Google’s fired engineer James Damore defends himself in national newspaper op-ed

James Damore, fired by Google over his memo arguing that biology may in part explain the scarcity of women in tech, has some advice to his former employer.

“If Google continues to ignore the very real issues raised by its diversity policies and corporate culture, it will be walking blind into the future — unable to meet the needs of its remarkable employees and sure to disappoint its billions of users,” the software engineer wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Aug. 11.

Damore’s sacking added fuel to America’s culture wars and led to plans for an extreme-right “March on Google” protest for Aug. 19. In his op-ed, Damore noted that he’d argued in his memo that Google’s “ideological echo chamber” meant views such as his were suppressed within the company.

“My firing neatly confirms that point,” he wrote (paywall).

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“How did Google, the company that hires the smartest people in the world, become so ideologically driven and intolerant of scientific debate and reasoned argument?”

Damore’s assertion of a possible biological basis for tech’s gender imbalance was examined by NYU Stern School of Business ethical leadership professor Jonathan Haidt and Sean Stevens, research director at Heterodox Academy, a group of professors dedicated to diversity of views in academia.

“Our verdict on Damore’s memo: Damore is correct that there are ‘population level differences in distributions’ of traits that are likely to be relevant for understanding gender gaps at Google,” Haidt and Stevens wrote on the Heterodox Academy website.

“There are gender differences in a variety of traits, and especially in interest/enjoyment (rather than ability) in the adult population from which Google and all other tech firms recruit.”

While Damore suggested biological differences between the genders could result in different abilities, the two researchers said distinguishing between ability and interest was “extremely important.”

“Population differences in interest may be part of the explanation for why there are fewer women in the applicant pool, but the women who choose to enter the pool are just as capable as the larger number of men in the pool,” Haidt and Stevens wrote.

“This conclusion does not deny that various forms of bias, harassment, and discouragement exist and contribute to outcome disparities, nor does it imply that the differences in interest are biologically fixed and cannot be changed in future generations.”

 

Photo: A Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  (AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou, File)

 

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  • jjredfish
    • hoapres

      Actually, it is called the Mercury News which banned me on their main web site when I just pointed out the effects of the h1b program. It isn’t just SJMN as those remembering me from the old DICE bulletin board can attest to as well.

  • jjredfish

    James Damore:
    BS in Molecular Biology, Physics and Chemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign.
    Research Assistant, Princeton
    Quantitative and Computational Biology Program, Princeton
    Research Assistant, MIT
    Masters degree in Systems Biology, Harvard
    Ph.D coursework, Harvard
    Top 3% student
    Certified Chess Master

  • jjredfish
  • jjredfish
  • Super nice. Thanks for bring this in news. Good article.

    Daryl

  • hoapres

    Actually Google doesn’t hire the smartest people in the world.

    • Mark

      Very true. With the large numbers of applicants they receive and the sheer volume of applications that are thrown away without consideration, a large amount of great talent “slips through the cracks”. Their recruiting process appears to be dysfunctional as well for other reasons.

      • hoapres

        The tipping point for all of the SV tech companies happened a couple of years ago when the wage suppression with h1bs coupled with the extra high housing prices resulted in almost all new hires being on work visas.

        Basically, you can’t get Americans from outside the area to come to the Bay Area anymore.

        Google really doesn’t pay software engineers as well as one might think. I include all of the software engineers that are contractors.

        • Mark

          Well have to disagree with the Americans thing. There are still plenty of Americans that would come to the Bay Area if given the opportunity to work, even in poverty. However, the tech companies don’t even offer that. They gave up on hiring domestic after the early 2000s tech bust.

          • hoapres

            If you are looking at hiring an under 25 year old American then you have a point. You won’t (likely) get an American with a family owning a single family home to come to SV anymore.

            Kind of moot as young Americans are starting to ditch STEM careers in droves.

          • Mark

            The sector doesn’t hire under-25-year-old Americans in any significant numbers. Foreign OPTs mostly.

          • hoapres

            Can’t argue with that.

            The few Americans and others that get hired ARE under 25. It used to be your tech career was over at 40 but now it looks like it is over by 30.

          • Mark

            Seems to be more of the over-40 crowd getting hired, American-wise. Not the under-25 crowd. Under-25 American is rare.

  • hoapres

    OK

    Does anyone want to take a bet and see how long it takes before I get banned here as well.

    I am going to say between a day and a week.

  • ROB

    Damore is clearly the least sexist individual you could ever meet. He is a hero for exposing Google and the sexist diversity director who fired him. This poor guy has been grotesquely abused and I hope he wins huge compensation. The endorsement of the general thrust of Damore’s thesis from the towering intellectual giant, Heidt, simply validates Damore’s helpful piece even further. It would stand on the merits of its references had Google not attempted to deceive readers by removing those references. It seems that the entire management of Google needs to be replaced to clear out the corrupt internal culture.

 
 
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