It's been a while since I've waded into the circus known as "diversity." (One of my most popular all-time posts is one from June 2014 titled "Is Lack Of 'Diversity' At Big Law Firms A Crisis?") But with the recent affair at Google all over the news, I can't resist returning to the topic.
If you haven't read the now-famous memo by Google engineer James Damore that ultimately got him fired, it is here. Try reading it and see if you can figure out what he said that was so offensive. The statement from Google CEO Sundar Pichai asserted that Damore had crossed “the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” OK, can you quote which words of Damore you say crossed that line? Not that I can find, either in that statement or anywhere else.
Damore's central point is that the proportionate under-representation of women in the ranks of Google employees could be explained by some combination of lower average population-wide aptitude and/or interest in what Google does among women than among men, as opposed to the accepted hypothesis of some combination of discrimination and/or oppression:
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.
Is that statement really so beyond the pale that it absolutely cannot be said in politically-correct Silicon Valley? Those with long memories may notice the remarkable resemblance of Damore's hypothesis to the remarks of then-Harvard President Larry Summers that got him fired from that job back in 2005. Here's an excerpt from Summers:
It does appear that on many, many different human attributes -- height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability -- there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means -- which can be debated -- there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined.
Or maybe Damore's even bigger sin was pointing out that Google, in its efforts to increase "diversity," was engaging in systematic overt gender and racial discrimination:
[T]o achieve a more equal gender and race representation, Google has created several
● Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race.
● A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates. . . .
Not to mention that Google has an entire department dedicated to increasing the "diversity" in its work force. And with all that, what are the results? Here is a summary of Google's own "Diversity Report" for 2016. Women as a percentage of the workforce are 31%, but in "technical roles" only 20%. Blacks are only 2% of the Google work force, and Latinos 4%. (Wow -- no major law firm could get away with those numbers!) Asians, of course, are way over-represented at 35% of the work force.
I for one am completely prepared to believe that the reason for Google's failure to hire and retain women and minorities is systematic racial and gender discrimination and oppression. After all, there must be some good reason for the widespread sense of guilt and self-loathing among Google's executives.
On the other hand, one might look to circumstances where no one is doing any "hiring," and women and men are completely free to choose what they want to do without any force or coercion. How about selection of college majors? In an August 15 piece at Front Page, Walter Williams cites a few data points from a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:
[T]hough 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. . . . Seventy-seven percent of education majors are women and so are 64 percent of social sciences majors.
How exactly is Google -- or any other tech company -- supposed to get to 50% of its software engineers being women, when the percentage of women in the engineering major in college is less than 20%?
On a similar note, Megan McArdle of Bloomberg tells a personal story of her own exit from a high-tech job. The bottom line is that she recognized that she just wasn't interested enough to be able to compete at the highest level:
I came into work one Monday morning and joined the guys at our work table, and one of them said “What did you do this weekend?” I was in the throes of a brief, doomed romance. I had attended a concert that Saturday night. I answered the question with an account of both. The guys stared blankly. Then silence. Then one of them said: “I built a fiber-channel network in my basement,” and our co-workers fell all over themselves asking him to describe every step in loving detail. At that moment I realized that fundamentally, these are not my people. I liked the work. But I was never going to like it enough to blow a weekend doing more of it for free. Which meant that I was never going to be as good at that job as the guys around me.
I'm not claiming to have the complete explanation for why women are such a small percentage of the technical staff at tech companies. There can be many different factors at play. But I do know that we're never going to get a better understanding of the reasons if reasonable hypotheses are arbitrarily excluded from the discussion on the basis of ideology.