I’ve started, stopped, and started writing again several times now. I thought that meant that I’m not sure what to say. But I do.
First, and most clearly, I do not condone the “Anti-Diversity Manifesto” that is apparently making the rounds at Google. I’m dismayed that it exists.
Secondly, I’m not sure what parallel-universe-company the author works at, but every woman I have ever interacted with at Google is smart—much smarter than I am—capable, and gets things done. This isn’t impacted by role: SWE (Software Engineer), SRE (Software Reliability Engineer), Manager, Legal Counsel, or HR. There are many of them that I have, and still turn to for advice.
Third, I’ll treat the official Google statement, that people should “feel safe sharing their opinions”, just like the US Bill Of Rights’ First Amendment: Yes, you have freedom of speech, but that doesn’t absolve you from criticism for the things that you do say.
There will be differing viewpoints in any company of tens-of-thousands of people. I’m interested in outside opinion and debate when there’s something to actually debate. Tabs vs. spaces is a debate. Functional vs. object-oriented is a debate. Heck, even Mac vs. PC is still kind-of a debate. The anti-diversity memo does not spark a debate. It’s clearly wrong-headed on several levels. This isn’t opinion: the author has ignored nearly every study avilable. Would this memo be taken with any seriously if it were targeted at any other group than man vs. women? What if the memo’s conclusion was that, “sorry, but Jewish people just aren’t cut out to be Engineers!” “Men are great Engineers, but the gay ones, not so much.” “White people…” Well, you see where this is going: not a single one of those examples would be taken seriously. Why would anyone say or support this when it’s about women?
Now, another important piece of this: what do we do about it. Like most things, it’s not as binary as most people imagine. When we say, “no jerks” in our culture and communities, do we mean insta-fire or insta-ban? Or do we work with people for change? I thought about this for a while, and thought I was on the fence. But I’m not. This person needs to go. Not because they voiced an unpopular opinion, but because of how this is, and will affect everyone around them. I can only begin to understand the smallest shred of how a woman Engineer must feel about this. It’s pretty crummy. And threatening. And infuriating. And tiring.
Finally, on a slightly different axis, dear Internet: remember that reporting isn’t always perfect. You know this from so many examples. Perhaps some news story that bothered you because you were there, and they didn’t quite get it right. If you’ve never worked at the company at the focus of the story, then you don’t really know what’s going on inside, no matter what you think you know. Remember the points from On the Media’s, “Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook” and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Do not, however, conflate my criticism of the reporting with the issue itself: I’m appalled that the memo was written, and that anyone has to spend time talking about it in any manner. I will always campaign for empathy, diversity, and inclusion.