The diversity echo chamber


I was not planning to comment on James Damore’s Idealogical Echo Chamber “paper” because everything that needs to be said has already been said 150000000 times by people a lot more accomplished and articulate than me.

Until Google fired James Damore. While it is legally within Google’s rights as an at-will employer to do this, I find this persecution to be dangerous. Growing up in a country where people mysteriously disappear or get slaughtered in public for voicing an unpopular perspective, I suppose I’m sensitive to this very precious right we enjoy in the US. If I were the VP of diversity at Google, my call to action would be to make James Damore a member of my team (if he was willing) and employ that sharp albeit narrow mind to understand and solve the range of discriminatory problems that plague our industry, and our society, including racial, gender, political, religious and non watchers of Silicon Valley (we are an endangered species).

Am I offended that he labelled my kind as biologically less fit for the industry I have built my career? Of course!

Do I want to point out all the logical fallacies and lack of facts and data in his arguments? Of course I do.

Will any of this convince James or the tens of thousands of dudes out there who actually feel exactly the same way? Of course not.

I appreciate the honesty that James exhibited in his beliefs. I wish more engineers, more VCs, more exec teams, more HR leaders, more CEOs would have the courage to look their biases in the eye and claim them. I suspect James doesn’t have a whole lot of real contribution to the dismal diversity statistics at Google, and Facebook, and Amazon, and Microsoft and the rest of them. Yet he’s the one whose firing we cheer! I’ve interviewed at each of these companies, been offered roles by each of them, and every role has been below my capability, my prior experience, my value. I’ve seen my peers and guys much more junior than me get significantly better deals at the same companies. James wasn’t the one the one that did that. He just got to be the poster boy for our collective rage. What he says is an accurate description of how people make decisions. The thing that sets me apart in interviews, in meetings every single day is the “biological” differences between us – the boobs, the lack of a bulge of leadership between my legs. And perhaps something innate about my personality that’s defined by my X chromosome?

I am in violent agreement with James – men and women are different. We look different and we feel different and there’s a strong biological component to both. However where we diverge is that James may not realize that purely from a scientific standpoint, the complex relationship between identity and genetic makeup is not fully understood.

Penis –> Y chromosome – CHECK.

Leadership —> Y chromosome – SCIENTIFICALLY UNKNOWN.

Less than 100 years ago, women were considered unfit to vote in this country. Their frail and fickle minds, lack of worldliness and frivolity meant they were unable to understand or effectively make the choice of who should lead the nation. Less than 100 years ago, fewer than 10% of gynecologists and pediatricians in the US were women. And now more than 50% are women in both categories. Less than 100 years ago, populations of gypsies and Jews were poked, weighed, starved, measured, gutted because of a pre-supposition that their biological differences made them unfit for European society and unfit for the master race.

At the end of the day, it’s not our minds that protect us from the logical and heinous conclusions of eugenics and discrimination. It’s our hearts and the compassion and empathy they hold within them. The very empathy James took a shit on. The very empathy I see missing in what has happened since his paper came out.

Being smart is easy.

Writing papers is easy.

Firing people is easy.

All logical. All simple. All boring. And entirely wrong.

Being in touch with our feelings and those of others around us, and letting them be our guide in decisions – that’s FUCKING hard.

Not having a black and white resolution like they do in the movies – that’s FUCKING hard.

If James had allowed empathy into his heart, his perspective would be richer & deeper. He’d understand that this conversation isn’t just about “good for business”. It’s about our moral center.

If you allow empathy in your heart, you may also see that this conversation is not about James Damore. It’s about a truth that pre-dates him and will live on long after he’s forgotten from news feeds. Someone’s freedom of speech was curtailed, someone was made a poster child for a problem that is infinitely more pervasive.

Diversity is a place of perpetual discomfort, curiosity and acceptance. Do you think you live there?