Deconstructing Mr. Damore’s Google Diversity Memo

By Terry Connelly, Dean Emeritus, Ageno School of Business, Golden Gate University

Maybe Tom Cruise of Jerry Maguire fame should play James Damore in the movie version – “It’s not a memo, it’s a mission statement.” Besides, the same thing happened to Jerry Maguire when he wrote his. And of course, Tom and Mr. Damore do share an important characteristic: they are both males.

Maybe we should focus on “males” for a moment. I was thinking a writing a “memo” about how the “traits” of men NOT cited by Mr. Damore in his memo purporting to assess dispassionately Google’s diversity programs (sourced to the exactly the same scientific “evidence” cited by him in that memo) such as a stronger tendency to “narcissism” and “taking dangerous risks”. These traits (to follow Mr. Damore’s logic) may suggest that the preponderance of males in the senior leadership of Google is “not good for the company.” Indeed, consider how Google’s parent Chief Financial Officer, Ruth Porat, has in the view of Wall Street analysts, has done more for the company’s shareholder value than any other officer, male or female. (Of course, she first had to overcome her “female” tendency to shy away from intensive numbers work!)

Mr. Damore’s memo is very selective about the supposed biological and genetic traits of “men” that he makes reference to – namely, only those that support the overwhelming presence of men in the ranks of Google employees, such as males’ “higher drive for status.” But let’s put aside for the moment and concentrate on what Mr. Damore said about women.

First, he starts off with the polemic technique of setting up mythical “straw men” (Sorry for the gender reference but that’s the way some common figures of speech roll.).

He attacks the leftist “moral… biases” he accuses his employer of embracing in shaping their diversity policies, as opposed to the right-wing biases he later endorses (Let’s “de-emphasize empathy”) in his memo’s conclusions:

Google’s Biases

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

  • Compassion for the weak
  • Disparities are due to injustices
  • Humans are inherently cooperative
  • Change is good (unstable)
  • Open
  • Idealist

Right Biases

  • Respect for the strong/authority
  • Disparities are natural and just
  • Humans are inherently competitive
  • Change is dangerous (stable)
  • Closed
  • Pragmatic

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. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies. For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.

Where is his evidence that Google lives by what he calls the obvious bias that “all” differences in outcome are due to differential treatment, or that discrimination is “required” to create “equal” representation? He has merely asserted that Google has based its personnel policies on these extreme and authoritarian straw men. But that’s just his opening amateurish, Sophistic trick. He goes on to cite as though it is settled science a series of findings in selected research studies that “suggest” that:

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 distribution.

Women, on average, have more:

  • Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).
  • These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.
  • Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.
  • This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there’s overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women’s issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support.
  • Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.

Note that contrary to what a social constructionist would argue, research suggests that “greater nation-level gender equality leads to psychological dissimilarity in men’s and women’s personality traits.” Because as “society becomes more prosperous and more egalitarian, innate dispositional differences between men and women have more space to develop and the gap that exists between men and women in their personality becomes wider.” We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.”

Mr. Damore’s source for these scientific “suggestions,” which he nonetheless concludes are “universal across human cultures,” are eminently “heritable,” and “exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychological perspective” is none other than – wait for it —Wikipedia! Such sourcing would not make it past a freshman sociology class…or even one in high school. But leave that aside. He also asserts that when a society becomes more “prosperous and egalitarian” these disparate tendencies between men and women become more pronounced and embedded. Even if that conclusion were undisputed (which it isn’t) surely he does not consider that America – or even Silicon Valley – is becoming more “egalitarian!”

Indeed it is possible that Mr. Damore in fact “proves” too much. If he’s right that to achieve success in tech, women must overcome embedded pre-dispositions in their very nature, but that these differentiations also can “evolve,” would it not be useful in terms of such evolution to provide them some extra support to do so in order simply to broaden the base and scope of collective human talent. Moreover, would it not be “good for the company’ to go out of its way to hire women who have shown the “grit” to overcome their natural deficiencies in terms of working with “things” or doing mathematics?

Mr. Damore also employs the trick of “acknowledging” that these ‘on average” characteristics overlap among men and women to some degree, and are not automatically the case with each individual male or female. But this point subtly introduces the old saw that “the exception proves the rule.” More importantly, it puts the burden of proof on women in any job interview in tech to show that, to put it bluntly, they have as an “individual,” overcome their biology and genetic makeup! How would Mr. Damore enjoy having to prove in every interview that he is not a narcissist?

