[Discussion] James Damore and the Google Manifesto

The Manifesto Mr. Damore wrote, it's implications, facts, or opinions, the hostile work environment it creates, the action of Google firing him, and the consequences of all of the above.

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bandit0013 wrote:

As a Woman in Tech, I Realized: These Are Not My People - Bloomberg View
by Megan McArdle
The Google memo, saying women aren't very into engineering, reached a similar conclusion.
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/artic...

Anyone know anything about the Scott Alexander she cites?

bandit0013 wrote:

Actually he posted it on an internal discussion board. The person who caused the major PR incident was the one that leaked it to the public. Should they be fired?

The person who leaked the memo didn't cause a major PR incident for Google. Like many tech companies, Google already *had* an ongoing PR crisis regarding diversity.

Google began focusing on its workforce composition during the Great Recession when their hiring slowed. It introduced diversity programs in 2010. It hired a dedicated vice president to focus solely on diversity in 2013. It began publicly releasing diversity stats in 2014 (and has done it every year since). And even with all that Google still struggles with diversity.

So leaking Damore's screed didn't create a new incident. Instead it was hard evidence that, despite the company's efforts, Google still had problems.

But instead of it being a woman or POC saying they were being locked out of the company because of their sex or race, it was a white dude saying maybe there's too many women at Google (and that the ones there probably aren't as talented as the men).

Damore put a name and face to both Google's diversity problem (and, by extension, the diversity problem of all tech companies) *and* Silicon Valley's infamous dudebro culture. That's why this blew up the way it did.

It was the intersection of two sh*tty things made all the worse by Damore saying facepalmingly tone deaf dudebro things like Google could fix its diversity problem by "de-emphasize[ing] empathy."

bandit0013 wrote:

As a Woman in Tech, I Realized: These Are Not My People - Bloomberg View by Megan McArdle
The Google memo, saying women aren't very into engineering, reached a similar conclusion.
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/artic...

From the article:

Bloomberg View wrote:

Well, Damore’s analysis leans very heavily on the biological explanations, and as persuasive as I find them, I also know that the story is more complicated than that. Sexism is a process, not a level. I think it’s probably true that my firm was mostly male because mostly men were interested in doing that kind of work at that level. But as my story also suggests, when a field is mostly guys, it’s going to feel less than perfectly comfortable for women unless some pretty heroic efforts are made to counteract all that free-floating testosterone. That may retard both women’s career prospects and their interest in joining that field in the first place.

So even if the disparities don’t start off as discrimination, you can still end up with an environment in which women who could be great engineers decide they’d rather do something else. A “natural” split of, say, 65-35 could evolve into a much more lopsided environment that feels downright unfriendly to a lot of women. And the women who have stuck around anyway are apt to get very mad indeed when they hear something that seems to suggest they’re not experiencing what they quite obviously are.

So that and McArdle's causal explanation earlier in the article about the pervasive and continual sexual harassment she experienced during her career in IT.

And, thanks to Google's diversity stats we know that only 19% of technical positions are held by women, far worse than McArdle's supposed "natural" gender split of 35-65.

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I was glad I was able to find this link, read it originally at work.
https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/so...

Malor wrote:

What the hell happened to, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?" We lose those values at our deepest peril. ...

They don't have to tolerate you, either.

QFT, also the first link has a link to another essay, that really gave me perspective on 'tolerance'
https://extranewsfeed.com/tolerance-...

OG_slinger wrote:

As a society we don't lose anything in the least by making the next Damore think twice about saying that women are biologically inferior to men or that they're too neurotic to be managers.

Do you know what children do when their parents punish them for using swear words? They learn to use the swear words when their parents aren't listening. Damore wrote a 3,000-word essay. He did not become sexist two months ago.

In fact by coming down hard on him gets our society closer to one of its actual core values: that everyone was created--and should be treated--as equals.

Is that the value actually being taught though? People can be stupid sometimes.

