Memo indicates Orwell Lives On at Google
James Damore is fortunate that we don’t burn heretics at the stake, because he has blasphemed.
The fired Google engineer might as well have been writing a script designed to prove that one of the world’s largest companies embodies every left-wing stereotype imaginable — blinkered, intolerant and authoritarian. Damore’s memo alleged that one problem with Google’s corporate culture is that people feel “shamed into silence” on important questions, and, bam, they fired him. Hollywood might have rejected such a script, on the grounds that Google would never do something that so confirms people’s suspicions about the left. These are supposed to be the smartest people, right?
Damore told the truth. This is not to endorse every word of his memo, but he was completely right that the subject of innate differences between men and women has become taboo. He pointed out, fairly, that whereas some on the right reject science on questions of climate change and evolution, some (many?) on the left resist science on issues of biological differences between men and women. Among left-leaning intellectuals, and that includes the types who run Google, it is not only assumed that all observed differences in traits, interests and choices between the sexes are the result of oppression (or are “socially constructed”); it is heresy to question this view.
Left-wing outlets, such as Vox, have labeled Damore’s memo a “sexist screed,” and Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president for “diversity, integrity, and governance” issued a statement declining even to link to the memo because “it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender … and it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes, or encourages.” That doesn’t quite capture it. Google suppresses dissent, just as the memo claimed. Orwell lives.
So what did he say that was so intolerable? Did he say that women aren’t smart? Did he say that women should not be recruited to work at Google? Hardly. He offered that perhaps biological differences between the sexes partially account for the fact that women are not 50 percent of the engineers at Google (though they are about 48 percent of Google’s non-tech employees). He observed that, on average, men tend to be more interested in things and women more interested in people. What a scandal! Except, in 2015, women accounted for 20.03 percent of all engineering graduates but 84.43 percent of health professionals. As Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute noted, the share of women holding tech positions at Google (20 percent) is close to the percentage of women computer science graduates (18 percent).
Damore said that men are more competitive and women more cooperative. Studies of the effects of testosterone and other hormones confirm that there is a biological foundation for these differing traits. Damore noted that women prefer more workplace flexibility than men and that, accordingly, Google might want to permit more part-time work to accommodate women’s preferences. He pleaded, above all, that Google treat every person as an individual.
It is remarkable to me that any difference between the sexes is presumed to be a disadvantage for women — to the point that facts must be suppressed and orthodoxy enforced.
Our society erupts in routine firestorms about women in technical fields because that is one of the few fields that is male-dominated. But women far outnumber men in many other realms. Besides earning 56 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, women comprise 55 percent of financial managers, 59 percent of budget analysts and 63 percent of insurance underwriters. Sixty-one percent of veterinarians are women, along with 72 percent of PhD psychologists. Why are these disparities tolerable?
What Damore said about men being attracted to things and women to people is a generalization. Individuals vary. Some women are into engineering and technical subjects, God bless them, just as some men are drawn to pediatrics and social work. But the bell curves are different, and the fact that men lag behind women in veterinary medicine is not necessarily due to structural sexism or discrimination. It may be a matter of preference. That was Damore’s point about engineers at Google. The other truth obscured by this frenzy is that the economy is tilting in the direction of women’s natural advantages, not men’s. The post-industrial economy rewards communication skills, interpersonal skills and cooperative efficiency. Men’s physical strength, independence and willingness to endure danger are of diminishing value. Those are challenges we must address for everyone’s good. But as Google just showed to its shame, you can’t say that and hope to survive in corporate America.