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Aug. 19th, 2017 11:45 am
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[personal profile] lenora_rose
Context note: I originally wrote this particular not-quite-essay up for my brother after some discussion. He is the "You" referenced along the way.  

So. I started doing a point by point examination of Damore's manifesto, fisking style, and while it helped me pick apart his arguments, it wandered wildly off the actual questions at hand. So instead I am trying again, with a reframing. It will include significant excerpts of the fisking, but with an attempt to stay on topic.


Question number one: Is Zunger's interpretation "we should stop trying to make it possible for women to be engineers, it’s just not worth it." remotely an accurate depiction of the memo and its final gist? If not, is the interpretation you gave (in extreme short form: "That gender ratios in tech are not well-explained by sexist behaviour in tech companies ... It's a major recurring theme, arguably THE theme, of Gary's memo that people should be judged as individuals and not as members of groups") itself a fair and complete interpretation?

 

The really really short answer is "Zunger is overstating at best, and you are right to take him to task for it -- but there's a lot more unpleasance going on than you seem to think." Most of the rest of this will be focused on coming back to this answer.

 

Question number two, added later: Is Damore plausibly a well-meaning but socially clueless and possibly-on-the-spectrum person or an actual bigot as he is portrayed by detractors?

 

Not really a short answer, but an immediate one: I'm not exactly sure what led you to read him as possibly autistic. My read is a bit socially clueless, but more in the vein of "spends too much time coding and reading articles about people and not enough time interacting with them" AND actually a bit of a bigot.

 

While the dividing line is fuzzy between being socially clueless because he hasn't gone out and practiced, and being socially clueless because his brain literally works differently, I do not subscribe to treating him as a case of prejudice against autism. If nothing else, my impression is that the prejudice he displays is very real. And his actions, no matter his neurology, warranted firing.

 

I'm also wary that this falls close to a common trope in geek circles; the tendency to attribute bad elements (sexual harassers in particular, and other social assholes in general) to possible Asperger's, when such people most often display GREATER social acumen (in the case of sexual harassers in particular, in how they isolate their victims and code-switch when their audience is more mixed or all male. But, well, as examples, neither Thrym nor Mike read as remotely Asperger's, and nobody in Winnipeg that I know of has suggested it, but in other circles, men who have behaved exactly like them have had someone ask "in all innocence" if it explains them...)

 

In this case, there is a veneer of intellectualism to Damore's bigotry, which could be read that way, but I really think is better attributed to general life inexperience. A lot of NT men, especially post-grads/intellectually inclined, have talked about things they have said in their twenties that were in this range of "I read too many articles and didn't talk to enough people".

 

None of this above is aught but opinion, but it's also as complete an answer as I can give to question two at all.

 

Back to question one.

 

Here's my interpretation of the memo in the TL:DR version:

 

Damore's memo's central point is a combination of the key things in his own TL:DR (short version: Google has a strong leftward bias which makes it likely they are both stifling conservatives and committing to unproven programs out of ideology), and the desire to be rid of those same programs, which he sees as discriminatory; those that are aimed mostly or exclusively towards training of or hiring of minorities and/or women.

 

He accuses that leftward bias of encouraging extremism and authoritarianism by the left without producing evidence that anything in Google is in fact authoritarian. (It IS true that a leftward bias might move the Overton Window too far and open it to the biased excesses of feminist extremes, but it is not a given that this has happened to Google. Even his own firing, which is justifiable on many grounds besides ideology, is evidence of it only to people like Vox Day or the white nationalists talking about protest marches on Google headquarters this coming week. ( http://amp.timeinc.net/fortune/2017/08/11/google-diversity-memo-alt-right-protest/?source=dam ).

 

To support this, he calls on science, discussing the average tendencies of women to try and demonstrate that there should be little need to fight the gender gap at all (including paragraphs acknowledging that these averages are overlapping and full of exceptions but then making suggestions which treat the nature of women as vastly more uniform and immutable).

 

He suggests changes to narrow the gender gap which have no data to back them, and the abolishment of programs he sees as discriminatory, including not only those related to gender but those related to race.

 

He endeavours to paint Google's leftward bias as equivalent to climate change denial, the desire to support a better gender and racial parity in the workplace as coming from a paternalistic protective streak towards women and "those seen as weak", and emphasizes a need to support the psychological safety of conservatives over that of minorities more traditionally discriminated against.

