Unless you have been living under a rock this week, I’m sure you’ve heard of the most recent scandal to ripple through Silicon Valley. I actually had forgotten about it yesterday after reading about it earlier in the week – I mean, there are so many scandals these days, who has time to be surprised?!
However, I spent some time going over the actual manifesto by James Damore, and I have some thoughts about it.
His manifesto I think was an attempt at looking at the gender gap in tech from a different perspective, which I can appreciate him for. He even attempted to link to studies and reports, underpinning his argument with some sort of semblance of legitimacy.
I don’t agree with his conclusions. Predominantly, I think he sacrifices his solution by positing it as the “only” solution, rather than one component of a very difficult and complex problem. Stating that “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” suggests dismissing the idea out of turn. Things are that easy. It’s almost never a component system.
Secondly, I think asserting that women are more “neurotic” than men, without supporting evidence when you attempt to rely on science in other factors, is incongruous at best, and intentionally demeaning at worst. It would be similar to me asserting that men were more prone to hubris, and thus did more dumb-ass things in their life than women (you know, like posting a manifesto in which you assert women are more neurotic).
Unfortunately, even though he admits that he has bias, he doesn’t take enough time to consider his biases when he advances suggestions. Which is tough because some of his ideas are good. I do think that there are definitely people (even a majority of them women), who are better at the softer skills. I also think there are people (like me), who are not good at softer skills and probably shouldn’t talk to people on a regular basis. His suggestion for pair-programming, endorsing more flexible work schedules, working towards psychological safety, or focusing on other types of bias beyond sterotyping (such as part-time), are NOT BAD IDEAS. I particularly like the idea of treating people as individuals. There should be an emphasis to make changes to some practices beyond hiring initiatives and classes. Inclusion and increasing diversity is an all-encompassing effort.
And then there’s this:
Suggesting that men are treated unfairly because they don’t have specialized programs for them though is pretty similar to people complaining about not having a white history month: absurd. People in a position of privilege have to realize their state relative to others, and their treatment of those not in the same position as them.
This sentiment is the inherent flaw in his entire argument: the overall tone of the article suggests that diversity shouldn’t be implemented for the sake of diversity, and that those who are willing to work longer hours SHOULD probably receive more accolades. That women are being overprotected for the sake of men. That technology is inherently a field where men are just better designed to excel. And at least part of that reason is due to the culture of tech (HELLO, UBER) which has discriminated AGAINST women.
And part of his argument is also undermined by other studies. There have been many studies (this Harvard Business Review article listing just two), which show that greater diversity leads to better innovation and better focus on the problem.
It’s a complicated issue, and I don’t want to try and simplify the answer. But I think oversimplification is what gets us in trouble most of the time. And perhaps sweeping generalizations. So, Google Guy, perhaps you should have considered researching some arguments that maybe don’t support your cause, so you could put your personal bias in check. I mean, that’s grad school and research 101.comments powered by Disqus