” Engineer

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Hogg August 8, 2017 at 6:55 pm

Again (from the previous post on this topic), this is what happens in our “delicate, easily-offended, politically-correct, knee-jerk-reacting society” when it is no longer acceptable to stop, pause, think about, and discuss controversial / contentious / uncomfortable topics like grown-ups (or like grown-ups used to).

And again, see this article:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/differences-between-men-women-vastly-exaggerated-adam-grant

Reply

Jamie August 9, 2017 at 4:59 pm
Jill August 8, 2017 at 7:01 pm

I think this guy might have a claim against Google. Everything I read makes it sound like they really did fire him because his views are so contrary to the Company’s.

Had they framed it differently – perhaps by suggesting that his missive had now created a toxic culture, or made working on teams impossible because co-workers no longer wanted to work with him, or if they could have pointed to a longer history of insubordination and disrespect I could see it being a legitimate firing.

But just because he disagrees with the Company’s views? I smell a lawsuit….

Reply

fposte August 9, 2017 at 6:32 pm

It’s legal for a company to fire you because your views are different, though. Viewpoint isn’t a legally protected characteristic.

Reply

fposte August 9, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Whoops, my bad; I didn’t realize California protected political views where the feds don’t.

Reply

J.B. August 8, 2017 at 7:08 pm

This whole thing has been an in your face education of how inferior many seem to still believe women to be in technical fields. I’m agnostic on firing but suppose it’s useful to have the attitudes unburied.

Reply

mer August 8, 2017 at 7:36 pm

As one who has been working in that same field for a heck of a long time, some people are good at it, others are bad at it. That is true regardless of gender/sex/biology. The science does say that there are differences between male and female humans. Do some of those differences imply that across the whole population that females are better suited to a specific job than males and males are better suited to a different job than females? Logically one would have to say “yes”. But does mean that a specific female is not suited to a “typically male job”? No, absolutely not. It means that everything must be truly evaluated on an individual basis.

Reply

Dawn August 8, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Agreed.

Reply

Bobboccio August 9, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Good thing the letter in question said this

“Suggestions

I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).” https://gizmodo.com/exclusive-heres-the-full-10-page-anti-diversity-screed-1797564320

Reply

Jamie August 9, 2017 at 5:01 pm

There is no such attitude at play in his essay. I read the whole thing. I am fascinated by how necessary people feel it is to smear rather than engage. If your cause is just, you can do the latter and not the former.

Reply

grannybunny August 8, 2017 at 7:59 pm

Had he said the same thing about African-Americans or Jews, etc. — and it hasn’t been that long since comparable things were said about those groups — everyone would agree that he should have been fired. Discrimination against women is — unfortunately — still the rule and not the exception.

Reply

mer August 8, 2017 at 9:42 pm

I disagree because he did not say what you are implying. Did you read his memo or just go by summaries? I read it, multiple times. He said what I said above. Simply put that science says there are differences between males and females, and that there have been studies (he has references to them, but easy enough to find via Bing or DuckDuckGo) that show this. All he was doing was saying that “US population is about 52% women. Maybe the biological differences between males and females drive men and women towards different jobs and make the pool of women that actually WANT to work in tech too small to achieve their diversity goals”.

That is what he was saying, he did NOT say that women are incapable or too stupid to work in tech. I’ve been in the industry for over 30 yrs and the women that I’ve worked with are more than capable.

Pick 100 women, 100 men (biologically female, biologically male, not how they identify). Give them equal opportunity to tech education. If only 25 women take the tech path but 75 men take the tech path, what is a tech company to do? They have 50 job openings, 100 people apply, 25 women, 75 men. Are they supposed to hire all 25 women, just because they are women, then let the 75 men fight for the25 jobs? How is that NOT discrimination? Why can’t they interview all 100 people and the 50 BEST, regardless of sex get the jobs? Or do the women automatically get preference simply because they are women? I keep hearing “women can do whatever men can do” but you keep wanting carveouts or affirmative action for women. How does that make women equal? It simply makes men a lower class.

Reply

J.B. August 8, 2017 at 10:06 pm

The memo made a number of sweeping statements. Gender is not biology, and the original article conflates the two quite a bit. “Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.” and “The male gender role is currently inflexible” are social constructs. Conflating them with biology because -?science?-is sloppy. The article as posted on gizmodo didn’t have any references, so there’s no way to review the quality of the underlying data or analyses.

Google probably knew they were getting sued over this.

Reply

mer August 8, 2017 at 11:35 pm

“Gender is not biology”.
Hence my explicit statements of “biologically male, biologically female”.

But I am also going to disagree because science pretty clearly states what is male and what is female. Has to to with X’s and Y’s. And yes, it still clearly recognizes that nature can muck around with that.

Did you try finding other sources than Gizmodo or use Bing, DuckDuckGo, or Yahoo to search for research? Or how about simply looking around you to see if you can see differences between biologic males and biologic females?

