Can we have both equality and diversity?

About the infamous Google Memo… Here is a review of reactions to the controversial piece.


  • A Google engineer, James Damore, wrote a memo entitled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber. [Read original]
  • It went viral via internal communication means within Google.
  • He got fired because of it.
  • (A less relevant, but curious fact: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who is holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, offered him a job and accused Google of censorship.)

Here are some interesting articles from both sides:

The Economist (sits on the fence)

“This isn’t a question of legality or policy. This is a question of virtue-signalling” [Read]

Bloomberg (argues it was wrong for Google to foreclose the debate so crudely)

“An employee trying to grapple with these problems — clumsily but earnestly — has now been shown the door, thanks mostly to performative online outrage.” [Read]

The Financial Times (denounces the author)

“Responding to the memo is somewhat challenging because it is almost pure drivel, offering up a mix of fallacies, mindless reductions of popular social science and hand-waving at ‘research.'” [Read]

The Atlantic (addressing the error-full coverage of the matter)

“To object to a means of achieving x is not to be anti-x.” [Read]

The Atlantic, again (agrees memo is discriminatory)

“The memo… seemed to dash hopes that much progress has been made in unraveling the systemic conditions that produce and perpetuate inequity in the technology industry. “[Read]

Slate (is pretty enraged)

“The manifesto suggests a culture that is inviting enough for someone who views some of his fellow employees as lesser to share his opinions and be cheered on” [Read]

Business Insider (highlights authors vulnerable legal position in the context of free speech)

The First Amendment to the US Constitution prevents the government from restricting your speech. It doesn’t restrict your employer from controlling your speech when you are at work, citing a Google manager: “freedom of speech is the right to freely express an opinion. It is most assuredly not the right to express an opinion with freedom from the consequences.”

Quillette (has four psychologists sustain points made my memo author)

“Psychological interchangeability makes diversity meaningless. But psychological differences make equal outcomes impossible. Equality or diversity. You can’t have both.” [Read]

Right-wing Twitter is rallying to support the author of the memo:

Google memo right wing twitter commentary

A Linked influencer, Adam Grant (argues that differences between men and women are exaggerated)

“Across 128 domains of the mind and behavior, “78% of gender differences are small or close to zero.” A recent addition to that list is leadership, where men feel more confident but women are rated as more competent.” [Read]

Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex (refutes Grant’s points)

“Suppose I wanted to convince you that men and women had physically identical bodies. I run studies on things like number of arms, number of kidneys, size of the pancreas, caliber of the aorta, whether the brain is in the head or the chest, et cetera. 90% of these come back identical – in fact, the only ones that don’t are a few outliers like “breast size” or “number of penises”. I conclude that men and women are mostly physically similar. I can even make a statistic like “men and women are physically the same in 78% of traits”.”

Something that occurred to me that I haven’t seen anywhere – and this neither disproves not confirms the memo author’s argument, but it’s something that I feel is important.

Assuming that average men and average women are different in their precise cognitive and emotional strengths, this bears very little significance when it comes to outliers. For its tech roles Google hires from the very top, i.e. from the extreme “end” of the right tail. Outlier men and outlier women don’t behave the same way as average men and women. In fact, outliers are virtually impossible to study with the same confidence that we study average people.

Very curious what you think.

And let’s keep the mood light 🙂

UPD: somebody invited me to Google image “white man and white woman” and “European people history”. What Google shows is below.

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 12.58.28Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 12.58.46

One more point of information: Duck Duck Go search results are virtually the same. Make of it what you will.

UPD 2: Jordan Peterson, who himself was nearly kicked out of Google’s YouTube recently, interviews James Damore [Video]

72 thoughts on “Can we have both equality and diversity?”

  1. We should all thank the OP at Google for giving us something to talk about aside from N.Korea, Russia or The Drumpf.

    I read the memo. I find I’m capable of putting my rational hat on and judge his words more objectively than most. And Indeed I found his argument to have merit. And, I can also why this words inflamed the net and resulted in his dismissal. Which, is rather ironic as him getting the boot could have been predicted from the very context he was trying to expose.

    Google position (or rather — hidden agenda): biological diversity be damned!

    Equality & diversity? Apparently not. I vote we all wear the color gray. And only hire those who wear gray. And chastise any who might think we should wear any other color than gray. You see, I’m color-blind and resent those who don’t take my difference into consideration. In fact, my condition is genetically coded, and I demand that because of past discrimination, special color-blind agnostic streetlights be installed. And that provisions for a color-neutral day-at-the-cafe be provided. Green jello? Red jello? You laugh, but it’s serious issue.