And there is room for everyone in "Our Just Society." For sexists and racists that room is chained up in the basement or locked away in the attic. They're free to believe and say whatever they want. But that right to freedom of expression isn't also a right to be free of the social consequences of said expression.

Suppose there are two shops that sell pornographic material. One is shut down by the government and jail time given to the operators. The other isn't because the store is legal, but an angry mob burns it down. What is the fundamental difference in these two situations?

Gremlin wrote:

And, of course, India and Russia do a vastly better job of getting women into CS. It's just the US and UK and similar places that have a problem this bad.

Anecdotal from my mom, but Indians at least, have/had a presumption that women are to be testers and men are programmers.

How many thousands of people was this NFL guy directly harming by his political statement?

I personally don't find the situations very similar at all. Or maybe I just need a man to explain it all to poor little old biologically inferior me.

bandit0013 wrote:
jdzappa wrote:

Maybe it's because I'm a lowly government tech writer, but who the F in tech has time to write a 3k word manifesto? Seriously, I'd fire his ass just for wasting time, much less all the other stupidity.

He said in a recent interview he wrote it on a 12 hour flight back to the states. So it doesn't seem to have been written on company time.

Ok, was it a vacation flight or business flight? Because if the flight was in any way related to work I would consider it as "company time." And at any rate he made the whole thing moot by sharing at work.

Regarding Kaepernick, while I'm a little more sympathetic to his cause I see it as a similar problem. You brought politics into work which cost your employer potential millions when you should have expressed your beliefs on your own time.

Yeah I don't see any reasonable parallel with Colin Kaepernick. If Kaepernick was kneeling in protest of the 49ers drafting players from Auburn (because, you know, statistically speaking those Southerners don't fare as well on intelligence tests, so we presume on average they won't be as capable of picking up the playbook), then maybe there'd be a comparison.

bandit0013 wrote:

Yes OG, we're already quite clear that you support firings and doxxings for people you don't agree with, you don't have to belabor the point.

No, bandit. I support the idea that people who feel so put upon by a diversity training class that they have to write a 3,000 word manifesto in response should own their ideas. Damore should have proudly stood by his screed and shouted "I wrote this because this is what I really think."

And then Damore should have listened to everyone who wanted to tear his ideas to shreds because, contrary to what he thinks, he's not an expert on gender, let alone gender *and* Google *and* the entire technology. He's a guy who dropped out of his PhD program in systems biology who worked a Google for a couple of years.

Again, it takes a special kind of gaul to essentially say "I know I don't really know what I'm talking about and have only worked in this industry and at this company for a few years, but let me wax on endlessly about how you're doing everything wrong and how someone naturally as gifted as I am can show you how to fix things."

And as I and others have said, Damore got himself fired. Period. You can't write something that makes it so you can't work with one in every three Google employees and expect to still work there.

bandit0013 wrote:

Problem #1 was Google providing an internal company viewable forum for these types of issues and encouraging employees to use it. Did they really believe that given enough access and time that someone wouldn't post something that offended others?

Ah, the ole "It's really your fault for giving me a medium to publish all my f*cked up ideas about gender" excuse.

Damore's an adult. He has a master's degree. He's worked in a professional setting for years.

Anyone who's worked for a corporation understands that you simply don't do what Damore did. You don't leave voicemails that say "I think women are worse developers then men." You don't write emails that say that. And you certainly don't write a 10-page rant saying that.

I mean what the f*ck did Damore think his manifesto was going to accomplish? That he'd deliver it to HR and they'd thank him for solving the company's diversity problem?

I really don't know anything about Google's internal message boards. I don't know how they're set up or what topics are covered. I just know that if my company had something similar I wouldn't ever publish a political manifesto on it because that's simply not professional behavior. That's "hold my beer" behavior.

bandit0013 wrote:

Problem #2 is that some employee, who like yourself, takes it upon themselves to deliver social punishment to others leaked a memo to Gizmodo.

As much as you want to shift the blame to someone else, the only person responsible for getting Damore fired is Damore himself.

