Ben Boychuk

Google memo wasn’t anti-diversity or a rant. But it still got the author fired

Google after viral memo about female programmers: diversity is critical to success

A male engineer at Google blamed biological differences for the paucity of female programmers in his widely shared memo, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber." Google's just-hired head of diversity, Danielle Brown, responded with her own memo
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A male engineer at Google blamed biological differences for the paucity of female programmers in his widely shared memo, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber." Google's just-hired head of diversity, Danielle Brown, responded with her own memo

Let’s discuss the Google memo heard ’round the world. (because Silicon Valley’s fetid, politically correct groupthink is slightly less depressing than the ratcheting tensions with North Korea).

The 10-page “anti-diversity screed” (as tech site Gizmodo called it) was neither. Nor was it a “rant” or a “jeremiad.”

 
Opinion

If you read it – and it’s clear from the coverage that even the journalists that covered the document’s existence viewed it through blood-red tinted lenses – you would find a fairly pedantic, sometimes poorly worded, but altogether respectful argument for a kind of intellectual diversity.

And we can’t have that.

Any conservative who read James Damore’s memo recognized at once that he holds fairly conventional liberal views of the world. But even conventional liberal viewpoints are no longer safe.

Damore did not claim women are “biologically unsuited” to work in tech (as, I regret to report, The Bee’s editorial asserted this week). He didn’t even argue against racial or gender diversity per se. On the contrary, he took pains to make clear in his opening paragraph that he values “diversity and inclusion,” does not deny “sexism exists” and doesn’t “endorse using stereotypes.”

Then what did he say? In brief, that Google’s efforts to achieve 50-50 parity between male and female programmers were unlikely to succeed because a lot of women simply aren’t interested in science and technology fields.

And why aren’t they interested? Not because they’re “biologically unsuited” but rather because there are biological differences that lead men and women down different paths.

Mind you, Damore doesn’t say he’s against the company’s goals for greater gender diversity; he simply argues that the executives are going about it the wrong way.

It was a fairly safe bet that Damore was going to be fired the moment he set pixels to page. Merits of arguments are meaningless in corporate America, where certain attitudes and opinions are simply beyond the pale. Besides, Google is already embroiled in a series of sex-discrimination lawsuits. The guy was an HR nightmare.

So it was no surprise that Danielle Brown, Google’s newly minted vice president for “diversity, integrity and governance,” denounced Damore’s memo over the weekend for advancing “incorrect assumptions about gender.” His fate was sealed.

Are there biological differences between men and women? Of course. The very idea that the question is controversial is itself a sign of our times. It is not the same question as whether females are inferior to males, or whether men and women do different jobs differently. That is diversity, rightly understood.

It’s such odd times in which we live. I’m old enough to remember when liberals gladly claimed the mantle of free speech and freedom of thought, when nothing was supposed to be off limits and when hidebound right-wingers could have their pieties and prejudices.

“The liberation of the human mind has never been furthered by dunderheads,” H.L. Mencken wrote. “It has been furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe.”

Is doubt safe now? Not at Google, obviously, nor at most Fortune 500 companies. The mentality is the same everywhere you turn. Never mind hurling deceased felines into sanctuaries. As Damore learned, even respectfully questioning the pieties of the day can have profound consequences for one’s livelihood and career.

We should be able to argue about the tradeoffs of diversity. Instead, the Silicon Valley echo chamber echoes ever louder. The heretic is gone. Shut up, keep your head down, toe the line. Wow, what a relief.

Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. He can be contacted at ben@amgreatness.com or on Twitter @benboychuk.

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