    All kidding aside (most kidding?) I’ve actually sent letters to my congresspersons requesting all government forms and correspondence have the gender honorifics removed. Think about it. You see a name — Mr. Samuel Clemens — you already have biases spring up in your mind regarding this person. If you were hiring for a job, should the name of the candidate have ANYTHING to do with the position?

    > Outlier men and outlier women don’t behave the same way as average men and women.

    True. But is it possible to eliminate all million year old physiological and psychological differences in such a right-end group?
    It appears we’re trying to. (I personally think crony-capitalism is at fault here!)

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks for the offer. No, I’d just like to be able to edit for grammar, poor editing. I’m supposed to re-read before posting, but [digs toe into the dirt], I don’t.


      1. My post was rather a grab-bag no? Not sure if there was a singular position in there. The Google guy has a point. And his point was proven.

        But, “equality of opportunity” is unbalanced, and I hope humans figure out how to level that up.

        Yet to declare that we must ignore our diversity in our attempts at misguided equality seems ludicrous — as you know, since you baited us all with that question… .

        So much popular culture *highlights* gender differences, yet we’re supposed to suppress the acknowledgement of such diversity? (See Mars/Venus refs and “The Nothing Box” video.)

        Old, white, fat, men have somehow, throughout the ages, figured out how to suppress everyone else and take both power and wealth unto themselves. Today, this is known as capitalism. Sure it’s a stereotype, but it is such as there is precedence — lots of it.
        What happened to the world’s matriarchal societies. Why did we get stuck with global patriarchy?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Essentialism in the tech field ain’t nothing new. I think its close-minded to address women in general terms this way. In fact, I probably would go further and say that most data collected on people (“average” and “outlier” alike) and the conclusions drawn from this scientific work are extremely over-simplified and should be treated as such. It says something, but that something needs to have quite a few grains of salt in it, if I’m going to eat it. My poor heart! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think the memo is ridiculous. It looks to me like the mindset of someone whose vision of the world is spectacularly limited. If we take the concept of manhood or masculinity, and what that entails, we come up with incredibly different notions depending on the culture/country. So is that because when you get to the French/Italian border the genetic differences between males are so dramatic? Hardly.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. To a degree, but we have to keep in mind looks play a substantial role at a certain level of the status equation. For *both* men and women. And I say that as someone who has unashamedly played on that ever since I was a teenager.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I quit reading when I got to this sentence: “… the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths.” (it’s on p. 5) This is in the context of claiming that men have a higher “drive for status” than women. The clear implication is that men become coal miners because of their innate drive for status. Anyone who would say that in print simply isn’t thinking about what he’s saying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a wonderful article from the first half of the 20h century (which I believe was for Spain’s El Pais) which argued that the word Juez (meaning Judge) was masculine because it took masculine abilities to perform the job. Women should therefor take jobs where the words fit the gender. Seamstress, waitress, stewardess, actress, barmaid or prostitute.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. An interesting piece, thank you. The outliers are important and why these issues are largely about group predictions rather than about individuals. His sacking does seem to confirm the second theme of his thesis that Google has an intolerant culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Short people are disadvantaged in the game of basketball, stupid people are disadvantaged in intellectual pursuits, etc., etc. I wish the “us v. them” battles would just go away and be replaced by the “me v. all y’all” dichotomy. Any opportunity or possibility I want for myself should be open to others. If it were only open to me, then I am saying I am better than all y’all. The cadre of rich people currently trying to subvert what little democracy the U.S. has forever, it seems, been all about securing a spot on the gravy train for their kids. They sent them to one of the ubiquitous “country day” private schools, then elite universities, then see them placed in plush jobs (e.g. Donald J. Trump). This betrays a lack of belief in free markets because they are hedging, constantly hedging all of the systems for their kids. I don’t see this stopping anytime soon.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This is the gender paradox I mentioned above: when social impediments are removed and people are free to follow where their interests lie for two generations, we end up today with 4 out of every 5 nurses being female and 4 out of every 5 engineers being male in the most egalitarian countries in human history. But because this ‘incorrect’ fact flies in the face of trying to achieve gender parity by opportunity, we now get to enjoy an every growing list of specialized programming and policies to achieve the ‘correct’ outcome. Yup, no ideology at play here!


  7. Can we have equality and diversity?

    Yes, but not under this growing social constructionist ideology. In fact, we are quickly achieving its opposite.

    I’d explain why this must be the case but it wouldn’t be ‘light’.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Are you suggesting sociological restrictions are as predominant in an egalitarian society as they are in a non egalitarian society?