Again, most good engineers don’t give a what a person is, isn’t or identifies as. It boils down to “can you do your job, are you doing your job are you trying to screw me over?” If the answers are “yes, Yes, No” then you can be a biologic male that identifies as an heterosexual lesbian purple people eater because it has absolutely zero bearing on the job. Once you start claiming special needs because you are an heterosexual lesbian purple people eater, that affects your doing the job and you are starting to screw me over because now others have to pick up your workload.

Reply

mer August 8, 2017 at 11:45 pm

https://archive.is/VlNfl

comments about the article in question by scientists in the area of expertise.

Reply

Lora August 9, 2017 at 10:57 pm

Clearly we work in different sub-fields of engineering. The one where I work openly discriminates against women, and most of the women who I personally know who left STEM fields, did so because of discrimination: it’s really, really stressful to go to a job every day where your projects are sabotaged, you are treated like a wayward child and talked over and insulted daily, and the guy sitting next to you who couldn’t calculate his way out of a wet paper bag makes 30% more than you and gets promoted for being golf buddies with someone. I’d love to hear about this wonderful land where there is all engineering and no sexism, it sounds delightful!

I’ve always had to pick up the workload of my male colleagues. I am typically called in to clean up their messes, after they’ve already failed miserably, while they are invariably allowed first crack at an interesting project. What seems extraordinary to you, for me is just Tuesday. If I disliked every male engineer I’ve had to mop up after, I’d never get along with anyone; I’ve taken the approach of teaching them how to be better, because it seems like the path of least bitterness, but it’s still no fun at all. Why wouldn’t women leave for a field where they are appreciated and welcomed and promoted more equally?

Reply

Ben August 9, 2017 at 7:49 pm

J.B.,
You avoided my posts in the last article so you could come here and do the same thing as in the last. You are making counter-arguments without providing evidence, which has been shown to you many times over, Ill offer more:

Ngun, Ghahramani, Sánchez, Bocklandt, and Vilain (2011) introductory paragraph states “men and women are different in many ways. These differences include both biological phenotypes [e.g. 1] and psychological traits [e.g. 2]. Some of these differences are influenced by environmental factors [3; 4]. Yet, there are fundamental differences between the sexes that are rooted in biology.” (para. 1)

Ngun, T. C., Ghahramani, N., Sánchez, F. J., Bocklandt, S., & Vilain, E. (2011). The Genetics of Sex Differences in Brain and Behavior. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 32(2), 227–246. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.yfrne.2010.10.001

In their study on trends among men and women Weisberg, DeYoung, and Hirsh (2011) discuss each of the five factors of psychology; and excerpt from the section on Extraversion is “Our finding that women score higher than men in Enthusiasm was consistent with previous research showing similar patterns in Big Five facets of Gregariousness and Positive Emotions (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001). Assertiveness, on the other hand, reflects traits related to agency and dominance. Consistent with previous research showing a gender difference favoring men for facets such as Assertiveness and Excitement Seeking (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001), we found that men score higher than women in Assertiveness.” (p.9).

I encourage you to look at his many cited studies for more on the biological basis for this to include the Feingold study.

Weisberg, Y. J., DeYoung, C. G., & Hirsh, J. B. (2011). Gender Differences in Personality across the Ten Aspects of the Big Five. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 178. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00178

Reply

Maria Rose August 8, 2017 at 8:57 pm

As from the obviously biased opinion this person had about females in engineering, I hope Google had multiple written records on his performance which would justify his termination. Certain states have been known to have a set of standards for termination and I doubt California is a right to work state, so I see a lawsuit in the making, but Google has the bucks to pay.

Reply

mer August 8, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Funny, I read his memo multiple times and did not see a bias against women in engineering. Most male engineers that I’ve worked with welcome more QUALIFIED women in the workplace, but not a lowering of standards simply because they are a woman.

Why are there not more men in K-12 education? Is that not a problem?

Reply

Goober August 8, 2017 at 10:16 pm

California most certainly is an at will state. There are other reasons Google will get sued, as noted in the article.

Reply

JRB August 10, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Right to work and at will are two different things.

Reply

Evil HR Lady August 10, 2017 at 2:53 pm

right to work=you don’t have to join a union if you want the job
at-will no contract. You can quit or be fired for any reason or no reason as long as that reason isn’t specifically prohibited by law.
🙂
People confuse them all the time.

Reply

Dawn S August 8, 2017 at 11:13 pm

Excellent analysis!

Reply

Jamie August 9, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Here is his essay for those who are going off what others are saying versus verifying for themselves:

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586/Googles-Ideological-Echo-Chamber.pdf

For those of you insisting that he’s saying that women are inferior, please cite precisely the sentence, and the paragraph in which he supposedly does this. The link is to his own words, not a filtered report of his words, so this should be really easy if the droids you’re looking for are there.

