Google fired James Damore for his memo about Google's gender diversity policies. Quoted are these parts of the memo that claim that in spite of significant overlap, innate biological differences between men and women may be responsible for the underepresentation of women in tech and leadership. Original links to Wikipedia articles, scientific papers & other sources preserved.
On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
- They’re universal across human cultures
- They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
- Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
- The underlying traits are highly heritable
- They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective
Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.
- Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).
- These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.
- Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.
- This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there’s overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women’s issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support.
- Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).
- This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.
Note that contrary to what a social constructionist would argue, research suggests that "greater nation-level gender equality leads to psychological dissimilarity in men’s and women’s personality traits." Because as “society becomes more prosperous and more egalitarian, innate dispositional differences between men and women have more space to develop and the gap that exists between men and women in their personality traits becomes wider.” We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism .
We always ask why we don't see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life. Status is the primary metric that men are judged on [For heterosexual romantic relationships, men are more strongly judged by status and women by beauty . Again, this has biological origins and is culturally universal.], pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail. Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths .
Some commentators in the academic community said he had gotten the science right, such as Debra Soh, a sexual neuroscientist at York University in Toronto; Jordan Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto; Lee Jussim, a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University; and Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychology professor at University of New Mexico. David P. Schmitt, former professor of psychology at Bradley University; said that the memo was right about average group differences, but one could not use it to judge individuals.
Others said that he had got the science wrong and relied on data that was suspect, outdated, irrelevant, or otherwise flawed; these included Gina Rippon, chair of cognitive brain imaging at Aston University; evolutionary biologist Suzanne Sadedin; Rosalind Barnett, a psychologist at Brandeis University, and Caryl Rivers, a professor of journalism at Boston University.
Journalistic coverage of the science behind the memo reflected these concerns; Angela Saini said that Damore failed to understand the research he cited, while John Horgan criticized the track record of evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics. Owen Jones said that the memo was "guff dressed up with pseudo-scientific jargon" and cited a former Google employee saying that it failed to show the desired qualities of an engineer.
Does the science support the claims made by James Damore that women, on average, are biologically less inclined to take jobs in tech and leadership?