Google’s Bad Boy

Seems like everyone is talking about James Damore, the Google software engineer who wrote a screed claiming women engineers at Google are of inferior quality, and worse, that this difference has a biological basis. A reporter from the San Jose Mercury News interviewed me on it yesterday (and then accidentally attributed someone else’s comments to me, now fixed). Readers of this blog are asking my thoughts. My daughter texted me about it from Asia. I overhead two staffers at my local library discussing it this morning.

I’m in a small minority when it comes to attributing intellectual prowess to biology. In short, I believe the genetic/physiological component is either very small or outright nonexistent. On the Nature vs. Nurture issue, I go with Nurture. I am not impressed by the studies — with rats having almost identical Nurture, of course Nature’s role will be magnified — and after many years of observing the effects of Nurture in my students and other young people, I just don’t buy the Nature argument.

I must confess to a tendency to be irritated when talking to biologists, who take the Nature side for granted, never giving it any real thought. Imagine my horror, then, when I learned today that Damore is a biologist! Yep, MS in biology from Harvard. Apparently no one there at Harvard told him about Larry Summers’ famous gaffe concerning women in science. Well, serves Damore right. (Just kidding.)

By the way, Damore’s path into software development/Google is actually common. His biological research was heavily computational, and with his prestigious institutional affiliations, it was a natural for Google to consider him. One more illustration of the fact that most software engineers do NOT have a CS degree (or in many cases, any degree at all).

But no, Mr.Damore, there is no Software Development Gene. The art just requires logical thinking and abstract conceptualizing, skills that I claim we all have. Well, then what makes a really top programmer? Very simple really — extraordinary passion for the subject, at the wear it on your sleave, eat/sleep/breathe computers level.

And therein may lie the problem. As I have mentioned before,

And here is the gender aspect: I’ve only rarely seen women who talk like that. Most men don’t either, but the ones who do are almost all male. While it is understandable the employers want to hire workers who have enthusiasm for their field (though much less justified to value quickness), I believe that this view of hiring is wrongly disadvantaging the women, and is causing employers to overlook many top-notch talents who happen to be female.

In short, I suspect that Damore perceives his female Google colleagues as being inferior, because they don’t exhibit that behavior. Given that he (rightly) takes Google people to task for not questioning their assumptions, it’s sad that he didn’t question his own.

 

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74 thoughts on “Google’s Bad Boy

  1. Anyone who actually reads, heaven forfend, his screed, so that they heaven forfend are actually talking about facts, will find that Damore highly qualified his various opinions as a PhD might and should – and did. But what he didn’t realize is that non-PhDs in biology would read right past his careful words.

    I find Google’s firing him crude beyond words. I think it’s obvious and plenty of people have tried to explain just how badly they’ve f’d up. I guess they’ve shortened their motto, it’s now “Do evil.” Short and sweet.

    >serves Damore right

    I said the same thing, and I was being only slightly sarcastic. He hung around Harvard and got a degree and didn’t realize the danger of speaking honestly in a large organization? Must be some kind of engineer or other propeller-head.

    >But no, Mr.Damore, there is no Software Development Gene

    I rather think there is. Let’s apply for a nice fat NSF grant and do a study. The hard part is isolating the top 1% in the software development area, but I’ll bet we could find a gene or three at 80% or more in that group and in less than 20% of controls or non-elite developers.

    To be a top 1% performer out in the world you have to unlearn a lot of what they throw at you in school, and you have to figure stuff out for yourself that you probably have no words for. I could probably come up with a quick Q&A that would pick out elite developers, if they would answer honestly. Better to simply watch what they do, I could pick it out on video. One of these days I might even publish something vaguely along these lines, I’ve been working on it a long, long time.

    But I’m guessing even Google only has a few percent elite developers. I did not see a lot when I was in school, insofar as one could tell back in those card-punching days, of either (or any, lol) gender. I have not seen a lot since. And for what it’s worth I claim the qualifications to judge. FWIW I only recently worked with the first fully-qualified elite (or close) female developer I’ve seen in about forty years. Might have seen another back then, she seemed to be keeping up with the crew only it wasn’t my group so I couldn’t quite tell.

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    • I agree that Google was wrong to fire Damore. I think that was part PC-ness and part in defense of its pending pay-discrimination lawsuit.

      I have indeed read his writeup. He is clearly a thoughtful guy, but just as clearly, he has his own political bias.