Pop quiz: which of his suggestions for recruiting more women into tech strikes you as misogynistic? Is it the part that echoes the same suggestions that “women in tech” feminists have been pushing?

Pop quiz 2: what does he say he believes in on page 6 in the first line under the heading of the “The Harm of Google’s Biases”? It’s the very first sentence so this should be really easy.

Pop quiz 3: when he speaks about sex differences showing up across all human cultures, what does he say about treating individual members of a group? (This one requires you to read and think and not skim for the answer).

Pop Quiz 4: In the first sentence under the Suggestion heading, what part of what he says is insufficiently “woke”?

You’re being played for suckers. Hate to say it, but the idea that Damore is a “brogrammer” who hates women is fake news. If I were you, I would consider carefully why it is that the sources that whipped up your outrage felt it necessary to deceive you, and whether or not you should be so ready to trust them when the next inevitable outrage comes around.

Reply

J.B. August 9, 2017 at 7:00 pm

I’m going to take a step back and then go away for a while. There are a bunch of issues wrapped up in the original document and responses:

1. Was the original document scientifically rigorous? I’m clearly at odds with several about this.
2. Are the descriptions of women in the original document appropriate, were there turns of phrase that were awkward, or was it totally fine? Wide range of opinions that aren’t narrowing.
3. Is there any discrepancy between men and women in tech? If so what is the appropriate response?

These are really complicated issues. I imagine the memo author didn’t intend this firestorm and I’m sorry he had to live through it. At the same time it would be really nice to have some discussion of the underlying issues. Unfortunately that can’t happen productively on the internet.

Reply

Jamie August 9, 2017 at 9:23 pm

Unfortunately that can’t happen productively on the internet.

Especially if people are not willing to engage with what the memo actually says. You ask good questions, and my response is directed to everyone.

Mer linked to scientists who weighed in on the paper, which answers question 1. For those of you who disagree with scientists that sexual dimorphism exists, do you think ALL anthropologists, archaeologists, and forensic scientists are lying when they identify a skeleton as belonging to a man or a woman?

If you don’t believe that testosterone and estrogen affect humans both physically and psychologically, do you believe that the catastrophic experiences of the female East German Olympic athletes who were doped with testosterone is just a hoax?

2. If his words were inappropriate, why? What alternate phrasing should he have used to get the point across? His own words are there; I linked to them in the post directly above this one, so this should be easy for dissenters to answer.

3. What discrepancy? In recruiting? What does everyone think about Damore’s suggestions for recruitment? Do you agree or disagree with them? In retention? What about Damore’s suggestions for retention? In terms of culture fit? Are his proposals to foster a more women-friendly work culture good, lousy, wrongheaded? What’s problematic about his suggestions?

I agree that stepping back and staying calm is a good idea. This is really good advice.

Reply

Didi August 10, 2017 at 5:04 pm

I think the discussion about whether the points in the Google engineer’s manifesto are “true” miss the point. His manifesto has caused irreparable reputational harm to Google. He has caused irreparable harm to others’ careers. He has violated the company’s code of conduct in the most public way. He did these things intentionally.

Companies have processes for discussing workplace grievances, but he has disregarded these processes in favor of dropping a so-called “truth bomb” on Google’s hiring practices, diversity goals and core values. Who wants someone like that in their organization?

Reply

Temperance August 10, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Exactly. What he did with this memo was send a message to all the women at Google that they are not qualified to be there, and were only hired because of their sex. Sure, he threw in a bunch of qualifiers to “prove” that it wasn’t his intent, but come on.

The cynical part of me thinks that he knew exactly what would happen by doing something so stupid, and he’s trying to make bank by becoming the next Milo.

Reply

Jamie August 10, 2017 at 8:16 pm

Who wants someone like that in their organization?

People who value viewpoint diversity? People who value equality?

Obviously not people who only want drones marching in lockstep with the party line. Which is the reputation Google has now earned for itself. That’s what harms it. That’s what prompting others to question whether a company oriented on determining what you find in search results can be trusted, if said company insists we have always been at war with Eastasia. Especially now that we’re hearing of managers at Google keeping blacklists of people guilty of “wrongthink.”

The techie-inclined people I know, left and right, are switching from Google for their searches. They’re abandoning Chrome for Brave, Opera, even Edge. Switching to Bing and duckduckgo for searches. You can see it for yourself in comments of articles and blogs about this incident.

As for how the memo was distributed: Motherboard reported that Google has an internal chat board where employees can post things for discussion, and that’s where employees were discussing it. Damore said it was discussed for over a month. Then it was leaked to the public, in a series of articles that blatantly lied about what he said, using incendiary headlines.

Any reputation damage came from lies, not the memo. Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, a left-leaning site, has called out the lies. As has Bre Payton at the right-leaning Federalist. These are not fringe media outlets, they’re mainstream.

But Google’s actions are why people are now refusing to trust them, and that is solely Google’s fault.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: