Saturday, August 12, 2017

Diversity Vs Free Speech At Google


Google had a good idea. They're trying to encourage diversity in hiring and the company suggested employees use an internal electronic bulletin board for a company-wide discussion. Then they fired someone who discussed.

I remember when I would sit through executive meetings at Warner Bros Records at one point and marvel at how few women and young people and people of color there were around the table. It wasn't just that women and young people and people of color were the bulk of our customers, but that it was tedious, stifling and soul-killing to be in a room filled mostly with old white men for hours on end every week. There was resistance to change-- primarily from old white men but there was a commitment at the top of the company to change and eventually-- and slowly-- it did... a bit.

A friend of mine who works in a top tech firm in Silicon Valley told me about the Google mess. He seemed to be enjoying a rival's distress. The distress started when a male engineer shared a long sexist, anti-diversity screed, "Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber," with Google employees. His point, the kind of right-wing perspective anyone who spends time watching FOX News would take as a matter of course is that women are underrepresented in Silicon Valley not because they face bias and discrimination in the technology world but because of "inherent" psychological differences between men and women. The author immediately portrays himself as the victim in "our culture of shaming and misrepresentation [that] is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber." He insists that "alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is require for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company." He lists 6 bullet points that comes straight from mindless libertarian orthodoxy:
Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.
"At Google," he wrote, "we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices... At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.

On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
They’re universal across human cultures
They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
The underlying traits are highly heritable
They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective
When I first started reading about this story, I was horrified Google fired this guy. Eventually I realized that he needs to see a psychiatrist STAT and that it would have been a dereliction of duty for Google to keep him around normally functioning employees. This is coming from a very, very sick mind straight out of the Republican Party. His fear and hatred of women is frightening-- and far from atypical. He claims women are more directed towards "feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas" and that partially explains why "women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics. He claims "Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance)... may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs" and that "women generally hav[e] a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there’s overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women’s issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support."

This is followed by all the regular Bronze Age patriarchal bullshit brought forward into the Silicon Valley miniverse. "We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life. Status is the primary metric that men are judged on[4], pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail. Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths." it never ends and it's almost painful to read his baseless drivel but Danielle Brown, Google’s VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance tried responding in an internal memo to employees:
Many of you have read an internal document shared by someone in our engineering organization, expressing views on the natural abilities and characteristics of different genders, as well as whether one can speak freely of these things at Google. And like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.

Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul. As Ari Balogh said in his internal G+ post, "Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ‘Nuff said."

Google has taken a strong stand on this issue, by releasing its demographic data and creating a company wide OKR on diversity and inclusion. Strong stands elicit strong reactions. Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable. But I firmly believe Google is doing the right thing, and that’s why I took this job.

Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.
We asked Ro Khanna (D-CA), the thoughtful and progressive congressman who represents Silicon Valley, for his perspective on the controversy in his own backyard. Here's what he sent us:
James Damore’s appalling and sexist memo, which claimed that women’s biology explains their lack of leadership opportunities, highlights how far the tech community needs to go to address gender and racial stereotypes. I was moved by Susan Wojcicki’s personal essay in response to that memo and appreciate that so many tech leaders are speaking out against Damore’s ignorant views. I am also pleased to see Google’s recent partnership with Howard University and other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to take real steps on improving diversity in the tech industry.

As a company with an immigrant founder, an immigrant CEO, and prominent women leaders, Google should strive to set the standard for diversity in the workplace.

Workplace diversity is an issue that all of us have to be more aware of and work hard to correct. Most of us have implicit biases or blind spots that we need to recognize and take steps to overcome. Building diversity in the face of historical inequities is not easy. It requires conscious effort and hard work from all of us who have positions of power or responsibility.

My hope is that this incident will inspire thoughtful men and women at Google to redouble their effort in building a Valley where people truly have equal opportunity regardless of race, gender, or faith. Anything less would be unworthy of the Valley’s core values and principles.
James Damore, the fired Google engineer, is already a hero in certain predictable circles. This one is as incredible as it is twisted:

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