In his conclusions and suggestions, Mr. Damore reveals his own biases. He states as an incontestable fact (without supporting citation other than an indirect reference to a book by one Dr. Farrell who asserts he has proved that women actually earn more than men) that there is no income disparity whatsoever between men and women doing exactly the same work. He supports this claim with the fatuous claim that since women spend more than men, we ought to “reconsider our assumptions” in terms of male/female workplace bargaining power.

He says: “Yes, in a national aggregate, women have lower salaries than men for a variety of reasons. For the same work though, women get paid just as much as men. Considering women spend more money than men and that salary represents how much the employees sacrifices (e.g. more hours, stress, and danger), we really need to rethink our stereotypes around power.”

And this is the logical mind The New York Times David Brooks admires as compared with the judgment of the CEO of Google, who has the common sense to recognize a direct attack on Google’s corporate values and female employees as a group when he sees it. Does Mr. Brooks also support the scientific “reasoning’ in Mr. Damore’s closing recommendation (in addition to de-emphasizing empathy and morals in diversity practices) that Google also should stop alienating conservatives: “Alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is required for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.”

Perhaps Mr. Brooks will at some point enlighten us on how he feels, as a conservative columnist, about being more cut out for sheer drudgery (did Mr. Damore mean Matt Drudge?) than progressives.

In self-defense, Damore has penned another note, this time in The Wall Street Journal, where he asserts: “In my document, I committed heresy against the Google creed by stating that not all disparities between men and women that we see in the world are the result of discriminatory treatment.”

Please read the original memo, including the excerpts included in this blog, to determine for your self whether that is in fact what Mr. Damore said. Disputation about ideas is fine; in fact, I like Mr. Damore’s suggestion that similarly affected men should be allowed to attend special sessions designed for women to address assertiveness issues. But what’s good in Mr. Damore’s memo is overwhelmed by its overall devotion to Alt-Right cant that Google is entitled to disown. After all, the Supreme Court has decided in the campaign finance realm that corporations are people, too, in terms of the First Amendment, and more recently, that they can even assert and enforce religious beliefs. I do not see any evidence that Mr. Brooks has challenged those holdings. Yet he attacks Google’s CEO for acting on them and instead embraces Mr. Damore’s rather obvious misuse of selected scientific studies about “evolutionary psychology” — that Mr. Brooks knows do not go as far as Mr. Damore stretches them — to fit his own biases.

After all, what is wrong with Google doing its best to push forward that “evolution” – in terms of further developing the range of female talents and traits? My own personality has been scientifically assessed as a Myers-Briggs INTJ type – but with pronounced non-conforming characteristics of Expressiveness, Acceptance, and Rationality. But nobody can pick out these typologies just from my walking into an interview room or an office. But so-called ‘traits’ of a particular sex or race are just the opposite – they can be assumed by mere physical appearance.

This is precisely why biases based on the mere physical reality race and gender, in fact, compel special attention in terms of the workplace. We have, in fact, ”evolved’ from reliance on racial and gender stereotypes. You say you do not endorse stereotypes – yet you cite research to the effect that they are the MOST reliable indicator of human behavior. Why?

Girls can’t code! All Google is saying is “Yes they can if given a chance!” That’s not discrimination, as Mr. Damore asserts, that’s justice.


This article appeared on the Huffington Post on 8/14/17.


About Terry Connelly

Terry Connelly is an economic expert and Dean Emeritus of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University. With more than 30 years experience in investment banking, law and corporate strategy on Wall Street and abroad, Terry analyses the impact of government politics and policies on local, national and international economies, examining the interaction of global financial markets, the U.S. banking industry (and all of its regulatory agencies), the Federal Reserve, domestic employment levels and consumer reactions to the changing economic tides. Terry holds a law degree from NYU School of Law and his professional history includes positions with Ernst & Young Australia, the Queensland University of Technology Graduate School of Business, New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore (corporate, securities and litigation practice in New York and London), global chief of staff at Salomon Brothers investment banking firm and Cowen & Company’s investments, where he served as CEO. In conjunction with Golden Gate University President Dan Angel, Terry co-authored Riptide: The New Normal In Higher Education (2011). Riptidedeconstructs the changing landscape of higher education in the face of the for-profit debacle, graduation gridlock and staggering student debt, and asserts a new, sustainable model for progress. Terry is a board member of the the Public Religion Research Institute, a Washington, DC think tank and polling organization, and the Cardiac Therapy Foundation in Palo Alto, California. Terry lives in Palo Alto with his wife.

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