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    • “But what he didn’t realize is that non-PhDs in biology would read right past his careful words.”
      With good reason. He wasn’t writing on biology, he was writing on sociology. With the exception of neonatal testosterone spikes, which wasn’t tied to his other premises nor conclusions.

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  2. I’ve got to laugh at this Damore thing. I’m guessing he hasn’t had enough experience with women to realize how dumb this sounds. I’ve got a math-major daughter and a wife who can intuit the total value of a couple of overflowing Costo carts to the nearest $10. There may be some biological basis for differences between the sexes, but frankly it favors women. Back with our African ancestors, while men chased antelopes and fought off predators (single-focus activities) women did everything else (grow the crops, mind the kids, create social networks, fight off predators, etc.) My wife reminds me of this periodically, because it is still typical of human activity today: Men have a job, and women do everything else including a job. I recall that Mythbusters did a segment on this. No surprise the women subjects were better at multi-tasking than the men. But cultural stereotyping can explain this result as well as the “men are better at math” idea.

    Needless to say, these are generalizations, a bit tongue-in-cheek. Given the discrimination women have faced, buying the nature argument is naive at best, unless you haven’t mentally gotten past 6th grade.

    The other issue Damore brings up is the group-think aspect of many corporate environments. There are anti-discrimination policies, which you violate at your own risk. But there is also an underlying culture that may be entirely hypocritical as it relates to the public posture of the company. Google obviously has a pro-diversity policy, but they were recently under fire for unequal pay for women. Referring to Norm’s quote re how male techies talk (above), I expect there is an unconscious bias favoring people (mostly male) who fit this description when it comes to hiring. Damore seemed to be pointing this discrepancy out (good). Too bad he didn’t see his own bias (not so good). His criticism would have been more useful and to the point, and might not have gotten him fired.

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    • Google’s HR was on CBS This Morning a couple of years back. He said when they took a look at their interviewers, they had “unconscious bias”. Basic criteria for even being considered for candidacy, they had to be white or asian, male and young. Google’s “policy” is irrelevant. And, apparently their “unconscious bias training” is not working. Being as Google is a federal contractor, they were asked for their demographics and pay rates. Google’s fighting handing it over, in court.

      In 1995, working in defense, women were about 50% of the software engineers. Moved to commercial/internet development just after that, culture shock from their jock shop atmosphere. They’re mainly looking for boys to play sports with at lunch. Company lottery prize, football game tickets. Group outing, paint ball.

      An extraordinary software engineer has two fortes: the ability to remember an extraordinary amount of things AND the ability to think across multiple dimensions, usability, performance, efficiency, backward compatibility, which are well beyond merely being technically correct. These are not things that can be taught. The vast bulk of interviews are syntax, not only ignoring the above, but also the ability to collaborate (Google nearly sunk itself with arrogant non-collaborators) and _design_.

      A woman can out tech in an interview, but not out jock when sexism is the criteria.

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      • Right, somehow women did fine in tech back when it wasn’t an “in” thing to do.

        Let’s also not forget Reid v. Google, a case on which I served as an expert witness, in which the evidence strongly indicated an ageist culture at Google (they settled).

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        • When I look across the trajectory of women in software, it quite tightly dovetails with your age discrimination thread.
          In earlier software engineering development efforts, the “women can’t” men learned otherwise, with “women can” still present in the defense industry. Respect precedence partly due to Anita Hill’s “hands off” occurring during women-engineering-in-defense already present.
          But in the age-homogenized “in thing” hiring of Silicon Valley, those older lesson-learned men barred as candidates by the grey-hair-isn’t-cool criteria.
          Lack of adult supervision, regarding cultural lessons learned, doesn’t appear to be unique to humans. Some brainstorm in Africa decided the answer to overpopulation of elephants in a particular area was to take young males and relocate them. Isolated from their more mature, they started harassing the other animals and making a nuisance of themselves. Sound familiar? Uber, for instance.
          Loss in the software development domain includes productivity (design, collaboration, process, etc.), along with reemergence of gender discrimination. I wonder if there are any papers examining/encompassing software domain’s loss/impact solely due to age discrimination.

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  3. Do you plan on addressing his paper on a point-by-point basis? I read the paper itself, found some thoughts compelling however the biological ones were off the mark. I surmised that his points were more about the cultural constructs that have evolved side-by-side with physiological ones, but that’s my interpretation.
    And based upon my experience working in Information Technology for over 35 years, some of the consequences of human cultural development has led to less women seeking CompSci positions due to male domination rather than inability. STEM does attract a large number of women and I have never found them to be less capable than the men. Anecdotally, the social ineptness exists across all genders for persons focused on the sciences more than other concerns. But being a “nerd”, I find I enjoy the company of female “nerd” more than an empty-headed disco-bunny.