      2. An egalitarian society? Where exactly would that be? My grandmother was one of the Sorbonne’s first female students in international law and she was expected by her milieu to give up any serious career when she had children. My mother born in the 50’s was much the same. My mother in law was a great business woman who owned a chain of shops and had no control over her own finances. Do you mean that sort of egalitarianism?


      3. I love the way you avoid the gender paradox point by trying to switch the point to be that any difference in gender parity of outcome no matter how egalitarian the society might be in terms of opportunity automatically means disparity caused by social construction. This a guaranteed way to support your ideology while avoiding any unpleasant facts that interfere with it’s righteousness.

        Sound familiar? It should. It’s exactly how the religious claim their ideology to be the only source of ‘correct’ morality, too. And, right on cue, biology be damned.


      4. Switch? Avoid? Was I unclear?
        I meant western society is in no way genuinely egalitarian.

        Was my comment confusing to you? That a woman born in the 1930’s, one of the first female students of international law of an allegedly egalitarian country was expected to give up her career?
        Or that another woman born 20 years later was also expected to give up a career in favour of children?
        Is that really confusing? Is that why you need to ignore the facts and grasp desperately at the idiotic narrative you’re parroting?


      5. @tildeb, In your opinion, have things gotten remarkably more egalitarian in the 80s and 90s? In Ireland, a woman was expected to give up her job when she got married.
        (Caveat: I am not sure what expected means here, that’s just what I hear people say. I somehow doubt that if she really wanted to stay on anyone would stop her, which goes back to the status argument that J Damore put forward – but it’s an even more uphill battle for women if everyday when you go in to work there is a vibe that “you shouldn’t even be here”)

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yes, I think my Canadian society has evolved very quickly and for the better but there is still much to do. Historical grievances are being addressed and equality of opportunity has made quite a difference in all kinds of areas. But many women have stepped up to set the example of why the idea that ‘women shouldn’t be here’ is as relevant as 8-track players and the Sony Walkman. But I’ve also encountered many women who complain about the pressure to ‘do it all’ and this too is ubiquitous.

        I follow principles and use them to inform my opinions. I am a great supporter of individual rights and also a supporter of equality of opportunity. I don;t mind specific programs to promote certain kinds of equity because this component is necessary to achieve equality of opportunity. So I understand the impetus to use social activism to bring about positive change but I also see social activism bringing about a move away from principles and straight into the waiting arms of the worst kind of ideology.

        I remember our very proud guide we had in the Soviet Union back in the late 60s assuring us that theirs was really the finest example of social equality: an ancient man held a rope with a cow on the end and, in the next field, an ancient woman stood there with a rope in her hand leading to another.


      7. Sight seeing for 6 weeks and mother mad for the Bolshoi. I was told we were the first Western family allowed allowed to do so without an official guide. Constant surveillance, yes, but we traveled from Odessa to Lenningrad by camper van, left through Minsk, and were in Prague when the Soviet tanks by their hundreds started to roll in. Having lived and gone to school in South Africa under apartheid and Saudi Arabia, traveled the eastern part of Soviet Russia, visited Auschwitz, seen the invasion of Prague, had the van torn apart by border officials in Poland before getting into East Germany and exiting by way of Checkpoint Charlie past the Wall in Berlin, I know the importance of what our individual freedoms in law mean and why this current regressive move from well intended people from the Left to use the State to enforce ‘correct’ language and behaviour in the name of tolerance and respect of diversity is such an imminent and nefarious danger. When we try to use group identity as the basis for laws, we are undermining the legal autonomy of each and every individual that constitutes them. This is why Post Modern thinking – that society is all about group power imbalances and group social constructs – is deeply pernicious in action. It is the individual who matters – thee and me, our individual shared rights and freedoms – and not the groups to which we may identify or be assigned. At the heart this is the foundation – individual autonomy in law – for all enlightenment values to be exercised and the metric we have to use to achieve equality not of outcomes – which is social engineering that leads to reduced rights and freedoms towards totalitarianism – but of opportunity that leads to sustainable diversity and social strength of unity that doesn’t have to tolerate mandated diversity but can celebrate it.


      8. Oh my God, what a list of stuff! And what was the atmosphere like in Prague? Did people think “This is it”? It’s fascinating that you were let in the USSR. You must have had a squeaky clean “background” to get in. (The reason I am curious is that I was born there – I am not sure if you’ve come across it here somewhere, oh loyal reader) 😊

        I think to achieve equality of opportunity, we end up using some of the same methods as to achieve equality of outcome. As a very basic example, progressive tax means that you are decreasing outcomes for the rich to increase opportunity for the poor. Someone’s outcomes are getting hit in pursuit of equality of opportunity.