But, hypothetically, say no one leaked his manifesto. Damore still publishes it on Google's internal message board, eventually some employee comes across it, and drops a note to HR saying "WTF is this?" Damore would have still gotten fired. And given the nature of what he wrote, it still would have eventually come out.

bandit0013 wrote:

Yes, Google already had a PR issue, but it was escalated to a feeding frenzy because some Google employee said "you know what, I'm not taking this to HR, I'm going straight to the press."

Yeah, the incident got popular. Articles were published. Tweets were tweeted. And forum posts were posted.

But, as someone who does PR, Google handled it pretty well. Google's CEO left his family's vacation to deal with the fallout of Damore. That sent the message "this is an important issue and all of Google's senior management team is taking it seriously" loud and clear.

Google acted quickly and fired Damore. That sent the message that Damore's beliefs that women were biologically ill-suited for careers in tech (and management) wouldn't be tolerated.

Then Google's CEO communicated to every Google employee about the incident, clearly explained why Damore was fired (without naming him), and reinforced that that company wanted open communication and feedback to improve things like training, but that Damore's approach was completely unacceptable.

Speaking of which I'll leave you with this thought: Damore wouldn't have been fired if he had taken his concerns to his immediate manager and Google HR instead of writing his screed.

If Damore had told Google HR that "I felt uncomfortable going through that diversity training for X, Y, and Z reasons" that would have been taken as valid feedback that could have been used to improve the training. Additionally, Damore could have used Googlegeist, Google's exceptionally comprehensive annual employee feedback survey, to express his specific concerns. But no. He felt compelled to write his manifesto instead.

bandit0013 wrote:

I'm guessing you don't think that person should be fired.

Sunlight's good, so no.

Plus, from a PR perspective, Google would look absolutely terrible if they fired the person who leaked Damore's memo, especially to the audiences they're trying to reach with their diversity programs.

I think what almost annoys me the most about this guy is that he reminds me of other know-it-all junior devs I've had to deal with. Not specifically on gender issues, just the same sort of supreme confidence in their knowledge of things that they have a serious deficit of experience with.

Chairman_Mao wrote:

Anyone know anything about the Scott Alexander she cites?

Scott Alexander is a pseudonymous blogger who hangs out with the LessWrong/rationalist/libertarian community. He writes really long blog posts. I find him to be somewhat less rational than he thinks he is, particularly because he's embraced some racist positions (particularly about IQ). He's not alt-right, at least in the general sense. A lot of his readers are, though. And I'd say that, based on what he's written about it, he doesn't really understand feminism, though I suppose you can judge that for yourself. But if we start discussing him we'll be here all week.

bandit0013 wrote:

We have our finger on the pulse of the industry, I can assure you the general population of K12 students has no idea.

Maybe not K12 students, but according to the research mistreatment and unfairness is the #1 reason that people leave tech jobs (and not just women but men of color as well). And retaining women and minorities is a particularly important problem for Google because...

OG_slinger wrote:

And, thanks to Google's diversity stats we know that only 19% of technical positions are held by women, far worse than McArdle's supposed "natural" gender split of 35-65.

Google, if I need to repeat it, is under federal investigation because their diversity is so bad it points to some serious exclusion going on: not only are there abnormally few women, but they have only 2% black employees and 3% hispanic employees. And it's not just a pipeline problem because the schools like Stanford that they recruit from have a significantly higher percentage of CS students who are women or minorities. Even with Google's existing practices something hinky is going on, intentionally or not, that's created an abnormal absence of people who don't fit a narrow definition.

OG_slinger wrote:

So that and McArdle's causal explanation earlier in the article about the pervasive and continual sexual harassment she experienced during her career in IT.

I should point out that not only does she mention sexual harassment, the incident she describes as making her feel like she doesn't belong is itself an example of how the industry culture can make women feel unwelcome. She gets this idea that the only people who can do the job are people who have the passion to have a hobby that's unrelated to the work but kind of technical in a way that their co-workers approve of. There's a lot to unpack there, from the way that the industry can make people without the "passion" to do the right kind of free practice feel like they're not working hard enough, to the lack of diversity making all of her co-workers unable to relate to going to a concert.