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  4. > While it is understandable the employers want to hire workers who have enthusiasm for their field (though much less justified to value quickness), I believe that this view of hiring is wrongly disadvantaging the women, and is causing employers to overlook many top-notch talents who happen to be female.

    Agreed. That does remind me of a job ad that I read recently that contained the following:

    What we’re looking for:
    You take
    pride in designing elegant solutions to complex problems
    You write
    beautiful code, complimented with beautiful tests
    You are an
    energy multiplier, injecting enthusiasm and bounce in every team
    interaction
    You aren’t
    shy about networking with key contacts outside your own area of expertise
    You have a
    strong grasp of industry standards, best practices, architecture and
    design patterns.
    You know how
    to take a stack from zero to production-ready, and understand it’s care
    and feeding.
    You know
    what it takes, through experience, to support, scale, and nurture a
    high-volume transactional system deployed globally
    You are
    programming-language and technology agnostic
    You cannot
    stand being in a comfort-zone

    My first thought was that they sound to be looking for some sort of zen master. More importantly, however, I think that it does speak against the idea that there is any broad skills shortage in Silicon Valley. Can you imagine any company that was desperate to find any skilled workers would post a request for such a perfect employee? It sounds to me much more like a company that has plenty of candidates to choose from and is just looking first to nab a “zen master”.

    By the way, the poetic line breaks are not mine, they were in the actual ad.

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      • Or, they are already employed. Remember the big “anti-poaching” scandal of a few years ago? Top coders were so highly prized, the software “Bigs” colluded to ensure they were not poaching from each other.

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      • Yes, and it likely scares off applicants who are merely qualified. I consider myself qualified for many positions but I don’t consider myself to be the “God’s gift to programming” that they appear to be looking for. I would never bother applying unless I was a remarkable match for their listed requirements. Of course, that may be their intention.

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        • 100% “God’s gift” types was attempted at Google and they ran smack into a wall. The “God’s gift” staff never learned one thing in academia: collaboration.

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    • Geez, how about the misspellings? “You write beautiful code, complimented (sic) with beautiful tests.” Hah. I haven’t seen three programmers in thirty years who even attempted to write “beautiful code”, especially if that requires extensive comments, and thus I’ve seen zero managers who required it – and seen more than one who discouraged it. The current idea that developers should write permanent tests as part of a project, I find bizarre and perverse, but a detailed discussion won’t fit here. “You know how to take a stack from zero to production-ready…”, another howler, and triply so if the same guy (!?) is supposed to be writing beautiful code. “You cannot stand being in a comfort-zone”? What does THAT mean, masochists only need apply, beatings will continue until morale improves, management is psycho? Oh, I see, yes we’re talking about Google and that’s exactly the case. Never mind.

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      • > Hah. I haven’t seen three programmers in thirty years who even attempted to write “beautiful code”, especially if that requires extensive comments, and thus I’ve seen zero managers who required it…

        Agreed. With job security a thing of the past, I don’t know any programmers who document their code, via comments or otherwise, unless expressly asked and given the time to do so. And, as you say, it was very rare that any manager asked me to do so. They were usually focused on trying to meet an ill-conceived schedule. On the last project I worked on, I was essentially “behind schedule” on the day that I started. That’s one reason why so much code has security problems. Security is usually the last thing on the list, right after documentation. The key priority is to get a product that runs during the demo.

        > “You cannot stand being in a comfort-zone”? What does THAT mean, masochists only need apply, beatings will continue until morale improves, management is psycho?

        Yes, that did seem an especially odd requirement. Perhaps they simply mean that the applicant must be brilliant but not comfortable in their brilliance. They must continue to strive to find ways to please their masters.

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        • Oh, you know the other version of this. “Fast-paced environment with changing priorities”. IOW management is clueless and out of control. What it *sounds* like is, “Never satisfied, constant improvement”, but that’s not what it actually says and that’s not what it actually means.

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        • “You cannot stand being in a comfort-zone”? What does THAT mean,
          There are people who detest the uphill climb to learn something new. It is usually attributed to older workers, but I’ve found the most vocal/adamant against having to learn entirely new language/implementation been young. Fortunately, they’ve been rare.

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    • Well econdataus, I’ve seen this particular contrary set of characteristics mentioned in an interview. In particular, “You are an energy multiplier, injecting enthusiasm and bounce in every team interaction” would be highly contradictory to the rest. The assumption is that exuding energy is productive, when in fact, the actual task requires sedentary focus. The number one complaint I got from staff (working embedded at customer site) was incessant noise from co-located administrative staff – chronic atmospheric ruckus.

      When “high-energy” came up in an interview years ago – I thought “Have I got the guy for you!” – he’s so high energy, he couldn’t park his hiney to do his job if his life depended on it.

      The overall ad content that you cite, is a company looking for someone to rescue them, from themselves. I see a lot of “we collectively are incompetent and in need of rescue” ads. “Senior engineer, to train 20 juniors in process, design, [etc.]”

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      • > The overall ad content that you cite, is a company looking for someone to rescue them, from themselves. I see a lot of “we collectively are incompetent and in need of rescue” ads. “Senior engineer, to train 20 juniors in process, design, [etc.]”

        Yes, I have seen several such ads that struck me as very strange. Things like a 6-month contract to lead a group and provide guidance to junior programmers. You’re right that it may be an attempt to bail out the management which hired numerous junior programmers thinking that this would save them money and then finding that they couldn’t do the job that they were hired for.

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      • Amy,

        Your first paragraph awakened an older plaint of mine — the attack on individual offices with doors, ceilings, and quiet for those of us with cerebral jobs. The open cubicles that work well for many routine jobs have taken a toll on us and our efficiency, in some cases forcing us to do our most serious work on personal time or after the madding crowd has departed.

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    • This is what happens when companies are spoiled for choice. They know they’re going to get hundreds of applicants so they go crazy in their ‘requirements’ or job description. It’s like they’re looking for that ‘unicorn.’

      I think that when a company files for an LCA, they should include the job ad they posted and that there’s someone in DOL/USCIS that actually reads them and realize what is actually going on when a company claims that they ‘couldn’t find anyone qualified.’

      I see a lot of these crazy job postings and I’m thinking of posting them on my wordpress blog here or setting one up on Medium.

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        • Thanks for mentioning that. I knew that this was not being done, so this was just me wishing out loud. So since it’s a statute, only Congress can change it but can the implementation process be changed by EO? I heard there was talk about Pres. Trump doing something to get around this and not have to wait for Congress.

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          • There are lots of things that could be done by Executive Order, including one that has been mentioned in which the visas would be doled out in order of offered salary. However, with the anti-Trump crowd becoming emboldened to mount a legal challenge to EOs that the president clearly has in his power, I doubt that this would work.

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  5. I am concerned that a company would fire an employee for expressing an opinion. He appeared to make no threats to harm others. It is common now that one must conform to the current trend for political correctness. It is certainly true that a person now of certain races or sexes will receive preferential treatment in opportunities and pay.

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      • People chose to read what he wrote; it is not like they were subjected to a diatribe in a meeting from which they could not leave. Based on my experiences in the workplace, being subjected to a screaming fit by a supervisor in a meeting is a hostile workplace; his composition would not even rate.

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  6. Please read Camille Pagilas’ latest collection of essays. “Free Women, Free Men”.
    Either there is a genetic disposition at work or there is a serious problem with women being in complete charge of most of the current educational system.
    Take your pick.
    Ignoring the problem and shooting the messenger only works for popes and dictators.
    It does not serve the truth or women.

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  7. I had been working in teams where some software developer were women. Invariably, they had never been the best in a team. They were Ok, but not more. In my experience women were gravitating toward managerial, QA or project management side.

    As far as bias is concerned, I once reported to a CIO of a Fortune 100 company who did not know how to use computers and had very vague ideas about software development. She was hired to her position ONLY because she was a woman. Her tenure was quite disastrous.

    I believe Damore’s memo was primarily aimed at the diversity policy at Google, which does not look at employees’ qualifications, but simply at proportions of women, minorities, etc.

    We can consider this a turning point of Google – turning for the worse.

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    • It doesn’t occur to the one holding the yardstick they created that their yardstick is off.
      It became obvious to me when one male coworker was held in high esteem, because people would have to ask him to explain his highly cryptic code. While the best women’s code that was elegant and commented, were cast as having written “the easy stuff”, because it was easy to understand.
      I too have worked at a company that attempted to “snap” to statistics, and plugged women into every management opening, in some cases totally unqualified. Rather than resolve with logical methods. I don’t consider this any more dysfunctional than when incompetent men are put into positions beyond their ability, like friend of CEO, golfing buddy, good as individual contributor, ex-military EEO hire, etc. But men tend to be find these less objectionable.

