Was Google Response to ‘Manifesto’ Good Enough?


For all the hand-wringing over one Google engineer’s ‘male rights manifesto’ discovered over the weekend, the company behind it has escaped rather unscathed. Was Google’s response the right one, though?

If you’re not familiar with the situation, it’s a sticky one. A Googler penned an internal document noting some fairly off-center ideals. As first reported by Motherboard and later posted in its entirety by Gizmodo, the “internally viral” paper, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” asserts things like biological differences between men and women are the reason Google has more male software engineers than female. It also posits that the company should end funding programs for underrepresented racial or gender minorities.

Speaking with Motherboard, one Googler said: “The broader context of this is that this person is perhaps bolder than most of the people at Google who share his viewpoint—of thinking women are less qualified than men—to the point he was willing to publicly argue for it. But there are sadly more people like him.” A former Google employee added: “I feel like there’s a lot of pushback from white dudes who genuinely feel like diversity is lowering the bar.”

Ron Burgundy It's Science
No… no, it’s not.

The paper’s author claims conservative views are silenced within the company while “harmful leftist” ideology is widely promoted. He claimed a more open culture embracing all points of view would be best. (Google later fired the employee.)

Google’s response was measured, and clearly written as a direct retort to the infamous paper’s existence rather than addressing its points. After kicking off the retort by noting she was new at her job, Google’s new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown, said everyone should have a voice at the company:

Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul. As Ari Balogh said in his internal G+ post, “Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ‘Nuff said.

Google has taken a strong stand on this issue, by releasing its demographic data and creating a company wide OKR on diversity and inclusion. Strong stands elicit strong reactions. Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable. But I firmly believe Google is doing the right thing, and that’s why I took this job.

Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.

Google Campus
Google Campus

Taking a Stand

On some level, Google has to walk a tightrope with these situations. Still, there’s a lot to unpack from its six-paragraph response to a ten-page manifesto.

We have to wonder how prevalent this thinking is within Google. “Official” responses such as this are typically crafted so as not to cause uproar. If a large portion of Google’s engineers share a similar viewpoint (as some assert), that suggests the company just didn’t want to enrage those folk by making a stand one way or another.

Extending this idea further along gender and racial lines, Google’s own diversity numbers might show why it didn’t immediately denounce the paper: 53 percent of its tech employees are white, and 80 percent are male.

While most focus on the sensationalism of the paper (such as the author’s view on why men are better equipped to succeed in tech), the author says: “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.” In his view, minorities from every walk of life should simply achieve success in tech on their own accord:

I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).

Google I/O 2017
Google I/O 2017

You could argue that he’s just out of touch, and doesn’t understand the need for programs that help underrepresented minorities find their way to tech jobs (and feel included while doing so). Google seems to share that view, but it isn’t taking that stand; it seems like a missed opportunity from a new diversity chief who could draw an early – and popular – line in the sand. (It might even help to curtail some recent bad PR for related issues, including sexual discrimination.)

Brown likely had more than a few eyes over her shoulder when releasing her letter, and this might simply be a response to known, internal conservative hand-wringing that has boiled over. But Google doesn’t make significant contributions to the programs the paper’s author takes umbrage to, and the numbers show its diversity initiatives are (slowly) working. Those are two things Google didn’t bother to touch on in its response.

Rather than try to stop the pot from boiling, Google could have turned the fire off with some cold hard facts that directly refute the author’s stance. Facebook sidelined – then dismissed – Palmer Luckey after it was discovered he was funding an ‘alt right’ movement. Virtual reality is core to the company’s ten-year plan, and yet it simply removed the leader of that initiative. Perhaps that’s the example companies should follow, not the non-commenting that tends to prevail.

23 Responses to “Was Google Response to ‘Manifesto’ Good Enough?”

  1. I am a staunchly left-leaning liberal in basically all arenas, yet I agree with the tenets put forth in the “manifesto” based on my own personal experience at Microsoft. There IS an ideological echo chamber in the tech corporate world. And we’ve lived in a society which encourages atonement for past racial and gender sins for so long that it has now become something of a reflex. But the pendulum can, and many feel, already has, swung too far. Let’s face it – when a corporation touts things like “diversity and inclusion”, they are EXcluding large portions of its workforce – namely, straight white males. While I witnessed week after week of “Native American Heritage Week”, posters in the halls celebrating women in the company’s management, and pride flags draped all over the cafeteria, I know the company is never going to have a “Straight White Males Week” in the name of ‘inclusion’. Diversity and inclusion has erroneously come to assume white men already have their due, but the truth is that as long as we favor single out ANY group over ANY other group, we will not truly have a society of equality. This kind of cultural affirmative action is going to backfire eventually.