 

His decision regarding delivery mechanism -- essentially sending it to every fellow employee -- is itself a major problem. Not just for use of company resources, though that alone is a firing offense, but because it literally forces every woman and every racial minority on the spot to worry whether their coworkers believe that they are there on their own merits, despite Google already being known to hire the best of the best as regards software skills. Because by describing the programs that support their entry as discriminatory, and stating aloud that they possibly lead to lowering the bar (yes, there is a line to that effect present), the memo leaves it possible to point to any of them and say "You're only here because the bar was lowered for you, so you are not *really* my equal." The same memo that suggests that affirmative action practices increase racial and gendered tensions and that this is bad increases them severalfold by laying out that implication and essentially making sure every minority and woman in the place has to see it.

 

This does not read to me as the work of a centrist looking to ask for better understanding across the board. This is the work of someone who genuinely believes that attempts to support people who are traditionally held back from entering some fields is discrimination against him as the prior norm.

 

He does not at any point say anything like Zunger wrote, and you are partly right that he makes a few paragraphs of bending over backwards to acknowledge overlaps and averages. But I do not disagree with those who inferred that he wishes to exclude more women from the job, and who feel that what he has said, if allowed to propagate within Google without active disapproval, is actively detrimental to the life of women and racial minorities in the company.

 

Rereading Zunger in the wake of picking apart the manifesto in more detail, I am much less satisfied in general with Zunger's approach -- his intro paragraph is a mess of that exaggeration you noted and a few others -- but I see a whole lot of merit still in his entire section 2 (about engineering), and I have just laid out a defense for his section three -- not far enough for the whole "Want to punch you in the face" but still for "large swathes of people at the company now feel they could not work with you."

 

Here are pieces of my initial fisk-style examination (Memo in blue. My commentary not.)

 

My basic impression of Damore's memo: He says a lot of things which are either factually correct or reasonable. His memo is 90% these things. But the other things overwhelm that, and they are sometimes hidden in the middle of the reasonableness.

  • Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.

Freedom from offense.

This is a common framing for people not wanting to hear explicitly prejudicial statements against them -- statements which have had a demonstrated negative effect on work. There was a study which showed that simply mentioning a statistic indicating that black people perform worse on a given test to a group of black students right before they take that test (However neutrally and "just the facts" the statement is made) has a visible and demonstrable negative effect on the students' test scores. (First google failure; I kept getting results linking to the Harvard Implicit Bias test…)

Freedom from offense also implies people want to be protected from things that they don't like, no matter what they are. This is a classic framing: being "offended" is literally not, in itself, a bad thing. A person can be offended because a mom is on her phone at the playground, because a person is on a bicycle on the street, because a person is on a bicycle on the sidewalk… any number of things which one has zero right to be "offended" by. In fact, the usage of the word offense for reactions to everything from outright hurtful shit to breastfeeding, and to describe responses ranging from incandescent rage to eyerolling laughter is part of the reason I am beginning to hate the word.

Describing not wanting to hear discriminatory statements as "freedom from offense" is a statement intended to make such a desire seem more trivial and less of a resistance to actual damaging statements. It's part of the normalizing of prejudice.

"shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety."

Sounds good. If some people can't say what they think, then there isn't safety to be themselves. Pretty tautological… almost.

But then I have to look at what I call the moderator's dilemma.

Which is this: Any place with no moderation whatsoever (beyond deletion of actual spam like "I earned X money working from home!"…) turns into a toxic stew mostly inhabited by trolls spewing profanity. AT BEST, it contains some useful discussion threads that need to be carefully sifted from the whole. And most people either don't bother or refuse to even participate in the first place. You literally lose swathes of people who have much better ideas than what is being aired BECAUSE you refuse to silence anyone.

To maximize the genuine free expression of ideas, you need to remove enough toxic elements to allow those who are silenced by the toxicity to actually appear and speak up. This is why conversation at places with active moderators (eg, Making Light) tends to be much more productive and interesting and varied in subject matter than discussion on say, youtube threads. And it's not just the obvious -- simply having people who like "Arguing passionately" (to the point of haranguing or not letting a subject drop) also drive others away, who are less likely to speak but more likely to have something to say that wasn't already heard. (Abi at Making Light talks a lot about this).

