Engineer’s Anti-Diversity Memo Gets Sharp Rebuke From Google

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Aug 7, 2017
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

A political firestorm has erupted at Google over a 10-page memo by a software engineer challenging the company’s diversity efforts, declaring that biology and not society explains why there are so few women in tech and leadership.

Posted internally last week, news of the document first leaked Friday. A Silicon Valley news site, Gizmodo, published the text of the document Sunday.

In the manifesto, the anonymous author says women “have a stronger interest in people rather than things” which is “why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas” while “More men may like coding because it requires systemizing.”

“The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women,” he says, “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.”

He also claims women have more “Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance). This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.”

Within hours of its leaking, Google’s new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown, responded declaring “it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.”

“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,” she wrote in a memo sent to Google employees.

In a note posted internally, Google’s vice president of engineering, Aristotle Balogh, rebuked the author writing, “Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ‘Nuff said.'”

Other Google employees have posted comments to the company’s internal message boards, taken to Twitter, and, in the case of a recently departed Googler, Yonatan Zunger, who held the title Distinguished Engineer on Privacy, wrote a lengthy rebuttal on Medium.

In the article, Zunger makes three points:

  1. “Despite speaking very authoritatively, the author does not appear to understand gender.
  2. Perhaps more interestingly, the author does not appear to understand engineering.
  3. And most seriously, the author does not appear to understand the consequences of what he wrote, either for others or himself.”

Despite the rebukes, the anonymous engineer who titled his memo “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” said even before his memo went public, “I’ve gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired.”

Insisting he is “a classical liberal,” he charges that “left-leaning” Google effectively squelches alternative views regarding diversity and inclusion. Under a heading titled “Stop alienating conservatives,” he says, “conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility. We should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves.”

He concludes his memo with a number of “suggestions” for Google that include an end to exclusivity in diversity programs and de-emphasizing the empathy for diversity programs.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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