    The women’s rights movement of the early 20th century, the black rights movement a generation or two later, and the more recent gay rights movement, all sprung up to change laws that flew in the face of widely held American values. Those movements were all successful in getting those laws changed. They all had a concrete goal in mind. However, current social justice movements are for the most part no longer in the business of changing laws, so what exactly is their end game? Does the idea of employee demographics exactly mirroring those of the society at large sound realistic, or even reasonable? Won’t there always be some demographic differences in factions of the workforce? Of course there will be, so then who is to decide when true “equality” among these groups is achieved?

    Young people entering the workforce today were not alive when the truly biased laws were still in place. Thanks to the efforts of those courageous movements of past generations, they have basically lived exclusively in a world in which legally, we are all equal, yet outrage against inequality is as shrill as ever. A 25-year-old white male, new to the job world, is made to feel guilt over his supposed privilege, yet likely has no direct experience of it. This state of affairs is not sustainable. Points of view like the Google author’s manifesto need to be out there. We must all be very careful what things we assume as inviolate truths. Silencing, ridiculing, even firing, those with ideological differences, is not going to solve anything, will in fact exacerbate problems, and actually contradicts the very principles of freedom of thought we all believe in.

    There are of course still race and gender-based inequalities in the world. But everyone’s goal should be the same – to come up with the most effective means possible to combat them. But as well-intentioned as “diversity and inclusion” efforts are, let’s not blindly assume it’s the right way to do so. The author of the manifesto is pointing this out, quite correctly. While we are striving for racial and gender diversity, we are ignoring ideological diversity at our peril.

    Your article cites percentages of white and males employees at Google, how out of balance it seems. Also often quoted in other places are statistics regarding the small number of females in C-level roles in the corporate world. But why is it that no one complains about the lack of female employees in, say, construction, or garbage collection, or ditch digging? I would assume female representation in those industries is even less. The point is there are still wide swaths of the workforce in which it is a GIVEN men will be doing the work. Why is that? And ask yourself if it is realistic to expect anyone to ever campaign to get more women into those jobs. Then ask yourself whether hand-wringing over percentages of certain subgroups in tech is really the issue.

    Google, and the tech corporation I worked for, are virtue signalling, plain and simple. The author of the manifesto was trying to point out their hypocrisy, and, like me, was fired for it.

  2. Pam Rotella

    I’m amazed by the younger generation who think the ability to code is something special. I’ve been in the IT field for 30 years, and if women aren’t choosing that career option anymore it’s because there just aren’t very many good-paying jobs left in it for Americans. One amazing thing to me is the rise of Waterfall methodology. We couldn’t wait to get out from under that in the 80s, and thankfully technology finally advanced enough for spiral to become the norm. Now that a lot of programmers are overseas or can’t speak English, we’re back to Waterfall. Why (other than cheapness)?

    I’ve had both good and bad males work for me. Some are competent and motivated, others are the laziest, most incompetent things I’ve seen in my life and get themselves and others around them “laid off” from the lack of willingness to even save their own paychecks. You have to take people on an individual basis, as with any other field or life situation. Worst part is, if the author of that “manifesto” wasn’t smart enough or experienced enough to realize that, how good can his work possibly be? At minimum he hasn’t shown enough professionalism to work in a corporate environment.

    • So Pam, are you saying it’s not “professional” to point out that a company’s bias is discriminatory? That anyone who does that should be fired? And do you apply that reasoning to blacks and females – or only white males?

  3. Hey DICE, I want to read about tech issues. If I want to read hardcore, leftist, SillyCon Valley social engineering BS, the Washington ComPost, New York Slimes, MSN, AOL, and Yahoo fit the bill. Only fools like this “writer” think Google has come out “unscathed”. Google has been exposed as a 1984-style organization.

  4. Victor Maitlin

    How did Google emerge “unscathed”? The hypocritically intolerant Leftist bigots at Google basically proved EVERYTHING the fired engineer outlined in his so-called “manifesto”.

    Who would even want to work in such a fascist Orwellian environment of double-speak, where your every word and thought would be subject to policing by the politically correct progressives?!