Of course, an excess of deletions can stifle conversation in the "Echo chamber" sense. (it also means you lose evidence trails, but that's another discussion). This is why there are some areas, even in the social justice spheres, where deleting your own comments that brought on a negative reaction is something get castigated for doing, even when the moderator themselves blocks. This is why TNH came up with disemvowelling to indicate comments (or in some cases, sections of comments) of which she or another moderator disapprove. People can reassemble the evidence and see for themselves, if they are concerned the moderation is stifling ideas, but people can also see explicit disapproval. (It's worth noting some comments end up entirely deleted even though the people are allowed to comment again, some people get their right to post revoked short term, and people are still banned outright. And some people are forced not to post for 24 or 48 hours -- this last happened to Will Shetterly virtually any time he talked about race. One can consider this the debate on tactics, though.)

So, yes, actually, SOME types of ideas do need to be silenced to maximise psychological safety. The debate from there tends to be what is too far.

Of course, this fellow asserts Google culture goes too far. For evidence, he provides…. Well, let's keep going. (Skip a bunch that is not really arguable or terribly problematic, though some of it is in loaded language)

At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices.

Left Biases

Right Biases

Compassion for the weak

Respect for the strong/authority

Disparities are due to injustices

Disparities are natural and just

Humans are inherently cooperative

Humans are inherently competitive

Change is good (unstable)

Change is dangerous (stable)

Open

Closed

Idealist

Pragmatic

 

5/6 of these are merely subjective preferences, with argument reasonable for both sides. But right there in the middle. "Disparities are natural and just" is a really nice way to say "You're poor because you deserve it" and "Black people are half-savages" and "women just can't handle things men can".

SOME disparities can be concluded as just. A fast food counter-minder or floor-sweeper should not make the same as a chef or electrician. (Though they should all make a living). A junkie will lose their job to a sober person and that is just (though the junkie deserves some compassion and access to support in getting off drugs). An amateur singer should enjoy their singing but not be expecting to make millions.

But somehow, outside satire like Harrison Bergeron, these are not the "disparities" that are meant when conservatives argue disparities are just. When poked, when examined, they are nigh universally trying to justify disparities between gender or race or the offering of services to poor people.

Pretending that shrugging off disparities as just is no different from debating whether it's better to be idealist or pragmatic is a pretty horrid false equivalence.

…. In contrast, a company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services), over diversify its interests (ignoring or being ashamed of its core business), and overly trust its employees and competitors.

Can he demonstrate how Google is ashamed of its core business or overly trusting?

Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.

Query, though this is random and beside the point: is there any corporation, left right or middlin', that doesn't strive for a monoculture on some level?

Second, does he have actual evidence Google has deliberately taken steps to shame people into silence? Every article he links meant to support that is about the field of psychology or university campuses.

Lastly, define politically correct?

Because if one goes with Neil Gaiman's framing of "treating people with respect", then shaming people who don't "treat people with respect" into silence seems… healthy?

Does it mean "Don't say 'retard' or 'lame' or tell rape jokes or dead-name someone"? Again…

Here's his own footnote: 'Political correctness is defined as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against,” which makes it clear why it’s a phenomenon of the Left and a tool of authoritarians.'

That doesn't look far from "treating people with respect". It really doesn't look far from "Don't say 'retard' or 'lame' or tell rape jokes"

It may seem obvious to HIM why this makes it a bad thing, but the freedom to use the word retard or use the wrong pronoun doesn't seem like a way to foster the very psychological safety he wants.

He may dislike the phrase "perceived to", because there are often a few assholes who overuse rules against anything with the appearance of insult or exclusion. These are called rules-lawyers and they are jerks no matter their political stripe.

The actual reason for the "perception" phrasing is the reverse; it's to fend off rules-lawyers on the opposite side, who want to BE insulting and discriminatory and who would find a way to twist up any firm rule.

The article he links to discussing PC-Authoritarians discusses them as one of two groups of advocates for political correctness. Whereas he paints all usage of PC as falling into the one camp.

 

For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment

So by his own admission, he is attacking an extremist position, which he has offered no evidence is in fact that of anyone inside Google.

and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.

Affirmative action programs are authoritarian. Looking at definitions and examples of authoritarianism, this only makes sense to me if one believes any social support program meant to correct a prior systematic injustice is authoritarian.

Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech [3]

At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.

So here's what YOU see as the thesis. Damore, by contrast, declares it the first piece of evidence against the extremism and authoritarianism above.

