SAN FRANCISCO — Opposition to the tech industry’s diversity initiatives, thrust into the open when a Google software engineer published an online manifesto over the weekend, reflects a simmering resentment that few have discussed openly — and that puts pressure on tech leaders to address.
On Saturday an unnamed male engineer published “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” strongly suggesting the company encourage “ideological” rather than gender diversity. The author contends women don’t make up 50% of the company’s tech and leadership positions because of differences in their preferences and abilities, not sexism. By early Sunday, the memo had gone viral.
The sentiment of the 10-page memo underscores the views of many at tech companies who don’t agree with the diversity mandate adopted by their employers. They have argued for years that Silicon Valley is a meritocracy, where brilliance and talent are consistently rewarded above all else.
Those who haven’t reaped the same benefits counter the industry’s hiring practices preferentially benefit those who are young, white or Asian and male — often to the detriment of women, blacks, Latinos and others.
In response, companies have been at the forefront of introducing “unconscious bias” training in the workplace, and have funded multiple initiatives to encourage young girls and minorities to study coding. Proponents of such measures say they are necessary to bring diversity to the tech industry.
But there have been indications some tech workers resisted efforts to address racism and sexism. In February 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reprimanded the social network’s workforce after Black Lives Matters slogans written by employees on the company’s walls were defaced and overwritten by “All Lives Matter” after he had told staff those actions were unacceptable.
A recent study of elementary school students show dominant players — in this case, white males — feel threatened when everyone is treated equally. The same applies in the business world, said Columbia Business School Professor Rita McGrath.
“There is almost a knee-jerk reaction: Your company is spending money on diversity, so what am I getting out of it?” she said.
Nancy Lee, Google’s former head of diversity, underscored the deep challenges it faces in converting employees to valuing diversity. She said the company had…