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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

And the 2017 Darwin Award, Silicon Valley Category, goes to...

That didn't take long. Google promptly ID'd (James Damore) and fired him. Like, Hel-LO? This is Google! They know everything about all of us. I heard they hired Big Head on a 1099 via TaskRabbit to unearth Mr. Manifesto.

Recent reporting:
The key mistake at the base of the Google anti-diversity manifesto
Monica Torres,

UPDATE [9:40pm, 8/7/17]: Google has fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the company’s diversity policies. Identified in press reports as engineer James Damore, the man confirmed his dismissal in an email to Bloomberg, saying he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” Google’s Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai told employees on Monday that parts of the anti-diversity memo “violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” Pichai’s statement, however, made no mention of action against the employee.

A male Google software engineer’s internal memo about Google’s workplace diversity initiatives was made public this weekend, stirring a heated debate that has reverberated across Silicon Valley.

Titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” the 10-page manifesto was first reported by Motherboard and fully obtained by Gizmodo.

In it, the unnamed engineer said he believes women are underrepresented in tech because “men and women biologically differ in many ways.” According to the author, these genetic differences include that women have a lower stress tolerance and want more work-life balance, while men are born with a higher drive for status.

He neglects to mention any of the proven research on systemic stereotypes that hold women in tech back.

The key mistake of the manifesto is the assumption that diversity initiatives make it so that companies are not hiring the “best” people. In reality, research shows that companies don’t hire the best people until they strip away biases…
From TechCrunch:
Google has fired the employee behind a controversial memo on gender diversity that went viral inside the company, as well across Silicon Valley and much of the world’s tech industry.

The author, who has been revealed to be Harvard PhD graduate James Damore, confirmed to Bloomberg that he has been terminated from his role as an engineer at Google for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”...
Another site claims he does not have a doctorate:
James Damore is a former software engineer at Google who is known for writing the manifesto titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber."

In his youth, James was a Chess champion and was awarded the title of FIDE Master. He graduated from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy a residential public high school located in Aurora, Illinois in 2007. James attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 2007-2010, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular biology, Physics, and Chemistry. He was pursuing a Master's degree in Systems biology from Harvard, but did not complete his studies.


As a student, James was a research assistant at both Princeton and Harvard as well as a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was employed as a software engineer at Google from December 2013 to August 2017...
His "manifesto" certainly did not appear to me to comprise PhD level writing (or aggregate argument logic). UPDATE: Looks like he'd padded his resume, and has now revised his LinkedIn page.

The opportunistic Twitter nutcases are out in full fury.

I saw one hawking a "James Damore Defense Fund" crowdsourcing page. Yeah, right. Lotta rubes ripe for the fleecing, I'm sure. He's reportedly "exploring his legal options." And, maybe there will be some nuisance litigation make-this-go-away money to be had.

This wasn't even a close call, HR/Employment Law-wise. Hostile Work Environment 101.
Back when I was in the Meaningful Use program, I repeatedly took what I thought to be well-deserved iconoclastic shots at both my employer and the federal agency that funded the RECs. I was always scrupulous to do so on my own time, dime, and byline (and nonetheless fully aware of the risk). Anonymous "concern trolling" is pretty weak beer. If he did so on company time (he obviously used the Google intranet), that's termination right there, particularly in light of his topic.
BTW: some relevant hashtags, #GoogleManifesto, #GoogleMemo, "#GoogleGate... Enjoy.

Young Mr. now-Radioactive, I hear Uber is looking for a new CEO.
Alternatively, I see a role for him in the cast of the next season of Silicon Valley HBO.

Tangentially, in general, calling coders "software engineers" is pretty dubious, IMO. e.g., see my March 14th post.


Columnist Michelle Goldberg:
Damore wasn’t fired for harboring stereotyped views about women. He was fired for putting those views into a memo and disseminating it throughout the company in a way that calls his colleagues’ competence into question. Damore describes women as having more “[o]penness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas.” Noting that women suffer, on average, more “neuroticism” than men, he suggests, “This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.” Damore has every right to believe this. He should have a right to express these beliefs outside work; there are countless online communities where men are welcome to discuss women’s inherent shortcomings at length. Whether Damore has a right to express his views about women internally, and then expect women to be willing to work with him, is another question.

PM NOTE: I've gone back and re-read the entire "manifesto." Being sprinkled with rational thoughts and actual random truths here and there (and contextually-wanting half-truths) does not suffice to make a coherent, linearly progressing, compelling case (I got a laugh out of his Charles Murray-esqe overlapping Bell Curves schtick. Seriously?).

Still reads to me like "The Snowflake Libertarian Brogrammer's Lament" gussied up with a bunch of "scientific citations" cupcake sprinkles.


Just in. This is good: 
I’m a woman in computer science. Let me ladysplain the Google memo to you.
Updated by Cynthia Lee
I’m a lecturer in computer science at Stanford. I’ve taught at least four different programming languages, including assembly. I’ve had a single-digit employee number in a startup. Yes, I’m a woman in tech.

I have known, worked for, and taught countless men who could have written the now-infamous Google “manifesto” — or who are on some level persuaded by it. Given these facts, I’d like to treat it — and them — with some degree of charity and try to explain why it generated so much outrage.

At the outset, it must be conceded that, despite what some of the commentary has implied, the manifesto is not an unhinged rant. Its quasi-professional tone is a big part of what makes it so beguiling (to some) and also so dangerous. Many defenders seem genuinely baffled that a document that works so hard to appear dispassionate and reasonable could provoke such an emotional response. (Of course, some see that apparent disconnect not as baffling, but as a reason to have contempt for women, who in their eyes are confirming the charge that they are more emotional and less quantitative in their thinking.)…

Nicely done. Read all of it.

