Last weekend the internet made way for a 10-page manifesto formally asking #Google to reconsider its plans to diversify the company. The message came from a senior software engineer who has since been fired from his position at Google.

The writer was, unsurprisingly, a cis man by the name of James Damore. He held that women were underrepresented because of immutable biological differences, and urged that Google should not offer programs to correct any gender disparities in the company. This credo, to be clear, was directed towards women more than any other minority group.

Psychological safety and biases

Although the statement was very well-written– so well-written in fact, that I am afraid many conservatives and otherwise will agree with it– there are many fallacies in the author’s argument, that I can only imagine Damore failed to notice due to his misogyny.

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Titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” Damore’s manifesto starts with the claim that he values #Diversity and inclusion, and does not deny that #sexism exists. Lacking a proper transition, he goes on to discuss the importance of psychological safety, a shared belief that the team is safe for psychological risk taking.

As one would expect, those who feel secure out of their comfort zones would be more likely to discourage ideas that are bad for business, call out bad behavior, and the like. Basically, psychological risk taking is a very good corporate model. True psychological safety, however, can only be achieved when a team is completely comfortable with those around them. Obviously, sexism would disrupt this, and misrepresent any risk taking that does happen.

Damore agrees but argues that shaming dissenters would create another problem related to psychological safety, presuming that Google's “political bias” is alienating conservatives.

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He also asserts that underrepresentation cannot be cured with discrimination, and that oppression is not the cause of all gender gaps.

I would refute that alienating conservatives is not such a bad thing, or rather the effect is more exaggerated than should be. Being a conservative is not the same as being crucified for one's mostly stagnant identity, an identity that conservatives, as a rule, disagree with. Liberals, on the other hand, would endorse that person’s civil rights, as being of an “underrepresented” or oppressed identity is notably worse than being “alienated”. It means living a life full of systemized discrimination.

In fact, Damore holds that political orientation is a result of “deep moral preferences”, and that since Google, social sciences, and media largely lean left, we should thereby re-evaluate these preferences. This is not entirely true. Though Google and media lean left, they are more so moderate, and any lean could itself be viewed that way as a relative bias from conservatives.

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Social sciences are just plain research. Thus, any left-leaning is founded in extensive academia.

At any rate, the identities I referred to are ethically neutral and harm nobody, yet conservatives (with their beliefs and actions) denigrate them. Still, conservatives believe in the legal and political vilification of these identities– for example, being Black or gay– through policing and legislation amongst other things. And in a simple business perspective, this would be horrible for psychological safety.

Secondly, discrimination is an odd word to call Google's diversity programs. Discrimination is defined as recognizing differences and/or unjust bias. If Damore acknowledges that sexism exists but also thinks that differences in traits between men and women prevent equal representation, then discrimination would be more equivalent to Damore’s judgment; diversifying Google would be the opposite in its efforts to correct discrimination.

Lastly, the idea that oppression is not inherently the cause of gender gaps is valid. Yet, the opposing view is just as unlikely, that certain biological differences are. When we talk about oppression and how it manifests systematically, research and statistical information are accounted for. This meaning that where representation stands as it is, it is actually more objectively questionable, more so than Damore would believe by his reasoning. In this case, oppression is the most likely cause, and biological differences not at all, for two principles reasons.

Biological differences

Damore does not state any actual biological differences. Only that women are more neurotic on average; show more interest in people than things; are more worried about aesthetics than ideas; express extroversion through gregariousness, not assertiveness; are highly agreeable; more cooperative; look for more work-life balance, as opposed to men who want status; and that men are ranked by status, women for their beauty.

These statements are not based on factual information. Damore denies biological differences as being socially constructed, as they exist in every culture. Such a presumption cannot possibly be supported logically, as it would mean that he presumes to know of every culture. But even so, it is not as if patriarchy and sexism have not existed in almost every known society. His only example against the idea of social constructs is that “biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males.” The word “often” minimizes his argument, and he cites no research anyways.

Even besides the biological argument, each difference he lists is indubitably based on socially constructed values of femininity and masculinity, those he admits has to do with gender roles, of which men’s are, in his words, “currently inflexible.”

His contradictory statements suggest that the gender gap is society's problem rather than sexism’s. Yet, he refuses to address that sexism ties men and women to unnecessary gender roles, and encouraging more women to enter tech fields could very well mitigate the impact of these oppressive structures. To put it simply, sexism is embedded within the structure of society.

Damore’s whole foundation is ciscentric. Biological differences have no legitimate basis as biology does not determine gender. Here is another item by which the manifesto has no bearings, and fails indiscriminately to be trans-inclusive.

Harm done and suggestions

The manifesto’s most relevant parts are perhaps where Damore explains the harm Google biases could do along with his suggestions.

The harm he perceives generally has to do with hiring practices and affinity programming meant to help Google achieve more diverse representation. This sounds like classic affirmative action, which does more good than harm, in my opinion. The dissensions made against it are usually similar to Damore’s, in that they are not well-founded.

For instance, any hiring practices used to promote diversity typically are not very affecting and play a small part in the full process. Believing that these practices “lower the bar,” as he puts it, is overtly sexist, racist, and probably based on Damore’s own insecurities. The only proposal Damore offers that I might agree with is a need for transparency in the aforementioned process. Howbeit, legitimate affirmative action policies might look at two candidates with the same qualifications and choose the person of an underrepresented group, therein providing context as to how sexism would otherwise disqualify worthy candidates, even if both competing candidates are objectively deserving of the position.

His final suggestions include demoralizing diversity, de-emphasising empathy, and discussing the cost and benefits of diversity.

As far as cost and benefits, Damore’s “larger point is that...we should...treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group.” This being the case, then diversity would not have to mean any decrease in profit at all since hiring more women or a more racially diverse group of people would just amount to hiring credentialed individuals and employees.

The same rules apply for his antagonism towards diversity and empathy. Diversity and empathy, as established here, are not harmful. To fit his agenda, such values would mean treating women as individuals, individuals with a set of skills worth crediting, but also humans worthy of empathy.

Change is good

James Damore’s ideas to reduce discrimination are enriching, that we create more roles for women to fill in spite of our differences. But it is everything but more gender roles that we need right now. We need change (what Damore’s sees as the left’s unstable weakness, weakness being another thing that the left is apparently compassionate about).

Anything else would create static. And despite his formality, Damore’s compassion for conservatives– but evidently not for women, diversity, or the “weak”– do not stand up to the fact that big companies need to migrate past traditionalist values in order for innovation to occur. If Damore truly cared about Google as a company, he would understand that change is crucial.

His feelings that we are blind to Google’s bad diversity tactics due to left bias are reciprocated in my feelings that Damore is blind to his own biases. He is blind because, despite his engaging albeit prolonged piece, Damore has only formalized misogyny, and is a misogynist at heart. No thanks for the mansplaining.