Last week there was another explosion on the Internet that resulted from an internal Google memo in which a Google employee named James Damore discussed some of what he believed were harmful biases going on within the company. Not long after the memo went viral, he was fired. I kept seeing headlines about the memo that all included some version of the phrases “Anti-Diversity Memo” or “Anti-Women Memo” in them, and like a good sheep I took those headlines at face value and didn’t bother diving into the matter. It wasn’t until a day later when I started seeing more and more people calling foul on these headlines that I stopped and took a closer look. Videos and articles were being published contesting the anti-diversity label, with some commenters going so far as to cry fake news. I knew the only way to figure this out was to read the memo myself, in its entirety. Doing so was not as easy as one would have hoped, since some websites were only showing edited versions of the memo, but soon enough I found an unedited version on the website Medium. Strapping myself in, I readied myself for a controversial read.
That mental preparation proved unnecessary. When I got to the end of the ten-page memo the thought in my head was “Wait, that’s it?” Looking over it again I struggled to find what exactly was so bad about this memo. James goes out of his way to be reasonable and takes jabs at both conservatives and liberals. Any claims that the memo is anti-diversity can be thrown out the window with its opening paragraph, with reads
“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. 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.” (page 1)
The memo goes on to detail the biases that James sees at Google, how Google’s culture has become an ideological echo chamber that suppresses opposing viewpoints, gives some reasons why men and women tend to have different types of job, and concludes with suggestions to boost diversity at Google without resorting to discriminatory hiring practices. Nothing about what he wrote struck me as incorrect or hateful, and there are extensive citations throughout the memo to support his claims. That doesn’t mean that James is right on everything, but we can’t say he was sloppy in his research and presentation.
So, what am I to make of this? I can’t weigh in on whether or not James should have been fired, seeing as how he might have breached a Google protocol that I’m not aware of, but I am forced to admit that the people screaming fake news are right this time. This memo is not anti-diversity or anti-women, and I would recommend you read it for yourself if you can spare the 15 minutes needed to do so. A link to the article on Medium can be found here. To close things out, below is a quote from near the memo’s conclusion, which more or less sums up the memo’s entire point. If you don’t read the whole memo, at least read this.
“I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. 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).” (page 8)