Think you don’t need to care about the super inflammatory Google diversity manifesto that dropped this weekend? Think again.
The tech community has been abuzz since Saturday about what the leaked document which is full of all kinds of sexist commentary masquerading as an intellectual exercise actually means. Plenty of people have argued it doesn’t mean much. After all, it’s just the thoughts of one exceedingly white tech bro, right? Wrong. So very wrong.
To review, the screed was reportedly penned by James Damore (a software engineer first officially identified by Motherboard), who engages in a healthy dose of mental gymnastics to make the case that a) women are biologically different from men and that’s why they don’t get tech jobs and b) Google is not welcoming of conservative viewpoints and isn’t open to rethinking its efforts to diversify.
Its 2017. The notion that your genetic makeup has any influence on what kinds of jobs you’ll be well-suited to is exceedingly outdated and dangerous. And it’s certainly not a legitimate set of ideas to be sending out to a huge swath of your coworkers. Yet here we are.
Of course, the tech industry’s lack of diversity is a known issue, as is the complete lack of any self-awareness that might lead to fixing the problem. Google itself is already being investigated for an extreme gender pay gap.
So, you might find yourself thinking, “Why is it a big deal what this one dude says? Especially when its been made very clear that not everyone who works at Google agrees with him?”
Do you hear that? That’s the sound of thousands of non-white non-males who are too exhausted to even scream.
While it’s tempting to dismiss his take on the world as backwards and outmoded, don’t because this isn’t an isolated incident and these ideas have very real consequences in the present moment.
Mashable spoke with Elizabeth Ames, senior vice president of marketing, alliances, and programs at the Anita Borg Institute, which champions the advancement of women in the tech industry. She told us what exactly a document like this does:
“It really lays bare the challenges that women and underrepresented minorities face in tech today, when you have a coworker who writes something that says, ‘I think you’re genetically predisposed not to be good at this,’ that’s not really a great starting place.”
While one exceptionally ignorant guy might have taken it upon himself to create this particular document, he’s hardly the only one espousing such views in Silicon Valley. Ames said it’s all too common.
“Unfortunately, this is not unfamiliar to me and it’s not unfamiliar to women who work in tech,” she said. “And this is part of what makes the culture so incredibly difficult.”
I can’t help laughing at this Googler’s misogynist manifesto because it reminds me of what one female Uber HR rep told me
Susan J. Fowler (@susanthesquark) August 7, 2017
Likewise, she said, there were more white men in engineering because white men were simply more suited for engineering than others!
Susan J. Fowler (@susanthesquark) August 7, 2017
Google is, of course, a gigantic company. It can’t be held completely accountable for the actions of a single employee. But it’s worth remembering that this gentleman clearly felt there were enough people within Google who would accept or appreciate these thoughts and there are plenty of people who’ve taken the bait.
Think about this: If you don’t realize that expressing these kinds of things in writing will result in a serious internet dragging at the very least, that is an airtight little bubble you’re living in. And the only way that’s possible is if you’re surrounded by other people who see the world in the exact same way.
Of course those who have personal experience with Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity have spoken out as well. Medium has lit up with posts outlining what it’s like to work in this industry as a non-tech bro and calls to action.
Plenty of other people have gone out of their way to say that not everyone at Google feels this way. And thank goodness for that. But it doesn’t really matter.
As anyone whos not a privileged white male can tell you, if you have to spend your days working with even a single person who believes you were born incapable of being truly good at your job, its impossible to feel like you belong. And, as Ames pointed out, that has long-term consequences for the industry.
“It chips away at you every single day,” she said. “And you eventually say to yourself, ‘What am I doing here?’ And this is why we have talent leave the industry.”
So other than continuing to sigh heavily in frustration when each of these new stories breaks, what exactly can be done about this? Probably not that much, at least in the very short-term.
According to its latest diversity statistics, Google is 69 percent male and 56 percent white. That puts them toward the bottom of the pile when you compare them with the competition on diversity. And that’s saying something.
Obviously there’s a lot of room for improvement there, but it also means that a sizable portion of its workforce has just been deeply offended by one of their colleagues.
It’s very clear that Google has to do something big.
“It creates a tremendously divisive situation within their organization. I think they have to take a stand here,” Ames said.
They did issue an internal statement, but that’s not going to be enough to hush those who’ve been pissed off by this incident.
After all, this isn’t just an issue that’s relevant to people who work at Google or even in tech as a whole. It’s a big deal to all of us who use the endless stream of products that are coming out of Silicon Valley.
If Google doesn’t step up and fix this, a gigantic segment of the population might decide that we’re just, you know, not genetically predisposed to enjoy using Gmail or that Androids simply don’t feel good in our tiny little lady hands. Harumph.