CS, frankly, could use more people with a wide range of interests and hobbies. But the local cultures don't always support that.

Even if you confine it to sharing interests that are relevant to the work, there's a ton of hobbies that are directly relevant to development but aren't traditionally masculine enough to fit in to the monoculture "culture fit" mold. Like knitting and weaving, for example, which are some of the direct precursors to programming. The core memory of the Apollo guidance computer was woven by women, for example.

Some of those are being rediscovered now, but there's a gap period (coincidentally or not coinciding with women becoming scarcer in the CS world) where a lot of these things got forgotten in the industry.

But really, they shouldn't need to be rediscovered for the industry to make room for people who don't fit a narrow set of geeky interests. (Which themselves can be exclusionary. Even before we get to stuff like gamergate.)

I mean, one of the things that the memo complained about was that women were more likely to want a healthy work-life balance. As if that was a bad thing. There's a number of practical reasons why women might put more importance on having an outside life. Including that it's often forced on them in their relationships when they're left to pick up more of the cooking and housework and childcare. And I could point out ways that better work/life balance means developers actually get more done, if we have to accept the premise that efficiency for the company is the only good.

Being unable to understand that having a life outside of work is a good thing...I'm not sure how to get that across to someone.

Which kind of goes along with...

*Legion* wrote:

I think what almost annoys me the most about this guy is that he reminds me of other know-it-all junior devs I've had to deal with. Not specifically on gender issues, just the same sort of supreme confidence in their knowledge of things that they have a serious deficit of experience with.

Like I said, he's a type. I can go back to Usenet and dig up similar uninformed rants on all kinds of subjects. He's fractally wrong about most of the stuff he's talking about, with just enough plausible deniability to hook in people who can say "Well, I agree about him on some of it". But most of his "good points" have some seriously out-of-whack assumptions embedded in them.

bandit0013 wrote:

Yes OG, we're already quite clear that you support firings and doxxings for people you don't agree with, you don't have to belabor the point.

OG said nothing of the sort. No one in this thread or the other has advocated doxxing. No one has advocated firing "for people you don't agree with you".

Has anyone argued that an employee can't be fired for gross incompetence and a failure to understand his job requirements? Because, once again, if he thinks empathy and collaboration are "female traits" that most programmers don't need then he's going to be about as successful working on a team as a guy who refuses to use source control or databases.

It's also absurd to compare a protest for Black Lives Matter to bluntly telling your co-workers that some of your team isn't fit for their jobs. And make no mistake that that's what was happening.

Ths staunchest defenders of the status quo are those who benefit the most from it.

On free speech:
A blog post:Tolerance is not a moral precept (also linked to above)
A Twitter thread:

Demyx wrote:

It's also absurd to compare a protest for Black Lives Matter to bluntly telling your co-workers that some of your team isn't fit for their jobs. And make no mistake that that's what was happening.

On the one hand: a silent protest that harmed no one and broke no actual rules; in protest of deaths; in belief that highlighting injustice is more important than football.

On the other hand: a memo that directly contributed to creating a hostile work environment and violated the code of conduct that he signed; in protest that he didn't understand diversity training; based on his belief that, contrary to reams of research, his employer might accidentally employ a sub-par employee.

I disagree with Damore's views and find most of them incoherent. But beyond that, there were ways for him to express his views that were less harmful (to himself and others). Him abusing an open discussion loophole to shove his opinion in people's faces and then retreating into claiming he was just trying to have an "open and honest discussion" is both disingenuous and poor intellectual debate. If he was actually open to asking an honest discussion maybe he should have started by asking questions.

Though maybe he did ask questions, and he just didn't like the answers.

((Off-topic: 1 - I love the hero image for this thread. Just noticed it. 2 - Can we rename this thread to "James and the Giant (Freeze) Peach"? ))

I see some of us here are still claiming James Damore was doxxed! That's cute.