  5. Andrew Wolfe

    This report has sloppy errors, perhaps starting from the assertion that Gizmodo’s copy of the original writing was “in its entirety.” Gizmodo eliminated all internal hyperlinks; these referred to (among other sources) recent neuropsychology articles consulted by Damore. The memo never says that “women are less qualified than men,” or anything like it nor, in fact, that biological differences are the direct reason fewer Googlers are female. Regarding a “need for programs that help underrepresented minorities find their way to tech jobs,” Damore’s point is that the programs in place are failures. To that I’d point out that I’ve been watching them fail, especially with regard to recruiting women and black Americans, for as long as Damore has been alive.

  6. Mark Mohr

    I love how the author, and leftists in general, just assumes that Damore is wrong, without offering any kind of evidence of that being so. He also (in my opinion) intentionally distorts Damore’s position.

  7. I skimmed a portion of the ‘Manifesto’ and none of it was even remotely offensive in nature. Did the author of this ‘article’ even read the thing? Or just the histrionic media response?

  8. Actually, James Damore was precisely on target with his criticisms of Google. Though many stripped down and paraphrased versions of his commentary have been used to try to create a view that he’s sexist, anyone reading his original piece would conclude that he’s a fact-based realist.

    It is only the lunatic fringe in the realm of psychology that does NOT believe there are substantial differences between the way men and women think – and that’s at the root of Damore’s argument.

    Google’s solution to the square peg/round hole problem is to recruit more square pegs, exclude round pegs and use a bigger hammer. It’s nonsense that Google can – for now – engage in because a lot of smart men have made Google fabulously wealthy. And so it is in almost all areas of life. It is a trait of men that they break new ground, invent new things, create new opportunities – and then women show up to reap the harvest – when all the plans have been made and the startup costs are covered.

    There are certain types of mental activities – like abstract reasoning – where no rational review of the facts could yield a conclusion that the genders are NOT substantially different. In some areas, women have an advantage – but in areas requiring abstract thinking, men are innately better qualified.

    No one would argue that any woman in the world could be an NFL quarterback. No woman is even close to the male world record in any sport. When the Williams sisters crowed that they could beat any man ranked outside the top 200 in tennis, #203 showed up, played a round of golf, drank a few beers and promptly DESTROYED both Venus and Serena. After the matches, Braach opined that the Williams would have “no chance” of beating any of the top 500 men in the world. The Williams subsequently revised their claim to being able to beat any man outside the top 350 in the world. So far, they haven’t tested that claim – and don’t seem eager to do so.

    The point is, if the differences are so huge in the physical realm that not one woman anywhere has ever been able to exceed the best performance by a male, and in most cases, has never even come close, why is it so difficult to believe that there are areas in mental ability where men are similarly dominant – especially when all the evidence points in that direction?

    The reason Google doesn’t have more female software engineers is not because of discrimination or oppression (although there may have been elements of that) – but because there are so many fewer of them. Fewer women decide to go into that area of study, fewer are capable of meeting the educational standards and ultimately fewer are able to do the job. The case is even more extreme in areas like physics.

    As Damore pointed out, none of this says you can’t have exceptional female programmers. But that’s the point. A competent female programmer is the EXCEPTION.

    It is partly an outgrowth of a more basic measure – intelligence itself. Women trail men by 2-5 IQ points across all populations. The populations overlap – and the standard deviation for the male distribution is greater than the female distribution – that is, not only is the best man in the world better than the best female, but the worst male is worse than the worst female. But if a company is actually looking for the best talent for those in areas requiring abstract reasoning, their recruiting dollars would be better spent interviewing males.

  9. Carolyn McDunna Flannery

    I will tell you why there are fewer women in tech/coding: It’s because 35 years ago, when I went to a top school, there was 1 woman to 20 guys in the computer classes. Most of the men were welcoming, but a few instantly assumed I couldn’t be any good. I had a man ask me how i could be “cute” and still smart, because “the only smart women I know aren’t cute that’s why they had to be smart.” Respectfully, you cannot fully understand what it is like to be a woman in tech. If I was friendly to a coworker during my younger days, he often was hoping I was hitting on him. I got harassed, asked out, etc. I didn’t want that. I just wanted to WORK. I would watch men bond over ballgames and lunch, without that extra horrible fear that one of them was attracted to the other or one making sure not to be sending out vibes (except if they were gay of course). This is just ONE thing that’s difficult about being a woman in tech that you cannot possibly understand. Having a male manager who asked me why I was working late and not home with my special needs child (who was with his Dad). That was a good one. Having part of my job be how I looked every day, whether I liked it or not. Hiding myself behind ugly clothes anyhow, so that I would be treated as a HUMAN not a female. Noticing that when I gained weight and didn’t look so FEMALE people took me more seriously in meetings as I was just a person. This Google guy is wrong. Women have been excluded from something we were good at (my great aunt was a coder–see Hidden Figures for examples) –as soon as it represented power and money. I walked in the door of comp sci classes and I did okay, but I got so tired of not fitting in, of not having role models, that for years I chickened out and became a tech writer so that I could be around the tech I loved and not worry about threatening men like the manifesto writer. You have no idea how much of an uphill fight it is to go to work as “the other”. A few posters are getting you down? Try a whole life of being “the other”