On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways.

On average, I would not disagree.

 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

Evolutionary psychology as a field has a bad reputation among social justice groups overall. Some argue it has some merit, just not as initially applied. Others pretty much distrust anything that comes from anyone who claims the name without some kind of caveat recognizing its problematic origins.

I gave myself a headache of sorts looking into evolutionary psychology, both defenses of and criticisms. My final conclusion is that it has some merit as a tool, but is still easy to twist in support of sexism.

The gist of it is this: we can look into some of the ways people (across populations and in general) behave now, and attempt to make a conjecture why that trait evolved. Then they take that theory and attempt to test it. Well, not the idea why the trait evolved, that's physically impossible to test. They usually test whether the behaviour they claim exists actually exists.

The problem with this is… testing the existence of the behaviour NOW actually teaches nothing about whether it was an evolved trait or a societally driven one. The base assumption that a trait that exists now has existed for 100,000 years or more literally cannot be tested. The closest they can come are traits common to most/all societies, which are implicitly more likely to be older. (Another issue that has been raised is the assumption we are not still evolving.)

Even more, the people who started evolutionary psychology as the thing pretty much outright did it in an attempt to prove that gender roles as they were in the 1970s (with a focus upon sexual relations and sexual appeals) were something humankind has always had, and that we should therefore preserve gender roles, not strive to alter them. In short, they were trying to give a scientific veneer to sexism.

The roles we are talking about are much more egregiously sexist than the roles that modern supporters tend to link and cite, and supporters of evolutionary psychology see this as proof it's a science and uses the scientific method. "See, we rejected the bad data and now we're getting closer to the truth."

But there are those who consider this itself a variation of iterated Naziism (to refer to something I linked before): "We couldn't prove the gender differences included all the things we wanted to prove, but what if we claim we have data for this much of the gender difference? We do if we massage it right and elide these bits." And I have to say, the evidence both for and against seems to massage data or shrug off nuance before presenting it. A LOT. some of what some of its proponents seem to think is proven is… really more debatable than they want to make it sound. (and some of what its detractors take as utterly destroying it… doesn't do any better.)

Part of the reason some responders appear to be saying there is no real gender difference whatsoever is a rejection of this iterated Nazi effect.

Yet … most people when asked about it without evolutionary psychology, would grant SOME difference between genders. Physical science has also seen some differences between male brains, female brains, and transgender brains. (trans brains seem to tend to include many, though not all traits of the gender the person declares themselves… and often, a few things that fit neither their assigned gender or their declared gender, but resemble neither. Another whole discussion though.) So observing some differences in behaviour and general trends between genders, is also to be expected. Some of these WILL logically have developed longer ago than others, even prehistorically

Sounds great, until you start reading someone saying that women don't go into jobs like upper management because the long hours, frequent travel schedule, unpredictable crises, and amount of work required outside of work hours are detrimental to the work-life balance women prefer.

Then look at how many low-status jobs women are known for also contain the above.

Until you see these trends being applied to all people of that gender regardless of how many caveats are written saying this is on average. Unless you see it being used to excuse wildly different treatments despite the visible overlaps.

In any case, all that history, all that explanation why some people flinch or throw things at the mention of evopsych is beside the point. So far nothing stated has been terribly wrong.

Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from 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.

This is the paragraph (And attached diagram, which I am cutting out but am aware exists) you seem to see as his central point, despite the fact that if judging people as individuals were the point, he wouldn’t have had to raise evopsych or the actual differences between men and women at all. Remember, he's defending himself here against an extreme stance he has not actually proven is more prevalent than a more moderate stance.

 

Reading over my comments in the Female traits section, other than the note that he does not acknowledge the studies showing women being assertive in business environments are punished socially for it, I mostly didn't have big objections or pick apart much of interest. My biggest objection came at the end:

 

The problems women mostly talk about when talking about discrimination in tech are not problems of having the inclination, or having the ability. By the time we're talking about the people trying to work for Google, we're looking at people who already skip past all these averages and have a declared interest in a non-feminine field.

I have more to say in the next area, though again, this is all more of a side trip than the general point.

Men’s higher drive for status

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.