At one point Damore asserts that Google Diversity Policy is "bad for business."

You were hired to write CODE, son, you're not the CEO, COO, or a Board member. Neither were you hired to write Community College undergrad Comparative Gender Studies 101 term papers for dispersal on the Google intranet on the company's dime.


The ugly, pseudoscientific history behind that sexist Google manifesto
Ex-Googler James Damore’s biologically deterministic manifesto is the latest in a long lineage of pseudoscience

If you haven’t read the full text of this leaked memo that now-fired Google software engineer James Damore sent around to his co-workers, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: A pervasive “left” bias at Google has “created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence,” Damore claims. He states his belief that the reason that the company doesn’t have “50% representation of women in tech and leadership” may be because of “biological differences.”

“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,” Damore writes. “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.”

Damore continues by suggesting that the reason that there are few women in “top leadership positions” may be because of biological reasons, namely, “men’s higher drive for status.” His recommendation is that they accept these biological differences and assign men and women to different roles: “Women on average look for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average,” Damore writes.

The reasons that these “facts” of his have been ignored, he writes, is because “We all have biases and use motivated reasoning to dismiss ideas that run counter to our internal values.” He suggests that “the Left tends to deny science concerning biological differences between people (e.g., IQ and sex differences).”

You might be keen to ask: are Damore’s claims entirely false? Damore is good with rhetoric — to the layperson, or to anyone who doesn’t follow cultural politics or scientific debates, his ideas unfold quite rationally…
Read all of it. Nice refutation. Then read, say, Section 703 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ("Unlawful Employment Practices").


Sundar Pichai’s email to Google staff:
Subject: Our words matter

This has been a very difficult few days. I wanted to provide an update on the memo that was circulated over this past week.

First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”

The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being “agreeable” rather than “assertive,” showing a “lower stress tolerance,” or being “neurotic.”

At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). They too feel under threat, and that is also not OK. People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo — such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all — are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics — we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions.

The past few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree — while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct. I’d encourage each of you to make an effort over the coming days to reach out to those who might have different perspectives from your own. I will be doing the same.

I have been on work related travel in Africa and Europe the past couple of weeks and had just started my family vacation here this week. I have decided to return tomorrow as clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group — including how we create a more inclusive environment for all.

So please join me, along with members of the leadership team at a town hall on Thursday. Check your calendar soon for details.

— Sundar
An essay about sex differences between men and women is the latest flashpoint in Silicon Valley’s simmering culture war
Maya Kosoff

After being fired from Google for writing and disseminating a 10-page disquisition raising questions about the company’s efforts to increase gender diversity, software engineer James Damore has been embraced by conservatives, who are all too happy to claim a defector from Silicon Valley as the latest martyr in the country’s culture war. Within 24 hours of being fired, Damore was being hailed as a brave truth-teller in the pages of National Review, had a potential job offer from Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and, on Tuesday, gave his first major interview to alt-right YouTube personality Stefan Molyneux.

In a sprawling, 45-minute interview with Molyneux, whose other videos include titles like “Why Feminists Hate Men: What They Won’t Tell You!”, Damore accused the tech industry of “groupthink” and shaming conservatives. “I went to a diversity program at Google, it was . . . not recorded, totally secretive,” he said. “I heard things that I definitely disagreed with in some of our programs. I had some discussions there, there was lots of just shaming and ‘No you can’t say that, that’s sexist’ and ‘You can’t do this.’” Damore revealed he’d written the memo on a 12-hour plane ride after feeling prompted to do so by other “isolated” Google employees “not in this groupthink,” who had supposedly felt so uncomfortable with Google’s so-called progressive bias that they had thought about leaving the company.

Silicon Valley, for all its ostensible liberalism, has always been tinged by a strong strain of libertarianism. And in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, some in tech have grown more comfortable pushing back on what they see as a stifling, even discriminatory approach to increasing diversity in a mostly white, overwhelmingly male industry…
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s Response to the Controversial Google Anti-Diversity Memo
Yesterday, after reading the news, my daughter asked me a question. “Mom, is it true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership?”

That question, whether it’s been asked outright, whispered quietly, or simply lingered in the back of someone’s mind, has weighed heavily on me throughout my career in technology. Though I’ve been lucky to work at a company where I’ve received a lot of support—from leaders like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, and Jonathan Rosenberg to mentors like Bill Campbell—my experience in the tech industry has shown me just how pervasive that question is.

Time and again, I’ve faced the slights that come with that question. I’ve had my abilities and commitment to my job questioned. I’ve been left out of key industry events and social gatherings. I’ve had meetings with external leaders where they primarily addressed the more junior male colleagues. I’ve had my comments frequently interrupted and my ideas ignored until they were rephrased by men. No matter how often this all happened, it still hurt…

Some of those responding to the memo are trying to defend its authorship as an issue of free speech. As a company that has long supported free expression, Google obviously stands by the right that employees have to voice, publish or tweet their opinions. But while people may have a right to express their beliefs in public, that does not mean companies cannot take action when women are subjected to comments that perpetuate negative stereotypes about them based on their gender. Every day, companies take action against employees who make unlawful statements about co-workers, or create hostile work environments.

For instance, what if we replaced the word “women” in the memo with another group? What if the memo said that biological differences amongst Black, Hispanic, or LGBTQ employees explained their underrepresentation in tech and leadership roles?…

More to come...

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