Are You Serious?
“Distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership,” wrote a Google engineer, James Demore, in a scathing 3,000 word memo.
Demore argues that the gender gap in the tech industry is natural, as women are biologically less capable than men to hold leadership positions and men have a predisposed “higher drive for status.” He believes that the initiatives to provide opportunities for women taken by both Google and the rest of the tech industry are harming “ideological diversity” and creating a “politically correct monoculture.”
Demore’s argument is, unfortunately, not very original. Historically, in the tech world and otherwise, women have been assumed to be weaker solely because of their sex. While the tech industry is working to change and challenge outdated sexism, it’s evident from Demore’s ten pages that misogynistic ideologies are as prevalent as ever in some facets of tech.
The memo went viral within Google, and a combination of debate and outrage ensued. Employees were quick to discuss the controversial treatment of women in Silicon Valley, and Google executives were quick to respond.
Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president of diversity, said that Damore’s views are not ones “that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”
Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, wrote a company-wide email with the subject line “Our words matter.” Pichai denounced Demore’s statements and beliefs as they perpetuate harmful and incorrect gender stereotypes. “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” he wrote.
Ultimately, Demore has been fired, but while the company has taken a decisive stance against the statements, they acknowledge that their employees are entitled to their opinions. “Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions,” Brown wrote.
However, where is the line between accepting diversity in opinion and allowing harmful, sexist rhetoric in one of the most sexist industries go on? Brown added to her statement that “discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.” While Google has taken action towards the memo, it seems as though their true response to the problem will be something more long term.
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