Google (GOOGL) fired the employee who wrote that women were biologically less suited to be engineers than men.
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Could the #GoogleManifesto contribute to negative stereotypes of women in tech workplaces? Perhaps. But the overreaction is likely to do far more harm.
An internal memo by a Google software engineer critiquing the company’s diversity efforts, first reported by the Motherboard website on Saturday and then released in full, provoked some strong reactions.
The online media called the document a “screed against diversity” and blasted it as “anti-woman.” On Twitter, posters compared the memo’s author to the man who gunned down 14 female engineering students at a Montreal college in 1989. Some fantasized about violently attacking him. Many, including feminist software engineer and congressional candidate Brianna Wu, clamored for his firing. Indeed, the author, unmasked as James Damore, was fired Monday evening for perpetuating “harmful gender stereotypes” — an ironic conclusion, considering that a central topic of his memo was ideological conformity at Google.
But what did the memo actually say about diversity in tech? And was it wrong?
The most incendiary part of the 10-page document was the assertion that gender disparities at technology companies, including Google (where women hold 20% of tech jobs and 25% of leadership positions), are due at least in part to biological differences. Damore has been assailed for supposedly saying that “women are unsuited to tech jobs,” dismissing his female co-workers as “unqualified tokens,” or “demanding (an) end to inclusion of women” and minorities. But the memo says nothing of the kind. At most, Damore argues that because of innate cognitive and personality differences, a 50/50 gender balance in the tech sector might be unrealistic.
The memo also argues that expanding diversity is good, but that Google is going about it all wrong — for instance, by offering gender- and race-exclusionary support programs, favoring “diversity” hires, and promoting hypersensitivity to “unconscious…