      9. Although I was rather young, I remember many students and younger people in Prague convinced that the Russians wouldn’t dare because their soft revolution was all about love and fairness and art and true communal politics concerned with the welfare of ‘the people’, that it couldn’t possibly be viewed as a threat to the Warsaw Pact deserving of armed intervention.

        Right. No delusion there.

        Squeaky clean? Perhaps… but my father’s organizing ability to create community based sport associations that yielded a steady stream of professional hockey players of the highest caliber probably played a more important role. I remember visiting several Red Army hockey games and having to wait for many local coaches with their political ‘advisers’ and translators have impromptu meetings with us before, during, and after the games so I suspect the traveling we did had more to do with this itinerary than our sightseeing of five year projects and monuments to the heroes of the Motherland. I really did love the solid presence of Russia then place but I can’t remember a Russian or Ukrainian or Belorussian I didn’t like. All seemed hearty and hale once the vodka flowed and everyone seemed to have a ferocity of spirit I quite enjoyed!


      10. I thought it was very similar to the United States in geography and people, but subject to a very harsh historical reality. Russians are great people in every sense of the word and I thought we have far more in common than with the people of the Arabian peninsula who lives are soaked in tribalism and group identity.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. You know, I think like you said geography plays such a huge role in how societies develop, e.g. I’ve wondered why Switzerland is leaps and bounds ahead of all other small countries. A huge part of it due to geography (mountains). It applies to the US as well (massive inhabited territory, diversity of terrain and natural resources, access to both Europe and Asia for trade, difficult to attack by land)


      12. But I’m not going to demand half of all flute players must be male and half of all tuba players must be female in order to claim gender equality in orchestration.


      13. A combination of factors. Independence (as in self-employment), dealing mostly with female clients (who didn’t feel threatened by male homosexuality), and classical gender roles favouring the allegedly feminine (aesthetics).
        Prostitution is separate and stands on its own as a profession open to people living on the margins of society.


      14. That all makes sense.

        And what about fashion: do you think that openly gay men are more than proportionally represented in fashion (and perhaps the arts in general, like ballet, design, etc)?

        And if so, does that strip the white, straight men of their usual privilege when it comes to entering those fields?

        Liked by 1 person

      15. Do you mean heterosexual boys are lining up outside the Royal Ballet? 😀
        Historically heterosexuals rejected (and still reject) anything to do with professions that aren’t associated with some level of virility. The same way women are indoctrinated into worrying about their breast size.
        In my personal experience, my field of art history didn’t resonate with the group of guys who wanted to work in the financial institutions of the City of London – so I wasn’t depriving them of the experience. Although I’d have no objection to straight man quotas as long as they’re applied to all groups according to a reasonable algorithm that levels the playing field.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been mulling this over for awhile now, probably too long, so here’s a long post!

    I think that what James Damore, the author of the memo misses, and what the four psychologists miss, is that there is a huge difference between basic psychological research on populations and making policy for workplaces and other contexts. The former, basic research, is constrained by the methodology, and while it might say something about a population that shares one or more traits, it does not say anything about individuals as such nor the values that should inform the construction of a society. The science that produced E=MC2 does not dictate the ways in which one uses the possibility of nuclear fission or fusion, simply that one can access powers unthinkable until the early 20th century.

    Issues around equality and diversity are not simply about skills, knowledge, and ability, but also about power: the power of the employer and the employee, the power of members of historically advantaged groups, and the oppression of historically disadvantaged groups. Because it is about power, it is inherently moral, which Damore doesn’t want to acknowledge; he wants to “demoralize diversity” but that’s simply not possible.

    Equality is not about two individuals in relation to each other. Fundamentally it is about how larger structures treat those individuals. In theory, before the law, all people are equal, with equal access to legal representation. In reality we know that the system privileges those who can afford expensive lawyers. It also treats African-American minorities in the United States and Indigenous peoples in Canada differently (see “The New Jim Crow” for the US and for Canada). On the grounds of free speech the US political system privileges those who have money or can raise large amounts of it (most other democratic jurisdictions limit the amount of money candidates can spend). In our liberal economy (“liberal” in the old sense) we justify actions and policies on the basis of free-markets, arguing that in the long run a decision by the market will be optimal and efficient.

    Equality can have multiple meanings. It can mean “identical”, as in “A=A”. It can mean not discriminating on certain irrelevant bases, such as “previous state of servitude”. It can entail empowering the disadvantaged so that there is a level playing field, such as when lawyers are provided for those who cannot afford them, or translators are given to people who do not understand the dominant language.

    Diversity is always a present reality, simply because people are going to be different. People throughout history are differentiated by sex, language, politics, economics, family of origin, and a myriad of other things.