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  8. Norm, I have to disagree with you on the Software development gene issue. Unfortunately my software engineering career was cut short by the mass influx of H1-b’s, but while I was active, I noticed that some people have it and some don’t.

    As an example, if you took a baby from a family with no musical ability and trained that baby to play an instrument from the start you would probably end up with a trained monkey that could play an instrument very well. However, they still wouldn’t be Mozart or even come close to his abilities.

    However, what is also wrong is saying that certain genders or creeds don’t have the gene. I have seen more white men with the gene than other groups, but I have also seen women and people from other races with the gene. To say the gene has ethnic or gender boundaries is totally false.

    I have found that people with a CS education are far more refined than those without, but how many of those people were writing code before they had an education? Before it was a profitable career? I have an inlaw who was writing code in BASIC when he was in kindergarten. I was writing code as soon as I was able to get my hands on a computer. People with the gene have an irresistible urge to code. People without the gene are just looking for a paycheck.

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    • I have seen this argument so many times: Groups X and Y differ in aspect Z, therefore the difference is genetic.

      And the argument: No matter how much Nurture someone gets, they won’t be able to win the Olympics.

      A non sequitur in the first case, irrelevent to last night’s blog in the second case.

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  9. >wrote a screed claiming women engineers at Google are of inferior quality, and worse, that this difference has a biological basis

    Norm, I’m very disappointed at this mis-statement of the issues. Here are some comments – excuse me if not perfectly organised:

    1. The above is an unfair description of his nuanced paper. The document is here:
    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586-Googles-Ideological-Echo-Chamber.html
    https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586/Googles-Ideological-Echo-Chamber.pdf

    2. To a certain extent, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are public utilities or a public forum, much like the Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park. Discouraging free debate is certainly not in democracy’s interest. Google would have done better to encourage the debate, in the expectation that its side – if at all correct – would prevail. Apparently, Google had no such confidence in its own arguments.

    3. An engineer writes in criticism of a rigidly-enforced mono-culture which brooks no dissent, so he’s fired. Sort of proves his thesis, doesn’t it?

    4. He states he values diversity but still raises two issues (both of which are substantial):
    – Not all differences in outcome indicate oppression or discrimination. Many men have little interest in discussing pretty cloth or fashion. That doesn’t mean the source is oppression nor even cultural. And it should not be treated as heresy worthy of inquisition, to speculate that the reasons may be partially (or fully) biological.
    – Google’s rigid, authoritarian mono-culture is detrimental to thought.

    5. The modern cohort of veterinarians is heavily over-weighted female. Does this indicate discrimination against men?

    6. Despite decades of trying, social engineering has not given many women the desire to lay concrete. Nor has it prevented little boys from admiring cement-mixers and cranes, and little girls from admiring doll-houses; any parent has seen this. While as parents we should encourage anything constructive in children – including technical interests in girls if that’s the child’s disposition – it is not so absurd to suggest that
    – Differences in outcome may have a component of individual interest rather than the dogma of being 100% discrimination.
    – Individual interest may have a component which is innate rather than 100% cultural.

    7. California law may bar his dismissal for stating his political viewpoint.

    8. “Hostile environment” is a bottomless pit which, at this point, means “any disagreement with a politically-favoured group or cause”.

    9. Male intelligence seems to have longer tails – more challenged individuals at the low end, more Einsteins at the upper end. Recognising this difference or speculating it biological hardly prevents me from giving appropriate credit to individuals, such as Gerty Cori or Marie Curie.

    10. I’m startled and disappointed that authoritarian adherence to “diversity” dogma clouds our society’s judgment of Damore, to the point of political inquisition, with only the occasional defence:
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/no-the-google-manifesto-isnt-sexist-or-anti-diversity-its-science/article35903359/

    (As a separate matter, I think Google just created another few thousand Trump voters. Extremes of political correctness eventually boomerang.)

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      • I’ve read both. Your statement that Damore “wrote a screed claiming women engineers at Google are of inferior quality, and worse, that this difference has a biological basis” is an unconscionable mis-representation. He never said any such thing, regardless of the extent to which “diversity” proponents have attempted to put words into his mouth.