I literally cannot see a way you can ask the one without asking the other. When we are looking at what traits women lack, we are implicitly suggesting the men have those traits. When we are looking at aspects of a job women prefer, we are implying what men prefer. When we are looking at systematic exclusion, we are implicitly noting systematic INCLUSION. Assuming a binary, and for these purposes, we can briefly elide those populations that do not fit the binary -- unlike in tech, in most of these positions they suffer if anything MORE discrimination -- you literally cannot examine why women are not in top leadership positions without some data suggested about men. EVERY STUDY about women in power is pretty much obliged to use men as a control sample.

 These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.

Again, so do many jobs typically held by women, they're just low status. The argument about women and ability to cope with stress seems much more suited to arguing why women are so much less often firefighters than why women are rarely CEOs. Besides, what has this to do with tech? Tech jobs aren't top leadership.

Status is the primary metric that men are judged on [4], 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.

Are they the literal same drives? I am skeptical. Some of these areas also have an explicable difference in the physical divergence between the genders, not in their psychological differences. And coal mining is geographically focused -- in locations which tend towards much more conservative culture and gender roles.

I wonder how many studies have been done on how much more often women insist on, and/or follow, safety regulations?

But this is nitpicking, really. I don't disagree with the general point.

Still, this entire thing seems like a non-sequitur for tech jobs, few of which are as high status as is required for the gender difference in status-seeking to be a big part of the problem. Equating software engineering with top leadership is definitely as weird as comparing it with coal mining.

Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap

Below I’ll go over some of the differences in distribution of traits between men and women that I outlined in the previous section and suggest ways to address them to increase women’s representation in tech without resorting to discrimination. Google is already making strides in many of these areas, but I think it’s still instructive to list them:

This section is part of where I started really feeling skeeved out. And confused. If the gender gap is determined by our psychology, then why is it necessary to help reduce it? His caveats so far have included ONE line which implies sure, the psychology is not the complete story, and lots of "on average" caveats.

Let's assume this was a blip in writing, he meant to say, "despite these differences, some of the gap is based on discrimination against women. So how do we help reduce the remaining gap?"

Which he does… with the same thing he is using to explain why at least some of the gender gap is explicable and pardonable.

Never mind those women who want the job as written, who are exceptions to averages.

I feel like I'm seeing several contradictions in those last four paragraphs of mine. We don't need to make this job more appealing to women, but we can do these things to make them so. Women should be judged as individuals not subsumed in average differences, but we need to accommodate their blanket different thinking by these methods.

This whole section also suddenly becomes weirdly citation free. He provides no evidence these things -- without any other initiatives -- actually reduce the gender gap. And several of them are either vague or counter-productive, with one another if not with the stated goal.

He later goes on to suggest getting rid of all affirmative action type projects -- he's technically already done it, just not at length -- but this is all he has to replace them. It's like replacing the ACA with Trumpcare. There's no evidence any of this has a real impact, and where it does, some of it seems intended to do the opposite of the declared objective.

This is one of the places that, whatever else you feel about Zunger's commentary, he makes  a lot of points directly addressing these things.

  • Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things
    • We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration. Unfortunately, there may be limits to how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get female students into coding might be doing this). (evidence? This sentence is clearly speculation, but it's also alarmist in tone. There's nothing cited to suggest any program is deceiving its students about how people oriented the tech jobs are, but neither is there proof  that telling people at this late a stage that tech jobs are not people-oriented would put women off the job.)
  • Women on average are more cooperative
    • Allow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive. (Which means what?) Recent updates to Perf may be doing this to an extent, but maybe there’s more we can do.
    • This doesn’t mean that we should remove all competitiveness from Google. Competitiveness and self reliance can be valuable traits and we shouldn’t necessarily disadvantage those that have them, like what’s been done in education. (This article goes to considerable length to say that what men need is a more traditionally masculine upbringing and more father figures and masculine roles.)
  • Women on average are more prone to anxiety.
    • Make tech and leadership less stressful. Google already partly does this with its many stress reduction courses and benefits. (Another generic solution for a specific problem. Also of note later.)
  • Women on average look for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average
    • Unfortunately, as long as tech and leadership remain high status, lucrative careers, men may disproportionately want to be in them. Allowing and truly endorsing (as part of our culture) part time work though can keep more women in tech.

On the reverse, it seems like the way to get men to actually embrace more work life balance is simple, and it has nothing to do with women. If more men take time off for family, and come back to their jobs with no ill consequences, more men want to take time off for family. This is what has happened in companies and countries where parental time off is an option for both genders -- nothing happened with the fathers until some man actually took the leave and became a seed crystal to catalyze the others. So why is this not a part of his offered solutions?

