Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Equality Or Diversity? - An 'Outrageous' Memo Questions Google

Moon of Alabama | Aug 8, 2017

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A Google engineer, James Damore, recently wrote an internal memo about "Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber - How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion":
At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story. On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
- ...
- ...
Google company policy is in favor of "equal representation" of both genders. As the existing representation in tech jobs is unequal that policy has led to hiring preferences, priority status and special treatment for the underrepresented category, in this case women.

The author says that this policy is based on ideology and not on rationality. It is the wrong way to go, he says. Basic differences, not bias, are (to some extend) responsible for different representations in tech jobs. If the (natural) different representation is "cured" by preferring the underrepresented, the optimal configuration can not be achieved.

The author cites scientific studies which find that men and women (as categories, not as specific persons) are - independent of cultural bias - unequal in several social perspectives. These might be life planning, willingness to work more for a higher status, or social behavior. The differences evolve from the natural biological differences between men and women. A gender preference for specific occupations and positions is to be expected, Cultural bias alone can not explain it. It therefore does not make sense to strive for equal group representation in all occupations.

From James Damore's memo
From there he points to the implementation of Google's policy and concludes:
Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.
Google fired the engineer. Its 'Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance' stated:
We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company. [..] Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.
(Translation: "You are welcome to discuss your alternative policy views - unless we disagree with them.")

The current public discussion of the case evolves around "conservative" versus "progressive", "left" versus "right" categories. That misses the point the author makes: Google's policy is based on unfounded ideology, not on sciences.

The (legal) "principle of equality" does not imply that everyone and everything must be handled equally. It rather means that in proportion with its equality the same shall be treated equally, and in proportion with its inequality the different shall be treated unequally.

The author asks: Are men and women different? Do these differences result in personal occupation preferences? He quotes the relevant science and answers these questions with "yes" and "yes". From that follows a third question: What is the purpose of compelled equal representation in occupations when the inherent (natural gender) differences are not in line with such an outcome?

Several scientist in the relevant fields have stated that the author's scientific reasoning is largely correct. The biological differences between men and women do result in observable social and psychological differences which are independent of culture and its biases. It is to be expected that these difference lead to different preferences of occupations.

Moreover: If men and women are inherently equal (in their tech job capabilities) why does Google need to say that "diversity and inclusion are critical to our success"? Equality and diversity are in this extend contradictory. (Why, by the way, is Google selling advertising-space with "male" and "female" as targeting criteria?)

If women and men are not equal, we should, in line with the principle of equality, differentiate accordingly. We then should not insist on or strive for equal gender representation in all occupations but accept a certain "gender gap" as the expression of natural differences.

It is sad that Google and the general society avoid to discuss the questions that the author of the memo has asked. That Google fires him only confirms his claim that Google's policy is not based on science and rationality but on a non-discussible ideology.

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