Google Engineer Firing: 'No-Brainer' or More Complicated?

, Corporate Counsel


James Damore's dismissal raises questions about how to handle workers who make controversial statements.

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What's being said

  • JustALawyer

    I read it, and agree with the CEO‘s take (i.e., that much of the memo may be up for debate, but portions violated Googles‘ Code of Conduct). This guy argued -- with no citation that I could discern -- that women are more prone to "neuroticism" -- i.e. higher levels of anxiety and lower tolerance for stress. One could see how this unwarranted assertion could lead male engineers at Google to disfavor assigning difficult projects to female employees because it might make them too "anxious" and "stressed," and/or a belief that the male employee could better handle such challenges. Those excerpts can undermine his female colleagues and their likelihood of getting equally challenging (and therefore rewarding/prestigious ) work. As for "more women like chick flicks" and "dolls vs. trucks" -- toys are purchased for children by their parents, so boys and girls do not get to select them, or their clothing, activities, etc. until much older when social norms have firmly taken hold. That is not to say that women and men may not on average have certain traits and proclivities not wholly due to cultural influence, but to so greatly discount the impact of culture is to equate correlation with causation. "Google is not diverse therefore they violated their own policy." This is nota proper conclusion. Google cannot simply create more female applicants out of whole cloth if women have not made it through the pipeline due to active or passive discouragement of their entering into, staying in, and advancing through STEM careers. The same can be said of men in traditionally female-oriented careers, like nursing. Are men less capable of that job (which BTW can invoke a lot of stress and anxiety, so perhaps the Google memo writer can explain how all those neurotic female nurses can handle it)? Of course not. Men may actually be better suited because of their -- on average -- greater physical strength, since lifting patients is involved. But they are discouraged (e.g., by historical norms, the notion that doctor is the only suitable health professional career for men, etc.). I have no problem with this guy pontificating about what differences are more pronounced between the sexes and how to encourage more equality in STEM fields, but maybe calling out a certain (female) segment of your colleagues as more likely to be "neurotic" is not the best way to encourage meaningful reflection.

  • Hypocritical Much?

    Most of the people criticizing the memo didn‘t read it or are piling on in their rush to virtue signal. Damore IS a supporter of diversity and is concerned about the lack of it. He appended mainstream studies supporting his viewpoint that the same percentages of women and men are not necessarily interested in the same professions. Women and men ARE biologically different. That‘s called science. Studies show women and men don‘t necessarily like the same things in the same numbers. Why do men like the Three Stooges more than women do, for instance? Why do women like romance novels and "chick flicks" more than guys? Despite these generalizations, Damore suggests looking at people as individuals and not as a member of a group. Everyone should be judged independently. That should be how every business judges a candidate - on their own merits, not as a member of a particular group. Finally, here is some food for thought: if the studies cited by Damore are so wrong, what explains the huge discrepancy at Google and other tech companies between the numbers of male and female employees and executives? If Damore is wrong, we can only assume that Google and similar companies are anti-woman and misogynistic. They‘ve known for years about the discrepancy and have not adequately addressed it. Google has failed to diversify and if Damore is wrong, then Google has failed in its mission due to its own prejudices. As much as I hate Google and similar companies for their insistence on group think and opposition to diversity of thought, I suspect there is some truth to the studies and as boys (trucks) and girls (dolls) teach us, males and females are not always interested in the same things in the same percentages.

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