        Stated otherwise, it’s surprising that you, as a statistician, reduce his argument to such parody. He reasonably tries to show the distribution of interests and capabilities may be overlapping but not identical.

        These distributions may or may not be normal curves as he shows, but the idea does support his point that there need not be discrimination against women as a group for its aggregate representation in programming and technology to differ from men’s.

        Further, he suggested non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap. That’s hardly misogynist or biologically-determinist.

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        • There should be no debate on this. He talks about “possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech,” “the harm of Google’s biases” and so on, and especially noteworthy, says that Google “lowers the bar” in hiring “diversity” applicants. I think the conclusion is unmistakable. What part of “lower the bar” don’t you understand?

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          • Oh my, so many logical errors, it’s hard to know where to start. Let’s handle the most important.

            Norm, please examine Damore’s graph of traits as two normal curves, largely overlapping, with one having a somewhat lower mean, say by difference d. This could represent many human traits – for example, the left curve representing the distribution of women’s lesser height or strength, and the right curve representing the distribution of men’s greater height or strength. The overlap means, of course, that many women are still taller than many men – but the curves are still valid. This is all Stat 101 for Poets, which you most likely taught.

            Applies to physical characteristics but doesn’t apply to intellect or cognition, you say? Well, studies of little boys and girls have consistently found boys to develop greater spatial acuity on (emphatically) average – not individuals – and girls to develop greater verbal acuity on (emphatically) average – not individuals. So it is not at all outlandish for Damore to speculate that there might be different distributions for male vs female analytical or programming ability. The fact that he shows considerable overlap means he recognizes that still represents many females whose competency in the trait exceeds males. More Stat 101 for Poets.

            Now, if a company wants a certain level of competency and sets a threshold at s sigma, it will draw a vertical line at a point in the right tail of the males. The area under the curve to the right of the threshold line represents the number of candidates meeting or exceeding the threshold. If (for simplicity) we assume the female curve to be similar (same variance) with mean lower by amount d, then to obtain the same number of candidates under the female curve, the female threshold line cannot be superposed on the male threshold line, but must instead be d distance to the left, lower on the x scale. More Stat 101 for Poets.

            So, the threshold (vertical line or bar) for female candidates is of necessity lower than the threshold (vertical line or bar) for male candidates. Q.E.D. What don’t you understand about “lower the bar,” Norm?

            But there are more problems with your position, Norm. Clearly, colleges and employers have long had a lower bar for some identities (blacks, Hispanics, women) and a higher bar for others (white males, Asian males). This includes the special programs Damore mentions by Goolag for selected groups, for the most part barring out white (and Asian?) males. The PC crowd demanding such discrimination, then denying it exists (“lower bar”) and crucifying anyone as Damore who suggests that, may intend to suppress dissent but only provokes yet more. In other words, if the PC crowd so cavalierly sweeps aside the dissent from reasonable opponents (such as Damore or myself or moderate conservatives), then it may end up dealing with the unreasonable opponents (such as the Charlottesville loony-right demonstrators). (Yes, I know those racist demonstrators riled over a Confederate statue, not Google’s personnel practices. My point still stands.) Overreach on the left encourages overreach on the right.

            Another problem is that the crucifixion technique can be turned against your own side, Norm. Let’s imagine an analogy between Matloff and Damore. Exactly as the hysterically-baying PC mob has crucified Damore, the hysterically-baying anti-PC mob could do the same to Matloff:
            . Matloff has said women are more practical than men.
            . So Matloff’s saying men are inferior.
            . So Matloff’s creating a hostile environment for his male students and colleagues.
            . So Matloff must be immediately dismissed from his faculty position.
            . So Matloff’s business contacts must be notified or boycotted, to ensure his business relations (publishing, consultancies) are disrupted.
            . Opponents – both former colleagues and strangers – openly state they are adding Norm to a blacklist (as was threatened to Damore) to ensure he never works in the industry again.
            . Norm is be crucified in the real or virtual pages of most major media nationwide.
            . Etc.

            Now imagine all this, Norm, but your being a just-starting youngster like Damore, rather than an established professor who might not suffer extensively if forced into retirement by the PC or anti-PC mob supported by the corporate and academic “system”.

            Would you now be willing to apologize to Damore for piling on by falsely stating he said women inferior? And would you be willing to apologize to males generally for saying males inferior? What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

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  10. Brain scans have shown that typically, different parts of the brain “fire” when men and women look at the same problem or the same picture. It’s possible that this is all Nurture, but I doubt it. It doesn’t make one better than the other, just different. And when it comes to solving problems — especially deep, interesting ones — different is probably a good idea, provided there is mutual respect and communication.