Part time is rarely a solution in high tech jobs because it's darn near impossible to either rise in a company by part time means, or to do the upper level work on lower hours. Offering part time jobs almost always means offering them as low-status positions only. By contrast, flex-time options that still add up to full hours and a lot of time shared with fellow employees tend to be preferred higher end solutions for work-life. And once women demand and get it, some men start taking it too.

 

  • The male gender role is currently inflexible
    • Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally feminine roles. (So shortly after endorsing traditionally masculine upbringng and attitudes, he endorses feminizing men. Maybe he thinks he means being the seed crystal guy in the point above? Or maybe he's just unaware he's offering opposites as solutions. He's certainly implying that men who are allowed to be more feminine will want to leave tech -- which is itself another implication "women don't really want to be here anyhow" -- not just seek options that allow more work-life balance.)

 

Philosophically, I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women. For each of these changes, we need principled reasons for why it helps Google; that is, we should be optimizing for Google—with Google’s diversity being a component of that.

 

Which sounds like admitting he doesn't have any proof for any of these, and doesn't even really want to bother with any of them and these solutions are all coming out of his ass. But oh, yes, by the way, he really does want diversity.

 
The Harm of Google’s biases

I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more. However, to achieve a more equal gender and race representation, Google has created several discriminatory practices:

How you could let him have a pass for something like this while complaining about the logical gaps of his detractors, I don't know.

When did race come into this? Why are we suddenly talking about racism when he has talked this far exclusively about gender gap and gender bias? Does he have evidence of racial disparity being based on genuine difference? I doubt it. I highly doubt it. I also suspect he skipped that because if he tried to include such a section, his opinion would lose the veneer of respectability.

  • Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race.
  •  A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates
  • Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate (link is private. Not very helpful. )

I've already noted that even accusing a business of lowering the bar to let in certain minority candidates is a way to increase hostility towards those candidates by raising doubts bout their qualifications. And "Oh, but we didn't mean you, Julie. You're a good one." comments aren't that reassuring, as they represent a kind of "divide and conquer" or "exceptional female" attitude which is the reverse of really embracing diversity.

However, I also have to say, almost every time someone has argued that one is lowering the bar for diversity, there's some evidence that mediocre, just-barely-hired people in the NON-diverse group are the main ones to suffer, and that the candidates perceived as "less qualified" are at least as qualified as the mediocre candidates they replaced. So you're not generally losing good people to less qualified candidates. Often, too, at the top level of resumes, the differences aren't nearly as meaningful.

  • Reconsidering any set of people if it’s not “diverse” enough, but not showing that same scrutiny in the reverse direction (clear confirmation bias)

I'm not even sure how this works. In what way should a diverse group be "reconsidered" if they are already diverse? In what way are non-diverse groups reconsidered? Does he mean non-diverse groups have their actual production questioned and diverse groups do not? That WOULD be heinous and I think it's what he wants us to think, but it's also unclear that this is what is happening.

I suspect all it means is that if a group forms that is 8 white dudes, the upper levels mention it should be more diverse, but if a group of 8 gets formed that includes three women and three PoC {in overlapping circles}, the upper management doesn't blink.

  • Setting org level OKRs for increased representation which can incentivize illegal discrimination [6]

Illegal discrimination sounds horrible. But what does it mean? His footnote doesn't especially clarify.

I also have no idea what the techy words in this translate to, or the footnote except that he wants smaller groups within the company to hire diversely, not the company as a whole. I think.

  • These practices are based on false assumptions generated by our biases and can actually increase race and gender tensions. We’re told by senior leadership that what we’re doing is both the morally and economically correct thing to do, but without evidence this is just veiled left ideology [7] that can irreparably harm Google.

That last link is worth reading and thinking about.

It is not, in itself, proof that Google as a whole is failing to observe the effects of its policies, especially since working for Google itself, in a specific diverse department, with a specific (diverse) team, creates a basis for "Common interests" which is one of the main things the very same article cites as helping to decrease tensions.

Does he have evidence they lack evidence? Does he have evidence they have made changes this large, and don't know what they are doing or who it benefits?

