Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The “Google Memo” is the worst Jerry Maguire sequel ever

James Damore got his Master’s in Systems Biology at Harvard, went to work at Google, and has now been fired for a 10 page manifesto about his perception of the workplace environment at his place of employment. 

You can read the manifesto here.  Please actually read the manifesto because about 70% of the people I’ve chatted with regarding this manifesto have never really read it. 

The letter is basically a suicide note.  Damore had to have known that writing it was going to led to a very quick exit from the company that is already facing gender equality issues.  Still, I have thoughts. 

-The memo is not anti-diversity.  You might not agree with the way Damore addresses enhancing the diversity at the Google Campus but check out the very first sentence;

“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can't have an honest discussion about this,then we can never truly solve the problem.”

-The culture of the Left is about suppressing the ideas of everyone that fails to fit within their own world view; essentially shaming the people into silence.  There is a moral authority at play that seems to transcend reason to venture into the realm of elitism and vengeance.  I don’t know enough about Google’s corporate culture to understand the political leanings of their environment but the fact that the memo was written and that James Damore was removed by the Director of Diversity and Inclusion makes me wonder.

-Some of the biological factors that the memo addresses sound….interesting.  Higher anxiety and lower tolerance for stress?  Damore might want to try being pregnant and working, or fulfill the role as mother of household while being a full time employee.  I don’t know any data that supports his theory here.

-I do know that there is a strong amount of data supporting his assertion that women don’t seek raises with the same assertiveness as men, and that women seek to balance their work/non-work environment.  Check out the literature written by Anne Marie Slaughter or the work done by Harvard’s Claudia Goldin and you’ll see that plenty of evidence exists that gender pay gap is not discriminatory as much as it is status seeking vs. work/life.

-Damore advocates more collaboration.  How is this a bad thing?

  “We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration.”

-We are now an empathy driven culture and that’s not necessarily a good thing.  However saying that empathy has negative externalities is great way to make you come off as a uncompassionate heathen.  Note Damore’s empathy comment;

“I’ve heard several calls for increased empathy on diversity issues. While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy—feeling another’s pain—causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.”

He’s referencing Paul Bloom’s work on empathy and the work (like Damore’s commentary) isn’t anti-empathy, it’s a warning that a society built on peoples’ emotional reasoning is ineffective and dangerous

James Damore’s manifesto is, for the most part, fairly well reasoned.  It’s clearly not anti-diversity and while the memo drifts well into the realm of getting him fired, it’s certainly a legitimate topic to discuss.  The thing is that it probably won’t get much run within Google because the company is already in the throes of having to worry about gender equality issues (even though 20% of Google coders are women while only 18% of college grads in Comp Sci are women).   

Stay tuned.

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