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Google Grapples With Fallout After Employee Slams Diversity Efforts (npr.org) 546

An anonymous reader shares a report from NPR: In a 3,300-word document that has been shared across Google's internal networks, an engineer at the company wrote that "biological causes" are part of the reason women aren't represented equally in its tech departments and leadership. The document also cited "men's higher drive for status." The engineer's criticism of Google's attempts to improve gender and racial diversity has prompted two Google executives to rebut the lengthy post, which accused the company of creating an "ideological echo chamber" and practicing discrimination. Wide sharing of the document has highlighted struggles with gender equality and the wage gap in the tech industry and particularly at Google, which was sued by the federal government earlier this year for refusing to share compensation amounts and other data.

But in contrast, the document's author -- whose identity hasn't been publicly released but who claims to work at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters -- accused Google of having "a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence." Not enough has been done, the engineer said, to encourage a diversity of viewpoints and ideologies at Google. The author also faulted the company for offering mentoring and other opportunities to its employees based on gender or race. The engineer began the document by stating, "I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don't endorse using stereotypes." The message ended with a similar sentiment -- but with the added notion, "Stereotypes are much more accurate and responsive to new information than the [company's] training suggests."
In addition to the responses made from Google's VP of Diversity, Integrity and Governance, Danielle Brown, former engineer Yonatan Zunger, and Google VP of Engineering Ari Balogh, senior developer Sarah Mei wrote: "This guy almost certainly thinks of himself as a 'computer scientist,' but he does exactly what you're not supposed to do as a scientist. He draws a conclusion favorable to his ego, and then works backwards from there, constructing an argument to justify it. [...] This google dude literally works at the company that made it _trivially easy_ to locate relevant social science research."
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Google Grapples With Fallout After Employee Slams Diversity Efforts

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  • One guy (Score:4, Informative)

    by nwaack ( 3482871 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @04:24PM (#54958661)
    These are the opinions of a single person, not Google itself. They shouldn't have to deal with fallout because he's got dumb opinions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They should, instead, deal with the fallout for having a moronic position like a VP of Diversity, Integrity and Governance.

      • Re: One guy (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        VP of Diversity, Integrity and Governance AKA Social Justice Warrior
        It's not a job, it's the Spanish Inquisition for anyone who disagrees with the dogma of the day.

    • Re:One guy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 07, 2017 @04:41PM (#54958787)

      They shouldn't have to deal with fallout because he's got dumb opinions.

      Except they opted not to actually argue against what he was saying... instead doubling down on the ideological echo chamber.

      It's always been interesting to me the intellectual shallowness I see from many on the left (like this case) where they refuse to debate or discuss those things which they view as settled. Even if true, the exploration of the topic creates insights and a deeper understanding not of the end result, but how it is achieved.

      But then... they still don't understand how/why Trump won.

      • Re:One guy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cecurry ( 4252485 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @05:02PM (#54958959)
        Jesus Christ. Can we not have a discussion without blaming something on "the left" or "the right"?
    • One SMART guy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Monday August 07, 2017 @05:07PM (#54959001) Homepage Journal

      They shouldn't have to deal with fallout because he's got dumb opinions.

      Had they really been "dumb" opinions, they would've been easy to dismiss. The very problem for Google — and the "progressives" everywhere — is that the man's opinions are perfectly reasonable and well-argued.

      The particular point I appreciated was that any "gap" between sexes, races, etc. is not automatically evidence of an evil bias, contrary to what Social Justice Warriors would like us to believe. Such a bias may be responsible for a gap — entirely or partially — but it also may not. And, obviously, any efforts to fight the suspected discrimination, the very existence of which is "proven" by nothing else, with actual and deliberate discrimination is patently unfair — and bad for business.

      • Re:One SMART guy (Score:4, Insightful)

        by penandpaper ( 2463226 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @05:14PM (#54959069) Journal

        Further what I appreciated in the original was that any political bias will make it difficult to discuss the subject honestly. Since google is very left leaning any left leaning topic is difficult to discuss because of their political bias. The responses so far is what you would expect if his opinion was based in reality. Looks like it was.