    What irks me is there is no corresponding “angst” about the high percentage (over 75%) of women occupying teaching positions in public schools. How are young men supposed to learn that books and academics are not “girly” things — or “not manly” — if they are constantly exposed to female teachers and few, if any, males in certain circumstances? At least, that’s the line of reasoning we should expect to hear, from those who agitate for more minorities in teaching.

    In other words, if diversity is good when it is about reducing male domination in some areas, then it should be just as good when addressing lack of male participation in others.

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    • You’re not following gender discussions in education. They have been discussing this, for quite a while. Apparently the entire sit-for-8-hours is directly contrary to standard boy capacity. Male written math texts is the reason for lower female math scores, males do worse than females if examples change to girl things – calculate using recipe measurements, fabric yardages, instead of baseball diamond runs, train distances, etc.
      I discussed such things with a teacher – the possibility of kids picking their topic, and software producing their lessons/tests according to their interests (music: How many guitars, at $X per guitar, could you buy with Y?, trucks: How many trucks, at $X per truck, could you buy with Y?), and bias in education, and it was beyond her – apparently if bias isn’t _intentional_, then it’s irrelevant.
      If you’re solely or mainly interested in lack of corresponding angst about it, I can only attribute that to men not being locked out of it. Are women, or education, trying to claim men just don’t have the right stuff for the job? or underpaid within the profession?

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  11. Not being a sociologist, Mr. Damore is groping through his own bias, with a variant of “blacks do worse as evident in statistics as shown in …”, which exists due to males’ arbitrary social engineering, which he is accusing Google of.
    I question his dismissal of empathy, being as I consider it essential to “engineer” – one who makes solutions for others.
    Overall, I admire his attempt to grapple with his inner conflict, as he sounds trapped in an antique John Wayne concept of men. Not sure why Google would fire him. I wouldn’t let him near the role of interviewer though.

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      • I am stunned “user” is aggressively rejected by some:
        – “UI is religion” – my software manager, of hardware background
        – “This [software development project] would be so much easier if we didn’t have users” – my team lead
        – “Because our priority is performance” – coworker changing system default – which brought down Bloomberg’s entire network
        – “Because it’s easier for me” – coworker adding redundant info requirement to UI
        – “Because it’s easier for me” – coworker justifying hardware numeric address on the UI
        – “But I did give you an output file to use” – coworker who created output file of binary, for end user
        – “Garbage in, garbage out” – EE’s justification for crashing and malfunction via unverified quality of data coming in their UI
        I attribute Apple’s blazing success with iPod to 100% usability commitment. Still, it appears the vast majority of businesses/engineering learned nothing from that.

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      • Empathy? Users? UI as religion? Damore? This all ties together and resolves compatibly, but can I squeeze it into this little box? Damore gives the thinking man’s (sic) disclaimer, that statistical distributions do not tell you the results of any single trial. This is supposed to let him interview without bias. Now, that may be delusional on his part, we all take biases in with us, but he means well. For a Vulcan. Vulcan’s don’t have empathy, they think they don’t need it, but they can fake it out of logic if they have to. But I got going on this response not because of Damore, but because of UI – which it appears is a completely forgotten art form AND SCIENTIC DISCIPLINE. Building a UI that users will be able to use quickly and with minimal error is an engineering task far more than a matter of empathy. Once you have that you can negotiate with your artists about making it cute. I don’t want to tell people to “imagine you’re the user” unless they’ve first had a couple of courses in human factors and cognitive science. Otherwise get them the heck off the job.

        I’m with a company now, just designing some new stuff, and because they follow what are current design conventions across the industry, because stuff has to run on screens from three inches to forty-three, the stuff averages incredibly ugly and wasteful of screen space, hard to read, and obviously designed without a single thought to possible workflow models or data semantics, and not even using more than a few design elements out of hundreds more that are available. I can’t bear to look at it. But it was designed with constant back and forth with the users – who also don’t know what the options are, or how their own cognitive processes work. Don’t even get me going …

        Liked by 1 person

        • When I agreed on the issue of empathy, I was not talking touchy-feely stuff. I’m really referring to the practical.

          Some years ago, when offshoring started to take off, a guy from India said to me, “How can programmers in India design an e-commerce app? Most people in India don’t have credit cards.” Of course things are different today, partially due to pay-by-phone like WeChat, but he certainly had a point at the time.