Overall, the whole gist here is "Eliminate ALL of the known programs to promote diversity because I feel they discriminate against ME." After presenting what he feels is considerable evidence to  indicate that the gender bias against women is natural and to be expected, he proposes "solutions" with no supported evidence they will fix the gender gap, suggests removing nearly every instance of actual programs to help increase the number of women in the industry, and claims they are harmful to Google without presenting evidence how.

He offers NO evidence suggesting the racial gap is natural or normal, yet nonetheless suggests deleting all programs designed to decrease the racial gap, citing only one article discussing increased tensions in universities (Which article itself proposes solutions he never mentions.)

The footnote is another evidence-free opinion.

 

(And whatever the demerits of its awful title - I hate the title so much - the essay "I'm a woman in Tech. Let me Ladysplain the Google Memo to you" has some pretty firm points on this section:

 

"Many defenders of the manifesto have eagerly, and, as far as I can tell, earnestly, pointed me to the manifesto writer’s frequent claims to support diversity in the abstract, as if these are supposed to be reassuring. (“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists. ...”) They are not reassuring. The object of his memo is to end programs at Google that were designed, with input from a great many people who are educated and focused on this issue, to improve diversity. If those programs are killed, absent a commensurate effort to create replacement programs that have plausible ability to be at least as effective, the result is to harm diversity at Google.

 

He does make some recommendations, but they range from impotent (“Make tech and leadership less stressful”) to hopelessly vague (“Allow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive”) to outright hostile (“De-emphasize empathy”).

 

In the end, focusing the conversation on the minutiae of the scientific claims in the manifesto is a red herring. Regardless of whether biological differences exist, there is no shortage of glaring evidence, in individual stories and in scientific studies, that women in tech experience bias and a general lack of a welcoming environment, as do underrepresented minorities. Until these problems are resolved, our focus should be on remedying that injustice. After that work is complete, we can reassess whether small effect size biological components have anything to do with lingering imbalances.

 

 At this point, I only really want to cite one line of his next section:

 

In addition to the Left’s affinity for those it sees as weak, humans are generally biased towards protecting females.

 This is his claimed explanation why there are diversity-supporting programs at all. To protect the weak and female.

 His comparison of Google's leftward bias to climate change warrants little attention. His description of people trying to discuss male problems getting dismissed, is supported not by psychological studies or neutral articles as he tries with everything else, but with an explicitly anti-feminist link -- I can't even.  (He, and it, are not even factually wrong about some of the men's issues, but he didn't write this to discuss changes to the dress code to allow men to wear a greater variety, or to discuss men as victims of physical violence.)

 In fact, at this point, without picking apart every bit of the remainder of the memo, I think I've advanced a pretty good case that there is a whole lot of actual discrimination present against supporting women or minorities in tech, that the science is not the issue. If you really want me to comment on the section about allowing conservative voices and de-emphasizing empathy etc., ask away. I won't do it now. I have a literal headache.

 

As an addendum, your interpretation of the memo:

Gary's ACTUAL central point is one we've discussed before and you seemed to agree with, or at minimum be open to: That gender ratios in tech are not well-explained by sexist behaviour in tech companies. Whatever is keeping women out of those companies, most of it happens WAY too early in life to be plausibly explained by that, as gender ratios in high-school programming courses are similar or even worse. And in any case, lots of far more sexist, less feminist-friendly organizations (the Catholic Church jumps immediately to mind) have far better gender ratios! Not to deny that sexist treatment can have an effect, but you can't just read the prevalence of sexist behaviour from an organization's gender ratio in a simple one-to-one fashion. There's something else going on.

You don't have to believe anything overtly un-feminist to think it's entirely possible, even probable, that even in a situation with no sexist discrimination and perfect equality of opportunity, there would STILL be less than 50% women engineers at Google. This does not of course mean that you can assume any GIVEN women isn't a capable engineer; individuals need to be judged as individuals, that's the entire POINT here. But nevertheless, *in the aggregate* women and men are not identical, even feminists are happy to admit this when it suits their immediate rhetorical purposes. The surprise would be if they WERE interested in the same things in the same ratios.

(Writing this is making me pissed off at Zunger all over again. It's a major recurring theme, arguably THE theme, of Gary's memo that people should be judged as individuals and not as members of groups, and he repeatedly acknowledges that there are many solid female engineers at Google….)

 

You'll notice that very little of this actually falls into the category of "Stuff I had a problem with".