    • by brennz ( 715237 )
      as opposed to your brilliant opinions?
  • . . . Vive la différence . . . !

    . . . this story sounds as simple as a couple going through a difficult divorce . . . you can't ever really know where the truth lies, but it is somewhere in between . . .

  • There is a simple solution - obligatory pay transparency within a company! No more hiding; either equal pay or cya!
    • by OhPlz ( 168413 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @04:34PM (#54958743)

      But two people can have the same job title but have very different performance, and performance is not something that's easily measured and recorded. Simple solutions are part of the problem.

      • And I have the same job title as 2 of my cow-orkers but we do totally different things... some overlap, but not a lot. And since we all started at the same time, we've gotten the same raises (yay state employment with fixed percent raises... when we get them...), so we all make the same, at least in our base jobs (2 of us have second part time jobs as overload work with same employer - and we make the same in THAT spot too).

        And pay transparency? Yup - got that too. Sunshine law and anyone can request a d

  • Shaming... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Marc_Hawke ( 130338 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @04:31PM (#54958721)

    I think it's interesting how this guy is being shamed for posting a controversial opinion. ;) Where did I read about that happening? Oh that's right..it reportedly happens at Google.

    I read the manifesto...the whole thing. He makes two spurious and generalizing claims (women are more cooperative, men are driven by status) but everything else in the paper are legitimate concerns about "how" diversity is being enforced. He also gives a lot of suggestions as to how it could be better fostered and/or measured.

    The part I dislike the most is how most of the published reactions are couched in damage control and distancing themselves from the author. In reality they needed to be inclusive saying how they want to hear everyone's opinions and how they take those concepts into account when making policy. Basically, the public responses have just reinforced the complaints that the author had with the programs in the first place. (Especially Sarah Mei, who basically just called him names and insulted his intelligence without any sort of direct rebuttal to his claims.)

    • Re:Shaming... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @04:37PM (#54958765)

      Mod parent up. I don't think there can be a more damning reaction from the left than a collective freakout and immediate calls for censorship of wrongthink.

      If the intent is to debunk the original author's points, screaming "bad, bad, bad thinker!", is literally the most unpersuasive move in the book.

      It's almost as if nobody actually has any logical, reasoned response to his critique...

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        People criticise his arguments and he is "shamed" because he now looks foolish or illiberal or whatever.

        How would you propose preventing this "shaming" without limiting people's freedom of speech?

        • Re:Shaming... (Score:4, Informative)

          by brennz ( 715237 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @05:30PM (#54959157)

          Almost all of his post from within Google has been completely altered for posting in the Media. References removed, no support for arguments, etc. I'm not sure we can say what is showing up in the media is even his arguments, since all the support material has been amputated.

          This is hardly an open discussion.

        • Please, criticize a single one of his arguments.

          Note, screaming "everything they say is absolutely wrong and we shouldn't tolerate such violent, corrosive thoughts!", is *not* a critique.

          • Re:Shaming... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:31PM (#54959655) Homepage Journal

            Please, criticize a single one of his arguments.

            Okay.

            He says women are less inclined to negotiate for higher salaries. Studies show that when they do, they are often punished for being "bossy" or "shrill", rather than it being some biological imperative.

            He says women prefer a better work/life balance, but attributes it to biology. There seem to be other reasons though, like the fact that they tend to do more of the unpaid labour (chores, child care etc.) and are judged more harshly for putting in long hours that neglect their families and friends. And he doesn't seem to think that men would benefit from not working longer hours either, it's implied to be a positive trait that justifiably results in rewards.

            He claims that women are more neurotic and less able to deal with stress. In fact we know that women are simply more likely to speak up when they are under heavy stress and seek support for it, rather than bottling it up, rather than being less able to cope.

            Three for the price of one.

            • by Kjella ( 173770 )

              He says women prefer a better work/life balance, but attributes it to biology. There seem to be other reasons though, like the fact that they tend to do more of the unpaid labour (chores, child care etc.) and are judged more harshly for putting in long hours that neglect their families and friends.