    In some situations you may want a monoculture. In an infantry regiment of the Napoleonic era you want each soldier to be exactly the same and replaceable in the lines. On the other hand, in an academic seminar you want people with diverse backgrounds so that you can have a variety of opinions and good analysis.

    When it comes to workplaces, the employer has the right to demand a certain level of skills, knowledge, and ability for various positions. By law most workplaces are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex, religion, ethnic background, “race”, marital status, and so forth. For a variety of historical reasons an employer may get less diversity in their company than is present in the population as a whole. This may simply be an unintended consequence of favouring certain skills. In Quebec prior to the 1960s few people in management of industry where francophones, because the francophone Catholic church of Quebec actively dissuaded its bright young men from entering STEM; as a result they became, lawyers, physicians, and clergy, instead of engineers and scientists. Management, then, were invariably Les Anglos; this changed with the Quiet Revolution.

    Because of these historical reasons, an employer may want to have programs to encourage diversity. This means deliberately going out and getting the types of people who historically have not been part of the corporation, but still have the skills, knowledge, and experience required. Diversity pays off because customers and clients may see themselves reflected in a company. The variety of experiences and backgrounds creates a larger pool for the marketplace of ideas within the institution. The only people who “lose” are those who are members of groups that are historically advantaged (people like me, who are male, upper middle class, and of European descent). However, an employer does not owe someone like me the preservation of my advantage – all my employer owes me is my pay cheque at the end of the month after doing the job to which I was appointed. If diversity benefits the company, and it is an official policy of the company, then I owe the company the duty to support the policy.

    The problem with the Google employee James Damore is not that he brought up psychological studies that point out differences between populations. It’s that he contravened the Code of Conduct in circulating a memo which advanced “harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”. If you do not see how his arguments are problematic, try replacing the male/female polarity in the memo with European/African, or Christian/Muslim. In exactly the same way that he points out that men tend to rise up to leadership positions in Tech, so it could be argued that people from European or Christian heritage (whether faithful or agnostic) are naturally better suited to these roles. It was either deliberately provocative or extremely naive of him to think that his ten page memo would not receive the reaction it did.

    Women can and will be different from men (although I have known a lot of male-patterned women in my day). If an industry continues to valourize the independent male worker as the ideal that’s a problem. Employment laws should support the ability of men and women to have families and to make time for them; provisions for maternity and paternity leave should be generous. Likewise, supports for parents raising children should be in place, such as low cost daycare. This is fairly common in many European countries and parts of Canada, but not in the United States, where child care and quality education are treated as limited goods that depend upon the ability of pay. As a result, economic inequality is growing.

    Can we have both diversity and equality? Absolutely, but it depends on how we see these two multivalent terms operating in society and among employers. Diversity and equality cannot be viewed simply in psychological terms (which Damore seems to want to do), but in their historical and ethical contexts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bruce, you say, ” It was either deliberately provocative or extremely naive of him to think that his ten page memo would not receive the reaction it did.”

      Well, it did circulate for over a month in house. And James received a ‘Superb’ employee evaluation from his team leader. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that the memo was written as part of an evaluation of the potentially illegal practices by Google establishing race and gender-based staffing policies that directly and negatively affected the quality of team-based work.

      It wasn’t until the memo went viral that James was summarily fired for supposedly committing ‘gender and racial stereotyping’… with facts and figures detailing why productivity was down due to inadequate team merit. Surely productivity is an important consideration when it comes to business and so the issue is really about claiming that due consideration of such facts is itself is a fireable offence in this Brave New World of gender and racial ideology.


      1. Hi Tildeb:

        I am sure that when it came to coding, or whatever James Damore was hired for, he was “superb”. However, he moved outside of that when he wrote the memo. My understanding is that he wrote the memo after attending a diversity training session. He would have understood from that training that, in the words of “Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, also pushed back against assertions in the memo. “We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.”” ( He said in an interview with a libertarian author, “after the training, he wrote the memo to clarify his thoughts.” (Same LA Times article as above). So the memo seems to have been an unsolicited pitch into the workplace challenging established policy; he was not just expressing his opinion, he was calling into question something that had already been decided by his superiors.

        Is establishing policies around gender and racial diversity, with mandatory training a political and ideological move? Absolutely. t just happens to be one that James Damore and you disagree with. While you suggest it is potentially illegal to have such policies, my understanding is that affirmative action is still pretty robust in US Constitutional law (and up here in Canada it is explicitly permitted in the Constitution).

