This past couple of days, like most of you, I've read, discussed and argued a fair amount about this "anti-diversity" manifesto. Everything has been said about the manifesto and the author has now been fired from Google for it. I myself work for another tech company in the Bay Area and found the whole situation very interesting, polarizing in fact. I have witnessed some pretty extreme reactions on both sides, which is why I'd like to offer my thoughts on this.
In my opinion, the main takeaway from this is: yes, gender equality is still a taboo. As such, it is something you cannot discuss with everyone easily, and people trying to express views that differ from the socially acceptable egalitarian norm will get bullied. I always try to see all opinions, even those I don't agree with, as being based on some reasoning that is or seems sound to a category of people. Not because of their ignorance, but because of different knowledge, beliefs and intuitions which might be right, wrong or things that cannot be factually verified nor discarded. I would hope this can hardly be debated and that, based on this, people would feel the need to take this guys' points one by one, fact check them and prove him wrong.
Instead, some people decided to take this to social medias, as we all know the best place to get a sane and calm debate, and eventually leak an internal, non-official and potentially damaging document. A document which most likely doesn't express the views of the company or its policies (or why would this guy feel the need to rant against his overly-inclusive work environment). Then the non-sense starts, random people tweeting at others about their stance on gender equality, various facebook posts and blogs explaining to us how women are actually best suited to engineering tasks, that the sole reason why there is a clear discrepancy is that women are still being driven away from tech and leadership positions (why these two always get mixed together, I am not too sure) by our sexist society, how they all hope this guy gets fired, how the valley in general is a hostile work environment, no doubt one of the worst places to work if you're part of <enter community here>.
Hardly the rational reactions you would expect. Now, without agreeing or disagreeing with the whole manifesto, didn't he actually raise some valid points in there? For instance, let's talk about the 5 following points (you can add "in general" to each one of them):
Why are so many people getting upset when someone starts mentioning the fact that women and men are biologically different and that this most likely leads to different preferences, ways of reasoning, etc? Don't we have different chromosomes for starters? Doesn't that yield different looks, hormones, organs and many other things that will impact the way someone thinks? So is it that hard to imagine that our brains do function differently and that may lead to behavioral differences on average? Oh wait, as pointed out byhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9047287, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10980296, etc.).
But of this I've observed a complete denial. And the worst is, I myself felt the need to quote a woman's tweet because you know, it would actually hinder my point otherwise.Women and men do not have the same innate interests
Anyway, let's discard the biological argument. Men and women are the same in every way, and would be interested in the same things if the system (yeah, that guy) didn't force them away from some career paths. To this I'll oppose my own personal experience, for what it's worth.
After my bachelor, I've personally done an engineering degree where, for the first couple of years, all students had the same scientific courses (mainly maths and physics). In my year, if I recall correctly we were 55% of men and 45% of women. After those couple of years, each student had to pick their major amongst 12 possibilities (depending on rankings and spots available of course). I went on to do CS, where we've had 9 women out of 136 students. My now wife chose biochemistry, a much smaller section with only 29 students. 4 of which were male - weirdly enough, while CS tried pretty hard to attract more females, I don't recall the biochemistry department doing the same to get more male students.
I don't think those were women not feeling empowered to be leaders, or not being respected, being driven away from hard sciences or not getting paid enough? While yes, young girls might be driven away from scientific disciplines by many factors, in this case we are talking about the choice of smart, adult women of the 21st century deciding on what interests them the most. Must have been an exception.Half-half gender representation is not something we should aim for
Then media outlets will remind us that only a third of Google employees are female. And only 20% in engineering roles! Shame on them!But, could it possibly be that, we don't get to 50% of female employees in tech because, at present, they generally show less interest in those disciplines and are therefore less represented? No? Why should we aim to get to a 50% proportion if the proportion in the pool we are picking from is not even close to that? And why would 50% be a target anyway? The target should be to ensure that good people are hired and that they are able to work well together, regardless of the minority they might be in. I think tech giants try hard to get that part right and to ensure that discriminations do not happen. Maybe the problem lies somewhere else: universities, or even at a younger age, in families (no we all know education has nothing to do with that kind of thing). Or maybe we could look at marketing and role models in our society. Maybe we just need time to let numbers even out, maybe there isn't even a problem to begin with, because females might actually be 5 times less likely to be naturally interested in tech. Who knows? Affirmative action is indeed worth debating
Recruitment also brings me to a point that was raised by the manifesto even though not clearly mentioned: affirmative action as an official stance or enforced by the social group or company culture. More widely known to other countries and languages as "positive discrimination" (interestingly enough). Is it that hard to see the point of people disagreeing with these kind of practices? Way harder than trying to make sound arguments about why it's a good thing for sure - especially since I don't recall having seen good studies demonstrating whether it is beneficial or detrimental to modern societies. At the least, favoring (and essentially victimizing) a minority endlessly does not sound like a good way to legitimize them or help them in identifying themselves as something else than being a part of that minority. The examples here are endless. One of my friends refers to this as the "this is all just because I'm black" syndrome. And yes, she is indeed black (otherwise her opinion on this wouldn't matter, right?).
Yes, releasing that document in that form and in a working environment was wrong and this alone was a big lack of judgment. But, if the whole gender equality situation wasn't taboo still, this manifesto would have been nothing more than a mediocre essay and treated as such. Techies would do what they are the supposed to be best at: pragmatically analyze the situation, criticize, point out flaws in the reasoning and bring forward facts and data. They wouldn't just blindly agree or disagree with the whole thing, ask for the guy's head and derive arbitrary conclusions from unverified statements, much like the original document did.
To me, both the manifesto and most of the replies I've seen follow the same logic. You know, that new way of arguing, where one singles out a specific point from an issue and throws in a good punchline to settle the matter, without trying to take a step back or think about the bigger picture. Even better if done through a channel where the target cannot defend itself. Then, on both sides, people read the opinions of those that already agree with them and each community eventually fuels itself. I seem to recall a President once got elected like this.