              And how much of that boils down to biology, is it external pressure to do most the child care or a biological instinct? Many women can talk equality and feminism all day but the vast, vast majority of moms will grab the role as caretaker with both hands and make dad take care of other things. Even when the wage gap is small or even inverted, it's almost always mom working part time or the one who can't work overtime. It's exceptionally rare for women to lose the daily custody in a divorce. Is it all just so

            • He says women are less inclined to negotiate for higher salaries. Studies show that when they do, they are often punished for being "bossy" or "shrill"

              Cite, please.

              are judged more harshly for putting in long hours that neglect their families and friends.

              Do you also find it sexist that men are judged more harshly for *not* putting in long hours, and are expected to neglect their family and friends?

              He claims that women are more neurotic and less able to deal with stress.

              Now, let's be specific here. He says "

      • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

        It's almost as if nobody actually has any logical, reasoned response to his critique...

        Because it's simply earlier to ignore everything that came before his critique in a "last words win" mode of analysis?

        It's not as if nobody has addressed this before [google.com].

        There. You have a logical, reasoned response to his critique. Game on.

        • Your cite supports him. From the first hit:

          "Results indicated that no gender differences in programming performance were found after controlling for the effect of student ability."

          So...after you control for ability (which may be driven by gender), there's no difference in performance.

          Would you like to perhaps be more specific in your critique?

    • Re:Shaming... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by computational super ( 740265 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @04:42PM (#54958797)
      It's funny (not in a haha way, though), how in their desperate attempt not to alienate one demographic, they're so quick to alienate another with no indication that they so much as care. As of now, there's nowhere else for the throwaway straight white men that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft have no use for, but if such an avenue does open up, it'll be interesting to see how many flock to where they're actually welcomed and wanted. And doubly interesting to see if that actually creates a competitive advantage.
      • Don't kid yourself. The reason that Google et al developers are majority straight white males (and Asians) is because that's by and large what is available in the talent pool of qualified applicants. You can't hire a black developer if you can't find one with the skillsets you require, and Google has just about zero control over that. Meaning that, this is all theater. Don't think for a second that any diversity / quotas will get in the way of billion dollar software companies developing the technology
    • by Shatrat ( 855151 )

      When I was on the Google campus last year they had fliers posted on the wall above the urinal basically telling me how overpaid and privileged I am, as a man.
      I've got no doubt that there's a lot of vocally pissed off self-righteous people in Mountain View right now. Wait, that's a tautology.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They aren't "spurious and generalizing claims", they are statistical descriptions of behavior over a large population of individuals.
      Yes, statistics shows that women tend to be more openly cooperative. Individuals vary significantly, but on average the conclusion holds.
      Yes, statistics shows that men tend to be more concerned with status. Individuals vary significantly, but on average the conclusion holds.
      This is exactly what he said - on average, these things are true.

      Your sort of reaction to supposed ste

    • I didn't get time to read his whole publication. But if you want to shut out all the subjective stuff about hurting someone's feelings or upsetting them over treatment they perceive as "unfair"? I think you *always* come back to one truth: The optimal way to hire people is based on who is most qualified for the job.

      Workplace diversity is pretty much a code name for "guilt over the realization that our business wound up selecting an obvious majority of hires from the same ethnic background or sex".

      I'm not s

    • by Rmorph ( 692035 )
      When the core tenet of a manifesto is so patently false and absurd then OF COURSE the guy who wrote it will be shamed. It is a shameful document. Replace "Women" with "Blacks" or "Jews" or "Muslims" and see how legitimate this manifesto is. Through history various commentators have attempted to define "Biological Differences" as the central reason why one group of human beings will perform better than others at various tasks. And then remember we're talking about maths, science and technology skills. Leade
    • everything else in the paper are legitimate concerns about "how" diversity is being enforced.

      One of his claims about how diversity is being "enforced" is factually erroneous. He says that Google offers programs which make it easier for "diversity" candidates to get hired, and claims that those programs are only open to women and minority races.

      As it happens, I work for Google, and do university outreach to my alma mater, which is a small four-year commuter university quite different from the big-name schools that lots of Googlers attended. Because the school is one that Google typically does not

  • Google and the valley are increasingly hostile towards conservative values. I don't want to read rebuttals from google executives, I want to know what exactly they are going to do to make sure google is a safe workspace for conservatives and that conservative viewpoints can be openly expressed by those who work there.

