Man-Child Author of the Google Memo

I finally got around to actually reading the now-infamous internal Google memo about women in the workplace.  The first thing that strikes me is that The Atlantic is absolutely correct: The press coverage has largely been atrocious.  In fact, it’s the kind of thing that really gives the press a bad name.
In short, the memo is decidedly NOT an attack on diversity as so many outlets have erroneously reported.  Quite to the contrary, the memo’s author goes out of his way to say that he supports diversity in the work place and wants there to be more of it.  Shit, he even offers up a bunch of solutions to “reduce the gender gap” at Google.  Just read this quote from the memo and tell me it’s a “screed against diversity” like so many articles have claimed.
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.

But why let that stand in the way of lazy reporting and inflammatory headlines?

So what exactly is the problem with this this memo [full text here]?

The author, former Google Senior Software Engineer James Damore (he’s since been fired), goes off the rails with his explanations for why there isn’t enough gender diversity at Google specifically and in the computer world more generally.

He makes a series of sexist claims about how women are different from men, and in the process spouts a bunch of pseudo-scientific gibberish about biological determinism of the sexes.  Among other things, Damore states that women relative to men supposedly:

  • Are more prone to feelings than ideas
  • Prefer people to things
  • Are likelier to prefer jobs in “social or artistic areas”
  • Are more gregarious and less assertive
  • Are more extroverted
  • Are more cooperative
  • Are more agreeable, and . . . wait for it . . . neurotic!

Because apparently this is the Gilded Age and Charlotte Perkins Gilman is looking for just the right man to inspire her to write “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

Damore maintains these alleged broad differences between men and women are a fact of science, but he offers up no scientific evidence to support his argument.  He firmly dismisses the notion that any such differences could be the result of social factors alone, but again he offers no evidence.

Other highlights include equally simplistic lists about the differences between left-wing and right-wing biases, and unsubstantiated drivel about everything from evolutionary psychology and the universal qualities of human culture to prenatal testosterone and the gender identification of males castrated at birth and raised as females.

Cause, why not.

In short, Damore’s memo is a rambling mess, reading less a coherent report and more like a personal catharsis of his personal demons about women and gender.

As I read the memo, Damore came off as a clever little moron, a smart kid who went to good schools but learned little more than how to code and be sophomoric.  The kind of little know-it-all who thinks he’s way smarter than he actually is, and has now been done in by hubris and a lack of footnotes.

Basically me as a teenager if you change “code” to “follow sports and listen to music.”

Think about it.  What kind of personality does it take for a twenty-something to believe that silly ‘ole Google’s been handling this whole gender diversity thing all wrong, that he knows what’s really going on in the world of science and men and women and corporations and economies and culture, and that he can single handedly can fix it all by writing up a ten page memo and circulating it around the company?

It’s either someone who’s utterly delusional (which Damore does not seem to be) or someone deeply insecure who masks by telling himself and people around him how smart and competent he is.  Here, let me prove it to you!  I just fixed the gender gap with this handy memo!

You know, the kinda guy who lies on his LinkedIn page about having a Ph.D. from Harvard when he really only has a Master’s degree.  Yes, Damore did that too.

So allow me to sum this all up with a likewise simplistic gendered analogy.

James Damore is a boy who thought he was a man.  He entered the world-of-men-and-not-enough-women, and attempted to do something grand and manly, but got in over his head and was exposed for the child that he is.

Unfortunately for him, the whole world found out.  And now he has a choice.  He can grow up and move on, or he can become a poster child for the Age of Trump, another wounded man-child never admitting his mistakes and demanding we all acknowledge his greatness.

6 thoughts on “Man-Child Author of the Google Memo

  1. THE REACTION TO THIS!! In fairness he could’ve worded things better to protect himself. The reaction by so many female employees, and some men, or “men”, has been hysterical. Such fragile creatures at Goolag, apparently.

  2. One more. From a seemingly mature and intelligent Woman-Adult experience as a “woman in tech”. “These are not my people” but it’s cool:
    She’s not a poster Woman-Adult for the Trumpenreich. More perspectives like her’s would mitigate the increasing backlash sure to come but things seem to be on a fixed course, now don’t they? We do live in interesting times dear reader.

  3. You are definitely correct that the overall coverage of this was terrible. My local LA Times came at in a way that confirms their biases and the right wing part of the media did the same. As a guy who has worked in corporate America for many years, the one thing that struck me as being so odd is that the guy sent such an inflammatory memo to the whole company. Where I work, folks aren’t allowed to hit “send all” because someone did it years ago, ended offending others and starting an obnoxious email chain. In our case it wasn’t political but still caused problems, though no one was fired. Management of any type of company whether public or not wouldn’t want to deal with these potential headaches and obviously wouldn’t want their internal policies lampooned in front of the whole company and now the general public. The only type of person who I could imagine doing this is someone already planning to leave the company and saying “blank you” on the way out.

  4. Google is in a particularly tenuous position because their handling of all of our personal data so doing anything to bring unwanted scrutiny to the company, especially in this case when sexism is such a hot button issue in Silicon Valley, could probably lead to getting fired. That being said, most company behavioral training I have experienced has usually been pretty silly, mostly done for liability purposes and in some cases to compensate for bad behavior of top executives (Boeing and recently Uber come to mind). Thus, I could see where he could be upset about what they are doing but he definitely used the wrong forum and attempted to broach too many issues at one time. Alas, I guess he will have to settle for 15 minutes of Libertarian fame.

Let it Rip