 

No, I would not expect genuine equality of opportunity between genders to lead to gender parity, though I would expect a smaller gap, a hugely decreased reportage of sexist behaviour and harassment, and more equal gender percentages reflected when assholery IS reported. I WOULD expect genuine, pie in the sky equality of opportunity between racial groups to lead to percentages of representation close to those in the population as a whole, but we are so far from that, so much farther than we are from gender equality of opportunity. Similarly, for disparities in class.

 

You'll also notice that almost none of your interpretation is related to his TL:DR summary of his intent, or his final list of suggested solutions either to the gender gap OR to Google's bias.

 

 

Orphan Black rewatch

Aug. 17th, 2017 02:04 am
nenya_kanadka: thin elegant black cartoon cat (The Cat Who)
[personal profile] nenya_kanadka
So after watching the (very satisfying) Orphan Black series finale, I'm starting back at the beginning of the series again because I really wanted more of them all.

Holy shit! It's so weird seeing Sarah so wary of everyone that I now know she will come to consider her best friends and sisters. It's so weird seeing Art and Mrs S as semi-antagonists (not that they're evil, but that Sarah sees Art as getting in the way of her plans, and S as "unreasonably" keeping her from Kira, and the viewer doesn't yet know how trustworthy they are). Then to compare with S and Art's scenes with Sarah in the last couple episodes of the show...mind = blown.

And we haven't even met Helena yet! (Mid-episode 3 right now.)

Also it's so strange seeing Sarah as Beth now that I know enough about them to know how very not-Sarah she looks in Beth's outfits. The straight hair, the business-casual clothing...wow. And I care so much more about Beth's story this time around too (plus I know more about why she did what she did, of course). I'd forgotten, too, that it was Beth that got them together in the first place (after Katja looked her up), not Cosima as I'd somehow remembered it. But Sarah-as-Beth is the closest we get to actually seeing Beth onscreen for a good long while after this, until some of the later flashbacks. So it's sort of cool from that angle too.

I'm watching for the first time we see major or recurring show themes, like how soon Kira being unusual comes up, or S's network. The clone sickness was in episode 1 (Katja), and Felix has already met his morgue boyfriend. <3 No Dyad yet.

I may also have snagged seasons 3 & 4 on DVD off eBay, because as much as some of the later plot threads didn't grab me, I love everyone in this bar. And it's one of those shows that I kind of need to own, have on my shelf, watch in future when the urge strikes, remember that someone made this amazing thing, and lend to anyone who will let me press it on them. :P

I love these weirdos so much. <3

ETA: Cat icon! Apparently it's from the cover of one of those The Cat Who... mystery novels (which my grandmother used to send me, having somehow got the idea that I was into mysteries but not that I liked sci-fi; they were fun enough). And so pretty! Not half bad as a cartoon depiction of Kaylee, either. :D More here.

King of Beasts

Aug. 13th, 2017 05:36 pm
readinggeek451: (Quilting Mouse)
[personal profile] readinggeek451
Made a royal purple lion:

purple lion with gold crown

It's about 18" long, with a pipe-cleaner crown. Not visible in this picture, but one eye is slightly higher than the other, giving it an anxious expression.

the most cutest

Aug. 12th, 2017 01:28 am
nenya_kanadka: cartoon teddy squees with joy (@ squeh!)
[personal profile] nenya_kanadka
Mucca, holding the cat, and turning to me: I have a serious question.
Me: Okay...
She: WHO'S A KITTY??

I'm afraid Kaylee-cat has just lost the title of Most Cutest after only two weeks. It reverts back to Mucca. ❤ Kitty still holds world record for Best Cat Ever, though.

Kitty is doing MUCH better (further updates, as well as pictures, forthcoming from somebody or other here). Does not like the taste of antibiotics, but they've had a magical effect and she's bouncing around with a far more normal-looking properly healing spay site. Didn't need to take a taxing trip to the vet (so far! fingers crossed!) after all. Out of her cone collar all day today for the first full day, without worrying at that bit of her tummy, so we've left her free tonight as well.

She is the loveliest, snuggliest, silliest little critter. Hilariously enthusiastic about catnip mice. Bemused and determined when faced with the mystery of a paper grocery bag with a catnip mouse inside it??? *pounce pounce etc* Just a delight to have around.

We've named her Kaylee after another small, cheerful, enthusiastic, curious, calm in a crisis favourite of ours. So far no signs of spaceship engineering, but she's kinda into the parks radios, so give it time.