What the Google Memo Says, and How the Media are Misrepresenting It
Many outlets dubbed James Damore's memo the "anti-diversity memo," despite his own statement that "I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity."
Google fired engineer James Damore Monday for his now-viral 10-page memo. In it he questioned the effectiveness of the company’s diversity programs. He also suggested that Google’s left-leaning bias silences opposing viewpoints. Leaked over the weekend, his memo quickly drew angry reactions on the internet.
What Did the Memo Say?
Damore believes the liberal bias at Google leads to the silencing of certain opinions. Ideas cannot be “honestly discussed.” One such idea is the notion that the low number of women in technology-related fields is due to sexism.
Damore explains his view that biological “personality differences,” not sexism, account for the disparity. Damore suggests women are “on average” interested in people over things. He also says they express “extraversion” through gregariousness instead of assertiveness. Finally, he writes that many women have a lower stress tolerance. He cites one scientific study and neurologist Simon Baron-Cohen, who has advanced theories about sex-based cognitive differences.
These differences could be why women are less likely to advance in tech and leadership roles, Damore writes. He adds that they are more likely to value a work-life balance. To help more women advance at Google, Damore offers solutions like “allowing and truly endorsing … part time work.” He also supports creating more opportunities for collaboration.
Damore goes on to critique Google’s approach to creating racial diversity. He says the result is more discrimination. As an example, he cites programs that are exclusive to one gender or race.
“I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair,” Damore writes. “I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles.”
“I’m advocating for quite the opposite,” he continues. “Treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).”
He ends the memo with suggestions for how to promote thought diversity and create a fairer work environment. For more on Damore’s arguments, see these Stream articles by Dr. John Doe and William Briggs.
The Media’s Response
A New York Times headline said Damore was fired for “Questioning Women in Tech.” CNN tweeted that Damore said “women aren’t biologically fit for tech jobs.” The Washington Post said Damore “wrote that women may be unsuited for tech jobs.” An alternate headline to the Post article, which appeared in a Google search, said Damore’s memo “bemoaned racial diversity.”
“He is not against pursuing greater gender diversity at Google,” Conor Friedersdorf writes. Only “against the current means Google is using to pursue that end.”
— CNN (@CNN) August 8, 2017
Google’s Vice President of Diversity Danielle Brown responded to Damore Monday night. Brown said he “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.” But Brown acknowledged the need to allow employees with “alternative views” to express themselves.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai ended a family vacation early to travel home amid the controversy. In an email shared by The Verge, he said “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct.” Pichai repeated the media’s popular narrative: that Damore thinks women are “less biologically suited” to work in tech. Pichai said some employees “are hurting and feel judged based on their gender.”
The CEO admitted that Damore raised “important topics.” He even said “people must feel free to express dissent,” and that Damore “had a right to express their views.” But neither Brown’s nor Pichai’s lip service to free expression stopped Damore from getting fired.