      • Carolyn McDunna Flannery

        “You have no idea what it’s like to be a man” .Phone me when 450 of the top 500 CEO’s are women, and making far, far more money than their male counterparts. True that I don’t know what it’s like to be a man, but I do know that, despite my comp sci degree at a top engineering school (that I got because of high SAT scores and a 4.0 GPA) –my then-husband, who barely finished highschool and had 1 year in a jr college, had an easier time getting jobs in 1980’s Silicon Valley than I did, and had an easier time asking for more money. Give me a freaking break. I can watch the men around me and see that it isn’t fair. And we are still making 70 c on the dollar, the fields we do seem to be most dominant in are still undervalued, and we feel weird when there are 40 men in our group and we are one of only a few women. ALSO, when hiring, people tend to hire those who look like themselves. They can’t help it. Therefore, the day 95% of hiring managers are all women of color, I would encourage them to give extra weight to white men to counter that. The only ‘white men’ I have ever met who are obsessed with the level playing field affirmative action brings, are insecure and feel that being a white man is the only extra advantage they have to bring to the table. White men with real talent and ability realize these women and people of color who make it have to have MORE talent and ability to get to that level, and they respect us and treat us great. When I had an eye operation and it was a black guy in his 60’s, I knew he must be EXTRA good because I knew the crap he had to fight. Just for example. If you are good, competing against everyone, you will still get the job. If you are subpar, you won’t have the advantage being a white male has brought you to date. And that’s the real complaint. Affirmative action corrects for BIAS. It doesn’t give an advantage to people of color or women.

    • Everybody is in the perfect position to appreciate the downsides to being what they are, but ignore or take for granted all the advantages. Likewise, all the disadvantages that others suffer won’t weigh as heavily on our minds as those that we suffer.

  10. Eastside

    Nate, let’s look at a couple of your worst moments here:

    “escaped rather unscathed” – yeah, I don’t think so. With full credit to Steve Sailer, how likely are you now to trust your life to Google’s self-driving car?

    But that’s minor compared to “A Googler penned an internal document noting some fairly off-center ideals.” So in the leftist mind, it’s off-center to think that men and women are different?

  11. The real question for me is why more women don’t take programming classes. In college, programming classes were always a sausage fest. Other classes, like psychology, were predominantly attended by women.

    I think part of it is that women may not feel comfortable taking these classes, but I think there’s an incorrect assumption that that’s 100% why.

    Our brains are different. The average boy of 8 has the same mathematical skill as the average girl of 12. Conversely, girls tend to read significantly faster than boys. I feel very confident that some portion of the difference in attendance is that women are, on average, less likely to find programming interesting or fun than men are. If you don’t like it, take it up with our DNA. We did not evolve to be psychologists or programmers. We evolved to survive on the open plains in groups of less than 200 members. We’ve only been doing civilization for about 10,000 years, which is a tiny fraction of the length of time Homo Sapiens has been around.

    We should work to make women feel more welcome in programming and other computer science classes. Ditto mechanical and electrical engineering, and other traditionally male-dominated fields. There should be some emphasis that class is not a singles meetup, and that it’s unprofessional to fraternize with peers as much in college as it would be in the workplace. However, there will not be a 50/50 split because our brains are different. They bias us, on average, to move in different directions. You will find psychologists who are men, and programmers who are women, because the average doesn’t dictate the individual at all. The average will, however, tell you what to expect over large populations.

    In summary, some of the reason for the difference is that women are less likely to want to be programmers in the first place, just as men are less likely to want to be psychologists. It’s best to foster an inclusive environment, but don’t expect it to be 50/50 because that isn’t the only factor.

  12. Barry Miller

    Yes, Google most likely ignited the fuse that will bring the company down…. SOMEDAY. They’re comically out of touch meanwhile.

    But right now, “The Googlers” need to enjoy being hypocritical, intolerant, judgemental, fascist, AND bigoted Iibs — with lots of leftist arrogance and ignorance on top of it all! Yes We Can.