Knowing people who've actually been doxxed, as in had their home address, photos of their home, their workplace address, their spouse's photos and workplace address posted by actual honest-to-god Capital N Nazis, and also knowing that James Damore's 'doxx' was his name being publicly associated with something *he signed his name to*, is beyond profoundly insulting.

Freyja wrote:

I see some of us here are still claiming James Damore was doxxed! That's cute.

And it's not surprising. Once again, we have someone who claims that "pc culture" has run rampant and people aren't willing to see the real hard truths turn around and try their hardest to play the victim once their meandering pseudo-logic is shot down. This isn't a case of people just not liking his opinion. This is a case of a person feeling empowered to dismiss actual logic, actual qualifications, and actual work in order to propose that perhaps many of his peers are just not fit to be on his level.

This man is not the victim of anything but his own life choices, which is of course something that other people should have do deal with, but not the Great Champion of Un-PC "Truths".

So there's two parts of his memo, essentially: the point he's trying to make and the framework he builds to justify that point.

The thesis he's trying to support is directly contrary to the actual scientific evidence, which shows that discrimination plays a large role in the ridiculously skewed gender distribution in Silicon Valley. Not to mention that hiring practices that take that into effect are better for business, in part because the discrimination means that highly competent women are being passed over in favor of mediocre men.

I think we're all in agreement on that point? I'm perfectly willing to discuss it more--and there's a lot of misconceptions embedded in there to dig into--but from the prior discussion here no one seems to dispute that his conclusion is wrong?

The intellectual framework

So, working backwards through his argument, we move to the framework he uses to justify his conclusion. He ignores the systemic issues behind the problem--i.e. the very thing that they're trying to address--saying that he's trying to treat people as individuals. That sounds nice, but what he apparently means in practice is that his unconscious biases don't matter, despite the massive amount of research going back decades that says otherwise.

He also misuses the definition of tribalism, getting it backwards. Tribalism is loyalty to a group. Tribalism is about how a group bands together and can be prone to groupthink. Treating people as part of a group is a different thing altogether; if I give him a very generous reading he's trying to talk about outgroups in a very confused way.

Damore wrote:

I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender
roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another
member of their group (tribalism).

In the bit added after he got internal criticism, he reiterated this claim:

Damore wrote:

When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.

Except, well, when you look at the actual population level differences in distribution it's quickly apparent that he isn't having an honest discussion about this. The most charitable interpretation is that he's simply unaware of the actual research, particularly since he doesn't cite any for this claim.

He also believes that his failure to consider other viewpoints doesn't matter for people writing back-end code. I don't want him anywhere near any actual systems I'm working on; as far better programmers than me have pointed out, real programming design takes understanding that seems to be beyond Damore's experience

Damore wrote:

Having representative viewpoints is important for those designing and testing our
products, but the benefits are less clear for those more removed from UX.

So, unwilling to confront his unconscious biases or consider that people who are not him might have valid things to say about stuff he considers important, he needs to first construct a justification for his position. He knows that what he's going to say will be unpopular: Just going by publically available information, we know that he just left voluntary diversity training, and in previous positions he's been reprimanded for not understanding why his mastrubation skit was upsetting people.

Bias and Morals

Therefore, he starts the document by suggesting that the reason he will be criticized is that there's a bias against conservatives. He has no actual evidence for this to cite, but he lays out a model that justifies his beliefs as being "a result of deep moral preferences" which is a misunderstanding of the research. He also uses it as a too-clever-by-half justification for his arguments: his position comes from moral preferences, and so shouldn't be suppressed, but his opponents' moral bias means that they aren't allowed to criticise him.

Remember, he's writing all this in response to attending Google's bog-standard diversity training (which is openly available online and backed by a ton of citations).
The Verge: Here’s what Google’s diversity and bias training looks like
And it appears that his fears of being silenced were because he, essentially, couldn't obey the rules that we've got in this forum and keep things on-topic:

The Verge wrote:

The following slide explains that debating whether or not bias exists at Google is “off-topic” for the session.