        Google as an employer probably has very good employment lawyers, and if Damore was terminated for cause this would have been done only after consultation with them. This is not a free speech issue – speech is always limited by one’s duty to the employer – but one of being in breach of the Code of Conduct and deliberately calling into question settled policy. You may not like the fact that he was fired, but Google had every right to do so.



      2. Bruce, it’s the ’cause’ that I think is worth examining because it seems to me stating facts about statistically significant biological differences between men and women is being reformatted to be synonymous with ‘gender stereotyping’ discrimination and recognizing these facts to be relevant to the justification s used for certain policies is now equivalent to be exercising ‘bigotry’.

        I see a problem here.

        Do we check in with our employers now to find out which facts are now deemed ‘correct’ and which ones are ‘incorrect’ in order to avoid such charges and dismissal when asked to do and submit a written review of said policies?

        Gosh. Talk about walking the tightrope. One must be very careful of saying only the ‘correct’ thing.

        I don’t see this growing movement of adhering to ‘correctness’ and relegating facts subservient to it as being a Good Thing… and certainly contrary to the principles of tolerance, diversity, and equity. I see it as a regressive movement forcing opinions and fact-based reasoning into the closet.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you for your elaborate response.

      I will only comment on the bits where I have questions.

      1. “This means deliberately going out and getting the types of people who historically have not been part of the corporation, but still have the skills, knowledge, and experience required.”

      I want to clarify that we are talking about the uber-educated and super-talented people hired for tech roles in Google. They are rare as hens teeth to begin with.

      I also want to clarify this first. If there are people with equal (very high) skills, one from the historically advantaged class – and the other from a minority: do they have equal chances of getting hired? We don’t actually know, but I am curious as to what your opinion is.

      James Damore talks about women and biology. You seem to be talking about minorities and systemic biases. They are probably not exactly analogous, so I wouldn’t transplant Damore’s argument on them so directly. I do think the memo is suggesting that people who have the necessary skills are rarer among women (hence the gender gap) and he only very indirectly mentions other underrepresented groups. Even so, maybe they are rarer. Let’s think about it.

      Why could they be rarer? I have every confidence that the systemic biases you speak of apply. So a bright minority kid who wasn’t schooled as well as someone from a privileged background doesn’t perform as well at Google hiring event – and doesn’t get hired. Is that fair? No, of course not. Now, what do we do?

      Would it be a better solution for Google to pump money into education for minority groups (starting from daycare or however early), so as straighten out those systemic biases?

      In short, if Google runs out of qualified minority applicants before they run out of jobs to fill, do they hire better coders from the majority (historically advantaged) or what do they do?

      2. “If diversity benefits the company, and it is an official policy of the company, then I owe the company the duty to support the policy.”

      If that logic was extrapolated, no policy could ever be changed as a result of employee review. Do you think that that’s a good idea?

      3. “If you do not see how his arguments are problematic, try replacing the male/female polarity in the memo with European/African, or Christian/Muslim”

      I understand why it was a bombshell. The thing is, he only restated findings of scientific studies and was in no way militant about inciting people to support his point of view. He never went around saying his argument was perfect: he sent it to a number of groups within Google who cooperate with employees to review policies (I think they were organisers of a Diversity Forum and a group called Skeptics). Even if he is wrong in the substance of his argument, he was above board in his methods. And if so, isn’t it human to err?


      1. Martina, thank you for your long response to my elaborate comment! Here’s a long response. Thank you for provoking my thought on this matter.

        1. You asked, “if Google runs out of qualified minority applicants before they run out of jobs to fill, do they hire better coders from the majority (historically advantaged) or what do they do?”

        I reply: Well, first of all, is it a problem yet? Or is it just a matter of building wider and better referral networks? I don’t know how Google recruits. If they are anything like the rest of the world they advertise openings, but in reality most job offers are found through connections. Something like 61% of all jobs come about by “referrals”. If somebody I don’t know applies to me for a job the first thing I’ll do is call someone I know who does know them. So the challenge for me is that I am part of an “old boys club” but I want to hire people who are different from me; how do I do that? Part of it is by extending my network and building relationships within such historically disadvantaged populations.

        Google might take steps to improve the supply of qualified minority candidates. If Google invests in minority scholarships in STEM at places like Stanford or ITT Technical Institute in Oakland CA it might avoid the issue of supply (GM addressed the need for qualified people in the automotive industry by establishing General Motors Institute in 1919).

        Regarding your comment, “They are rare as hens teeth.” Well, Google has over 57,000 employees. That’s a lot of people. As hen don’t actually have teeth, it follows that the people with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience are more common than the metaphor suggests, in the tens of thousands, actually. So yes, these people are super-talented and uber-educated, but so are a lot of other people (just look at all the underemployed PhDs in the world). I suspect that the people at places like Google, Facebook, and Uber like to tell themselves they are special. In my experience they are a lot less special than they think they are, they’ve just managed to make more money than most of us.