    • Which conservative value is at issue here ?
  • Yesterday's slashdot post on this got over 900 comments, and it was a weekend post. Do we really need another round on this topic?
    • Yesterday's slashdot post on this got over 900 comments, and it was a weekend post. Do we really need another round on this topic?

      Your logic is backwards. A lot of comments means people care about this issue and want to discuss it. A very low number of comments would be better evidence that another round is unwarranted.

  • This sounds a lot like this story posted earlier. [slashdot.org]
  • This guy almost certainly thinks of himself as a 'computer scientist,' but he does exactly what you're not supposed to do as a scientist. He draws a conclusion favorable to his ego, and then works backwards from there, constructing an argument to justify it.

    Maybe "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley" [amzn.to] by Antonio Garcia Martinez? Or was it "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal" [amzn.to] by Nick Bilton? It can't be "The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network" [amzn.to] by Katherine Losse, as I just started reading that one last night. All three books have douche bags in common, especially from Google and Facebook.

  • I guess this one is good for a few more days.

  • news
    noun
            newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events.

    That's an article from September 2016.

  • PC Thugs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Here's the problem: Men and Women ARE factually different, both physiologically and physcologically.

    Letting political correctness attempt to solve a problem that is not there is absurd, and frankly at this point stupid. I don't see the huge push to get men into nursing (>90% female), social services (>80% female) or elementary school teaching (>80% female).

  • by sciengin ( 4278027 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @04:54PM (#54958895)

    So far every single "rebuttal" from google and outside, every autistic screeching, every angry tweet and call for his firing and public outing simply confirms what he said.

    Instead to tackling the deep issues of PC culture they are trying to kill the messenger.
    The very existence of a VP for diversity at an engineering company should be a wake up call.
    And lets not even get to her asinine "arguments" that are anything but. Sara Meis response is even worse actually (not that I thought it could be possible). Instead of citing data that disproves his arguments (protip: does not exist, neither does the wage gap) she puts words in his mouth ("conclusions that favor his ego") and implies that he did not arrive to those conclusions by observation but apparently HAD to work backwards.

    • Its projection.

      Working backwards from the conclusion is how the left operates.
      • My thoughts exactly, although I had hoped that this time its was simply done randomly because the dice of ad-hominem had fallen on it.

  • Google is turning into a liberal version of Skynet anyway. I'm changing my default search engine to https://duckduckgo.com/ [duckduckgo.com]
  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @05:13PM (#54959061)

    I glanced through Sarah Mei's Twitter page, and she's full of shit. She seems not to get why women in tech might not be evenly distributed.

    * Suppose you have a culture that hires based on personal referral. (It's usually one of the best ways to go.)
    * Suppose your culture starts out with a male nucleus.
    * Suppose your male nucleus mostly has male contacts.

    You're gonna get a mainly male culture.

    Companies don't hire the best candidate available. Companies hire the candidate for whom they have the most confidence of strong performance, meaning that the route into the door matters a lot. Applicants at large will not be given equal shrift to applicants with a strong, internal referral.

    From that starting point, the organization is subject to network effects, none of which need to be intrinsically biased in order to lead to a biased outcome (as determined by simple headcount).

    One can argue that the sorry state of women in technology justifies taking active measures against the default behaviour of your (potentially) gender-neutral starting point. One can't argue that failing to take active measures automatically incriminates your starting point as gender discriminatory.

    In Sarah's world where water isn't wet, and laudable corporations seek the best candidate while paying no attention to existing network effects, you can draw these conclusions, loudly and with no nuance, should it serve your purpose.

    I'm not saying that innocent bias doesn't coexist with toxic bias. I am saying that presumptive guilt is an extremely dangerous tool as wielded by a small, angry imagination.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Suppose you have a culture that hires based on personal referral. (It's usually one of the best ways to go.)

      Only if you are trying to build a monoculture, the very thing that this guy is complaining about.

      One can't argue that failing to take active measures automatically incriminates your starting point as gender discriminatory.