Damore wrote:

There’s currently very little transparency into the extent of our diversity programs
which keeps it immune to criticism from those outside its ideological echo
chamber.

They're freely available online, dude. And, given the federal investigation into Google's labor practices, I think corporate and legal would prefer you shut up and not give the feds even more reasons to demand transparency. Their ideological biases don't run in the direction that you think they do, and maybe that contributed to you getting fired?

There's maybe a discussion to be had on this forum about how to express a minority view-point (or a viewpoint that you think is a minority). This is not the guy you want to use as your bannerman for it.

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That is not doxxing. It's arguably blacklisting.

For starters, he signed the manifesto.

bandit0013, if you want to keep discussing doxxing, might I make the polite suggestion that you define what you mean by doxxing? Because right now I'm going to have to back Freyja:

Freyja wrote:

and also knowing that James Damore's 'doxx' was his name being publicly associated with something *he signed his name to*, is beyond profoundly insulting.

I can't have a conversation about it, even if I agreed with you, if I don't understand what you're saying.

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The real criminal and crime is the leaker and the leak! Man this has so many parallels to the current administration. I wonder why that is?

What this means is that the individual who released this to the press did so because they wanted to cause damore harm beyond the termination of his job. They, like your previous statement, hoped that he would never be allowed to work in the industry again, that the mob would come down on him, which we know from other examples, right and left, can lead to lasting economic, physical, social, and psychological harm. Anyone... anyone who would deliberately perform an action with that being the goal is an asshole. And not only an asshole, but an asshole who is a very real danger to the people around them. They're basically this guy:

I find it fascinating that you are committed to absolving this guy of any wrongdoing and making sure his future is secured no matter the cost. You are willing to allow this guy to continue to promote a toxic workplace and risk many people's careers and livelihoods all for the sake of one individual. The Right tells us all the time about personal responsibility and consequence. Shouldn't we apply those very beliefs to this situation?

Why is Damore more important than his current and future co-workers?

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Pointing out overt sexism and hostile behavior from a co-worker makes you a Disney villain.

Oh what a time to be alive.

edit: These arguments would probably be easier to take seriously if I didn't know for a fact that people like Bandit and others making the "but the real victim here..." arguments would do a complete 180 if the person in question had released some sort of thing that could be easily labeled and mocked as "leftist". In that case it'd just be someone getting theirs for being too uptight/pc/fascist/etc.

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bandit0013 wrote:

What this means is that the individual who released this to the press did so because they wanted to cause damore harm beyond the termination of his job.

You're assuming more than your argument supports. There's other explanations (such as already taking it to HR and wanting to hold the corporate structure responsible: the person who leaked it might not have been directly concerned with Damore at all).

Gremlin wrote:
OG_slinger wrote:

So that and McArdle's causal explanation earlier in the article about the pervasive and continual sexual harassment she experienced during her career in IT.

I should point out that not only does she mention sexual harassment, the incident she describes as making her feel like she doesn't belong is itself an example of how the industry culture can make women feel unwelcome. She gets this idea that the only people who can do the job are people who have the passion to have a hobby that's unrelated to the work but kind of technical in a way that their co-workers approve of. There's a lot to unpack there, from the way that the industry can make people without the "passion" to do the right kind of free practice feel like they're not working hard enough, to the lack of diversity making all of her co-workers unable to relate to going to a concert.

I am also strongly suspicious of how much her feeling as a female outsider colored her opinion of how separate she was from her programming culture. I am a male developer, and I have worked with lots of male developers that played video games, a couple that played a lot with Arduino boards and did other technical stuff, a hockey player, a Rugby Player, a skier, family men, and general tv watchers and sports watchers that weren't particularly nerdy at all.

In my experience none of those male developers were ever made to think that they shouldn't be in the software industry because their hobbies weren't appropriate for their work.