        2. You asked, “If diversity benefits the company, and it is an official policy of the company, then I owe the company the duty to support the policy. If that logic was extrapolated, no policy could ever be changed as a result of employee review. Do you think that that’s a good idea?”

        I reply: I am not advocating for no internal critique. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to argue a controversial matter, and Damore crossed the line, as this article suggests: . As well, there is a point at which policy is settled, period. Damore erred by thinking that he could buck the established policy on diversity and affirmative action, and that he could do it by justifying historical discrimination on scientific grounds.

        3. You wrote: “Even if he is wrong in the substance of his argument, he was above board in his methods. And if so, isn’t it human to err?”

        I suspect he completely misread the culture of Google, which is why he was terminated. He did not appreciate that in this time and place his memo was going to be a major PR problem (remember that saying that anything on the Internet can be made public?). Even if he did not agree with the policy or the Code of Conduct, he should have known that creating such a provocative memo was not going to help the public profile of the company.

        I do not know enough about the psychological literature to which he refers. That said, I tend to take all psychological studies with a grain of salt, because I wonder about their reproducibility, cross-cultural application, and methodological biases. Given the history of eugenics and race in the first part of the 20th century I am suspicious of any study that entrenches inequality in biology without also considering historical, ideological, developmental, and cultural causes. I have no idea how selective Damore’s use of these studies was, but I wonder; a properly objective memo would have considered the whole range of these studies, and not just those that support his argument. He looks “scientific”, but he’s probably more selective than he lets on.

        As well, he used several “dog whistles” to the alt-right – for example, the way he describes “political correctness”. He describes those who use “political correctness” as using “violence and shaming to advance their cause.” Really? If he does not think this is part of the culture at Google, why does he bring it up? His references and links about “conservatives in the closet” buys into a political rhetoric popular among the far right that elected Trump. His subsequent avoidance of main stream media and being interviewed by the alt-right media suggests that he knew exactly what he was doing.

        I should probably stop now, eh?



      2. I think the firing unquestionably proves his case; there is a culture of shaming and bias – including firing – at Google over how diversity is implemented and raises the reality of problems that arise from mandating diversity… problems that cannot be fixed if the inherent problems cannot even be discussed.

        There is nothing in that memo that promotes gender bias stereotyping: there is data. Remember, this guy does population studies through biological systems and his work is about improving search engine capabilities based on this data. These data are EXACTLY what he has to work with, coding algorithms that work to profit Google. What works is not ideologically compatible with the internal policies and so he’s taking the time and doing the work on his own so that this discrepancy can be better understood to help bring about real solutions for an ongoing problem.

        Isn’t this what employers ask of the very best employees in enlightened organizations… to think independently rather than go along with the herd mentality?


      3. There have been a couple more interesting articles on the subject. One in the Atlantic saying that the fact they didn’t clarify what part of the memo breached the Code of Conduct creates an atmosphere in Google where people are terrified to offend now. And an article in the NYT has asked for the resignation of the CEO (article by the author of the “the social animal” – an interesting book)


  9. @martina
    “In Ireland, a woman was expected to give up her job when she got married.”
    Consequences to non-adherence to patriarchal rules are varied. I spent 21 years being reprimanded. Reminded there was a better way. That I wasn’t doing things the way I should. Meanwhile heterosexual marriages were applauded, as was reproducing…


    1. I am sorry to hear people around you weren’t accepting.

      That’s probably true, consequences were varied – and heavily context dependent.

      Here is another example, much more subtle. A woman I know, who is now in her 40s, told me the following story from the time she was in school. Her friend, female, very bright, spoke to her career guidance councillor about applying for medicine. The councillor suggested nursing instead. The girl listened and pursued nursing, with a bitter aftertaste. Typical story. But then I wonder, there are lots of women her age who are doctors. And I just wonder: some people expect to be encouraged and give up more easily because of a nuisances rather than real discrimination? The career councillor didn’t put a hard stop (they are purely advisory), so these influences can be subtle.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah yes, then we’re back to your initial point on average versus exception/outlier.
        I think my personal experience was slightly unusual because I wasn’t a good fit for any box. I loved art, but also ended up as captain of the football team. Because of that I can say the messages I received were all directed one way. One thing was applauded while the other was undermined. That pattern was applied to most aspects of life.


