Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Google Software Engineer Who WROTE "not Wisely but Too Well"

James Damore, a Google software engineer, was fired on August 7, 2017 for writing an internal email memo that went viral. It has been characterized as an "Anti-Diversity Screed" and an "anti-diversity manifesto". Read the memo here: Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber. If you have not personally read it through, you are, IMHO, not entitled to an opinion on this issue.

Having read it, along with comments and arguments from all sides, including Google management, I think it was unwise for Damore to have written the memo in these "politically correct" times. Although you and I may disagree with some of the points he makes, his memo is, if anything, too well-written!

Damore wrote "not wisely but too well" (paraphrasing Shakespeare).
Othello Act 5, scene 2, 340–346
Damore, along with my wife and myself, are members of a group that is way-over-represented in High-Tech and Science (as well as virtually all professions requiring high levels of intelligence and creativity), namely Jewish-Americans!

Though constituting only a small percentage of the US population, Jewish-Americans make up an order of magnitude higher proportion of the student body at the best universities. Naturally, this carries over into employment in High-Tech jobs, like those at Google. (We have this in common with Asian-Americans.)

[Sarcasm ON] In the name of "diversity" should we institute an "affirmative action" program for non-Jewish Caucasians? [Sarcasm OFF]

(Do a Google on "over representation of Jews" and you will see such suggestions, and worse, from self-described "White Identity" racists.)

My wife and I had long, successful careers in High Tech, she as a Lead Software Engineer and I as a Senior System Engineer, both for IBM (and Lockheed-Martin) in Owego, NY. At that time, the imbalance between male and female employees in High Tech was greater than it is now. My wife and I have worked with highly qualified women in High Tech jobs, women who were at least as good as our male colleagues. My wife was well-recognized as one of the very best Lead Software Engineers by her fellow engineers, management, and customers!

Despite a strong "diversity" commitment by Google leaders over an extended period of time, male employees in Google High Tech jobs outnumber females about 80% to 20%. That is an over-representation factor of two compared to their percentage of the population. In non-High-Tech jobs at Google, the percentages of males and females are about equal.

As I read Damore's memo, he clearly has had a positive impression of his female colleagues. As far as has been reported, over the five years he has been employed at Google, he has not been charged with any sort of "sexism" or other bad conduct on the job.

His main point is that females, on average, have different strengths and weaknesses compared to their male colleagues, and that much of that difference has to do with basic biology. The Wikipedia account is here: Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.

Damore writes, in part:
Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech
​At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.

On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
  • They’re universal across human cultures
  • They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
  • Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify  and act like males
  • The underlying traits are highly heritable
  • They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective
Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the 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. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.
To take a non-controversial example (not mentioned by Damore) males are about two standard deviations taller than females (on the "Normal" Curve). Thus, the average American male (5'9") is about 5" taller than the average American female (5'4"), which is less than 8% of the height of the average person (5'6.5"). A woman in the top 12% of all women would be taller than most men, and a man in the bottom 12% of all men would be shorter than most women. So the overlap is quite substantial.

However, if you were to set a minimum height of six feet (say for competitive basketball), fifty times as many men would qualify.  On the other hand,  if you were to set a maximum height of five feet four inches (say for competitive gymnastics), twice as many women would qualify. A mere 8% difference on average, could cause an over-representation factor several times greater.

[Added  17 Aug 2017] The inimitable Walter Williams has an amazing, deliciously dry and witty take on this issue, https://

Some excerpts here:
Google fired software engineer James Damore for writing a 10-page memo critical of the company's diversity policy. The memo violated the company's code of conduct by "advancing harmful gender stereotypes" by suggesting that biological factors were part of the cause for the male/female gap in the tech industry.  
I shall make the case that Google's actions were totally justified.  

Other than differences in certain physical attributes such as genitalia, capacity to give birth and the presence of functional mammary glands, males and females are identical in every other respect. Any remaining male/female differences are a direct result of oppression, discrimination and victimization by the larger society. To examine just one aspect of female victimization, let's examine the majors of female college students compared to their male counterparts.  
According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, there are significant sex differences in college majors. For example, though women and men are equally represented in the population at large, women make up only 17 percent of engineering degrees conferred compared to 83 percent conferred to men. How can such a gross disparity be explained? I recommend an investigation to discover whether colleges are steering women away from higher-paying fields such as engineering and into lower-paying fields such as education and social sciences. Seventy-seven percent of education majors are women and so are 64 percent of social sciences majors. 
One wonders how such a disparity among equals can exist. I have personally visited George Mason Univeristy's Volgenau School of Engineering. There are no signs forbidding women from becoming an engineering major. But just because there are no visible prohibitions doesn't mean there is no evil plot against women. A number of years ago, I took a tour of UC Berkeley College of Engineering. Not only did I observe a paucity of women but also, because of the racial appearances of the students in some of the classes, I could have easily been in Asia. 
Colleges have the power to ensure that there are just as many female as male engineering majors. They can mandate that fewer female freshmen major in social sciences and education and instead major in engineering. To balance this all out they can disallow large numbers of men from majoring in engineering and instead force them to major in education or the social sciences. 
Although Damore's memo was seen by Google as "advancing harmful gender stereotypes," at least he didn't make any suggestion of male/female IQ differences. Doing so would have led not only to his firing but being ordered to leave the state of California. ...  
You say, "Are you serious, Williams? Or are you making light of the Google firing of James Damore?" My vision is that Damore has the right to say whatever he wishes about the company's racist and sexist diversity policy, and Google has the right to fire him for saying it. [Emphasis mine]
Please use the Comment feature to share your views. advTHANKSance!

Ira Glickstein

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