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  12. To get a PhD, you need to learn a great deal about a very small subject. Speaking from experience, it also gives you an inflated impression of your ability to solve any problem, using the exceptional insights developed in your research.

    With a little more life experience, even a PhD can learn something important about the opposite sex and the considerable difference between being smart and being effective.

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    • Well Sorscher, according to the news, apparently he didn’t have a PhD. He was in a PhD program.
      And, the vast majority of PhDs I’ve worked with had no such sophomoric self-impressions. Quite the opposite, the vast majority are well aware they know a sliver in the vast bank of knowledge even within their domain.
      The only incident I can remember was one telling me CS degrees were entirely unnecessary, anyone can read a book on programming. Which he discovered otherwise, within a year. 😉

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  13. Creating a “hostile work environment” has merit as grounds for discharging an employee but is also incredibly dangerous and precipitously abusable. Discussing political issues on company time is clearly a no-no.

    Someone on an H-1B visa who hears of a fellow worker opposed to H-1B may naturally resent that person as someone who threatens his job and career plans, just as American STEM workers may see H-1Bs as threatening their jobs and career plans.

    How many of us in the private sector, especially working for large H-1B employers, are reluctant to spread news about H-1B after hours — or even mention it to co-workers off site — lest word leak out and we be accused of creating a hostile work environment? It might be worthwhile in the long run to more carefully discuss and delimit the circumstances under which the claim of creating a hostile work environment justifies firing an employee.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. We have multiple overlapping issues in conflict here: a bias against women, which is cultural and economic; a bias against H-1Bs, mostly economic, the usual opportunistic corporate preoccupation with the bottom line; the current societal evolution towards equality and tolerance; the old-boy mentality; the young-boy mentality; opinion purported to be based on scientific studies (although the social sciences are still fairly fuzzy on stuff like gender and race)…etc. Given the huge impact of nurture, any claims based on nature are questionable. I’m not sure what the issue is here, other than that we are all at the mercy of the self-serving opinions and actions of others, and a complex and evolving culture. Hopefully over time bias and intolerance will dissipate in the general culture, although I’m less optimistic about the negative impact of the corporate mind-set, both social and economic.Maybe Google should only hire only H-1B women. That would be interesting.

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    • The contention with H1B isn’t “mostly economic”, it’s fraud. The use of H1B visas by industry is economic, and not the purported justification for the program’s existence, skill scarcity. How is swapping off Google’s H1B hires to women not also fraud?
      US culture is both evolving and devolving.

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      • It’s a joke, intended to offend everybody- it appears to have been partially successful. The point is, all this kvetching about various details seems to miss underlying causes. And I’m not sure we’re smart enough to figure out what those underlying causes are, given our human limitations. And this has an element of absurdity about it, which is humorous…which leads me to suggest, all things considered, that Google hire female H-1Bs. That’s funny to contemplate the consequent uproar. And more funny: H-1B women seems to do better, socially and technically, than the guys. And they’re probably paid less. Google would have the economic motive it needs. And since the whole H-1B process is already rife with discrimination and subterfuge, Google could probably get away with it by claiming they’re trying to right past wrongs, in addition to all the usual BS arguments.

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  15. I find it surprising that after all these years, no one has come up with an explanation of why there are more men than women in tech and moreover, what to do to fix it.

    The profession of programming has been around for a very long time. Can someone provide a chart that shows the ratio of men/women in programming per year? We don’t have to go way back to the 1800s but let’s say the 1940s. Maybe this wasn’t a problem until recently? I heard that there were more women programmers in the 80s.

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    • Yes, there were a lot more female programmers in the 80s, and for that matter, a lot more female computer science students. My own theory, which I have mentioned from time to time over the years, is that women are more practical, and thus more put off by the boom/bust nature of the IT job market. Not long after I first stated that theory publicly, there was partial confirmation, in that a survey of college students found that job prospects are much more important among women than men when they choose their college majors.

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  16. I’d like to share this with you & your blog readers. I was watching Bloomberg Technology and a guest mentioned this Tech Jobs Tour across America. I checked out the site (https://techjobstour.com) and it’s pretty heavy on the liberal pro-diversity angle with most of the images showing women and minority/non-white IT people. Even their speaker list (https://techjobstour.com/speakers/) is chockful of women & minority folk.

    They’re claiming to fill 500k IT jobs in a year – til summer 2018 at an average of $83k salary for an IT job.

    Like

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