      2. Ha, I didn’t ever realise that, that’s true. But I think the entire Google kerfuffle is about outliers.

        I am very familiar with that positive feedback (as in people compliment you on something and it can be quite a pressure). I lost a lot of weight at one point because of a medication and people were very complimenting. It messed with my head.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I enjoy attempting to distill a problem, ala Claude Shannon, down to its purest form and then see if simple rules can be designed to patch, smooth or eliminate said problem (generally social, but any problem really).

    • Problem: There is inequality in job distribution across gender, race, culture and age within businesses. Regardless of how or why this inequality exists, it does.

    • Implications of the problem: We (society) has become hyper-aware of disparity. Elevation of any group in tandem with the suppression of another has become a rallying topic for a rational, democratic society. The harder we try to equalize our world, the deeper our divisions become.

    “COLOR-BLIND ONLY LINE ” “WOMEN WHO WEAR PURPLE ONLY!” “NON-WHITE SUPPORT GROUP MEET HERE” “THIS PARADE FOR SDGIs ONLY!” (Self Directed Gender Identification – I tire of using the LGBT initialism, it’s too evocative; besides, I like the word ‘gay’ – and it sucks that we can’t use it to mean ‘happy’ anymore!).

    The harder we try the worse it gets.

    • Solution: focus on using a meritocratic approach for all work.

    For instance, as a programmer who works exclusively online (for 12 years!) NOBODY knows what I look like, how old I am, how long/short my hair is, what gender I am (aside from guessing from my name), and so on and so forth. I am judged purely by what I’ve accomplished — programming wise — and what I can bring to the table – skill wise. Period.

    This is as it should be for ALL WORK. Define the job in explicit detail, but with the understanding that you have no idea who might fill the position. Define the neutral tests to determine skill level and award work based on merit solely.

    NO FACE 2 FACE INTERVIEWS, NO VOICE CONVERSATIONS. Pure digital information exchanged, vetted and proven.

    Especially at Google where such a thing should have been in place on DAY ONE; there’s no reason why Google can’t have eliminated all forms of hiring biases by now. No reason whatsoever. And the same goes for all reorganization, lay-offs and firings. All should be based on merit and merit alone.

    Eliminate every tendency to bias a decision by removing all the information on which those biases are based.

    You want to be an astronaut? Here is the meritorious definition…
    Want to be a basketball player? Here’s the list.
    Want to to be:
    the CEO of Apple?
    the groundskeeper for the city’s parks?
    the high school’s swim coach?
    the pilot of a UPS airliner?
    the nurse at a local hospital?
    Well, here are your requirements… and NONE of them have anything to do with race, gender, religion, age, culture, weight, height or political persuasion. You will be hired sight-un-seen based on your credentials and test-scores only.

    Establish a meritocracy and then stick to it. Then you can let the chips fall as they may knowing you did everything you could to ensure a merit based employee system.


    1. Add in Briggs-Myers personality tests to add nuance to hiring but reduce biases: [Goldman Sachs] The bank over the past few months began giving personality tests to internship candidates as part of a pilot program designed to probe beyond what can be discovered in a resumé or interview. “Take, for instance, the candidate who gets very nervous during formal, in-person interviews,” Goldman said in an emailed statement. “This test allows us to see aspects of their personality, such as teamwork ability or judgment, that make them a strong candidate for a position.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for that. A cat huh? Can I be a jaguar? And your totem might be a wise owl? Or something with teeth and claws?

        Every job requires skills no? And I could imagine that those skills could have metrics that could be measured — whether those skills are cognitive or physical or a combination.

        My thoughts on including a personality evaluation would be that combinations of personalities work best. If you were hiring for a team, you’d want a mix. I’m sure there are studies on which mixes work best for which tasks.

        The bottom line, to me, is always to find a way to create a self-correcting formula or system that naturally adjusts itself based on the inputs and outputs. That is, remove direct human influence within the process, yet at the same time build out the mechanics of the process with humans in mind. (Maybe this deserves a post of its own.)


  11. “Oh Mahamati, when one surveys names and appearances even down to atoms, one never sees a single reality, all things are unreal; for they are due to the Discrimination stirred up on one’s deceiving mind.” cited: Saisetz Teitaro Suzuki, Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The Google search shows why the left has lost ground politically. The information age has unraveled an agenda aimed at undermining white Christians. Many people who, for decades, were afraid of WRONGTHINK are suddenly waking up – they are asking who, what, where, when and why. And they are deciding to fight back.

    I’ll leave it at that, since the declining social pleasantries are well known by all.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book Two Hundred Years Together (2001), which was one of his final novels (and was banned from being published in English). I won’t go into much detail, but anybody watching the current political theater must read this book.

        Liked by 1 person

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