Readers write: Sexist memo at Google?

Letters to the editor 

Reuters/Mike Blake
The Google logo atop an office building in Irvine, California, August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

We received a relatively large number of reader responses to our Aug. 9 article "Troubling trend behind sexist memo at Google", which looked at the issues raised by James Damore's 10-page memo about diversity at Google. Most of the responses we received were critical of the story. In the spirit of listening, understanding our readership, and improving our coverage, here are some excerpts from those responses. 

Damore [the author of the memo] was very careful to note that, when speaking about tendencies among men and women, he was talking about averages, and that these tendencies could in no way suffice for judgment of individual persons. His argument was not that women are unfit for jobs in the software industry, but that, on average, they tend to be less attracted to them because of the nature of those jobs. His descriptions of average tendencies among women (greater openness to and interest in people, greater value for work-life balance, greater tendency toward cooperation) were not at all denigrating--if anything, he was highlighting strengths, strengths which most people would readily acknowledge....

No one is questioning the value of diversity here; Damore's memo was simply a call to reassess the means that many companies are taking to build a more diverse workforce. The fact that those with conser vative viewpoints can be fired for questioning company policies seems to me to create a far more hostile work environment than thoughtful men like Damore ever have. - D. Welch

[Damore] didn't argue "that women aren’t biologically fit for certain jobs." He argued that biological differences between the sexes may be relevant factors when averaged out across large populations, and if we can't honestly discuss these issues without fear of backlash (ex. getting fired), ironically in the name of diversity & inclusion, we'll never be able to have the kind of diverse & inclusive norms we're reaching for.

To characterize this as a polarized, sexist statement only leads to anger on both sides, encouraging liberals to feel justified in desiring punishment (shaming etc.) and conservatives disgusted by more "liberal nonsense."

Looking at the political climate in America today I think this is the real issue we need to discuss. Acceptance of open, honest discussion, and what true inclusiveness actually means. - Ryan

Women in tech

As a woman who entered the tech world before the internet and continued managing multiple systems, hardware, software, cabling and coding, I feel I have a unique perspective. I agree whole-heartedly with the purportedly offensive memo. It takes special skills and a particular mindset to be naturally successful in the tech industry. It is no coincidence that the computer industry is populated by "nerds". Programming and understanding the problems requires logic, leaps of insight, and a determined focus. I worked with very few women who had the same skill set as the men. The women were generally unable to get to the fine detail of the systems and preferred working with other people instead of chips and circuit boards. I saw it as a challenge, but I work logic and math problems for fun. 

The [Monitor] author was predisposed to view this as a problem of sexism and should have interviewed people of both sexes in the industry before coming to that conclusion. Diversity in the workplace meant that those of us who are naturally competent and excited by the challenge of the job must work twice as hard to make up for the incompetence of others. I had a manager tell me it was okay that another woman could only do half of what I could accomplish. It was more important that more women were in the industry. 
Journalism should present both sides and not assume you know the answer. - Mace

I'd like to see future articles about this topic, specifically how leaders in the tech industry plan to deal with the issue of misogyny since it is taking place in their own backyard and not just an outside issue that technology facilitates for others. This issue touches them, their businesses and their reputations and any hypocrisy or failure to deal with it will be open and visible to all. - Marianne Scott

... I'm a software developer, moderate politically, and I think women in tech is great, and like some of the programs that promote them. In my college there were not many women CS majors (2 out of 150). They were offered tablets to join/stay in the program and were given extra attention by the faculty. This was great ..

After college, one of my friends Molly, tells me about all the advantages women have in tech. There are special conferences that men are not allowed to attend that bring in employers who specifically want women programers. I say great.... Also from what I have seen, most of the women in tech are front end designers who deal with UX (user experience and design) and this is a mo re people oriented skill set then back end server or algorithm optimization type work. So I think there is some merit to what the author is saying. Am I saying men are better at those jobs; absolutely not! Am I wondering if despite all the advantages for women in tech why more don't want to do it and am I considering that it may not be 100% discrimination as the author suggests, you bet! - Eric

Don't oversimplify 

 This article demonizes an entire industry because of the ideas of one person. It is doing the very thing that the writer of the memo did - resorting to invalid and sexist generalizations.

His supporters actually do have a point: The guy is condemned not because his ideas were wrong, but because his views were unpopular. Instead of refuting his statements his detractors attacked him and demanded his persecution. - Ray Fischer

What does the memo say?

Disappointed you didn't provide a link to the "manifesto." By neglecting to include or provide a link to Damore's original document, you're strengthening the ill-informed echo chambers on both sides. [Editor's note: A link has been added] - Deborah Devedjian 

When I read the Google memo, I was surprised. It wasn't the hate filled, sexist memo I expected but a well thought out, seemingly sincere attempt at bringing harmony to the author's workplace.  Though clearly, it was wrongheaded and written by someone who could use some more perspective on the matter.
What confused me more was the subjectivity of the CSM article... - David Geller

 "On its face, the idea that women can’t do certain jobs because they are women is categorically unacceptable."

Agree 100%.

This doesn't actually appear to be what Damore wrote, though. - Kaitain Jones

Did you actually read the memo? I believe he is wrong on the biological basis for differences, and as I read his memo he acknowledges he may be wrong. What he was asking for was discussion and meaningful dialog relative to diversity. He acknowledged that diversity is good and he would like to see greater diversity. He is an engineer. Engineers like to optimize systems and make them effective at reaching obtainable objectives. So objectives are questioned and the means of obtaining those objects are questioned. He does not question the benefits of diversity, he questions the quantitative measure used to identify success and the means of obtaining that success. These are important questions. - John Purser

This article misrepresents the memo by Damore:
- Never does Damore say that "women can’t do certain jobs because they are women" (as paragraph five of this article says).
- Never does Dalmore say that "men are ... better than women." as paragraph six of this article says (the words "different" and "better" have different meanings and aren't interchangeable)...

- Ad hominem attack is found throughout this article. For example, comparing Damore to "racists and misogynists" is ad hominem attack. Also, saying that "portions of Damore’s memo, though focused on gender, could have come from one of the white nationalist sites I study" is also pure ad hominem... - Skip Gain

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