      This is a very common misunderstanding. It's institutionally biased. It's not that the individuals involved are sexists or deliberately trying to build a monoculture, it's that the model they are using, the common model of hiring by personal recommendation for example, creates bias. Bias that creates a monoculture and hurts the business.

      It's not about blaming people for this, it's about recognizing that there ar

  • If the comment was written by a woman, would it have sparked this much fauxrage?

    Maybe they should use the percentage of a gender able and willing to work in a position as a baseline instead of the percentage in the general population. That would screw up the narrative, though.

  • Shakespeare (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:00PM (#54959373)

    What an amazing exhibition of group-think. Google has accumulated thousands of Sarah Meis and by extension the Valley etc. has accrued a couple million rigorously orthodox malcontents. We're now into day three of that monoculture's collective apoplexy because one powerless nobody had the temerity to question the dogma.

    Thou doth protest too much, methinks.

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:01PM (#54959383)

    The text is a very detailed well written and very nuanced opinion-piece and excellent food for an educated debate on the issue. He may make wrong assumptions and may be unable to cite resources, but the essay itself is well rounded and has some excellent talking points. If you don't agree or see flaws in his chain of thought, write and talk about it. If arguments or conclusions of his are wrong, debunk them. But please stop this public shaming and hysteria, this has nothing to do anymore with equal rights or neccesary gender issue discussions.

    I really wish we could talk without this all-out hatered and PR assasination of people, mostly by feminists, some of whom seem to think of feminism of some sort of religious ideology.

  • by Tim2 ( 151713 ) <twegner@NoSpAM.swbell.net> on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:15PM (#54959489)

    Prior to 1970 most symphony orchestra musicians were men. Then around 1970 blind auditions (when you don't know who is playing or their gender) started to become common, and are now nearly universal. As a result, symphony musicians today are nearly evenly split between genders. See: http://gap.hks.harvard.edu/orc... [harvard.edu]

    I have interviewed prospective software developers in my career, and know that it was very difficult, if not impossible, to counteract my own prejudices even when I wanted to be fair. To be a woman interviewed for a job by someone with the views of the Google employee who believed women are genetically inferior for engineering would be devastating. Even someone with more even handed views undoubtedly harbors some bias.

    I don't know if "blind interviews" for engineers will ever be practical, so maybe we are stuck with perpetuating our prejudices on hiring decisions indefinitely.

  • by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:32PM (#54959671) Homepage
    Statistical analysis by function, creates groups. It's interesting that we group numbers, genes, animals... however it's somehow evil, in a new century way, to group based on gender

    The reality is men tend to process spatially where as women tend to process verbally. that is biology. These are not absolutes, as varying individuals on both sides of the spectrum cross. However, generally it's true... and yes, I'm grouping. Anyone who claims different is a liar or misinformed. There's no debate, men and women are wired differently.
    https://www.scientificamerican... [scientificamerican.com]
    I'm sure most people on this forum have seen those ads or politicians stating "everyone needs to learn to program" and smirk to yourself or get upset knowing it's ludicrous as well
    This is the same. People have predispositions to specific tendencies and processes that make some professional trades ideal, where as others, not so much. Given that mathematics, and computer programming via extension, tend to favor those who process information spatially, this biologically implies males would be more likely to perform these tasks and drawn to them.
    Again, I'm not saying "all", just general tendencies.
    But we as reasonable people need to stop going apesh*t when someone suggests that the everyone is not the same or some people can not perform tasks as well as others. .
  • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @09:18PM (#54960817)

    "We can accept many transgressions, but we cannot accept thoughtcrime. It is the most dangerous to our authority."

    And he's terminated as of now. [bloomberg.com]

    It is a business though. However, if they want out of the box thinkers... I dunno.

  • by TooManyNames ( 711346 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @09:40PM (#54960921)

    Aaaaannd he's gone [theverge.com]. Utterly shocking, I know.

    Remember kids, keep your harmful* opinions to yourself.

    *The threshold for harmful opinion is subject to change. Google reserves the right to declare any idea, and the expression thereof, as harmful at any time, and will not tolerate employment or use of Google services by those expressing such ideas.

My idea of roughing it turning the air conditioner too low.

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