It was the internal Google memo that went viral. Its author criticised Google’s approach to diversity and asserted that gender imbalance in the tech industry is, in fact, caused by universally biological differences between men and women.
Among the assertions in the 10-page memo, titled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, were the ideas that, by nature and on average, women value feelings and aesthetics over ideas; prefer jobs in social or artistic areas; are more agreeable and neurotic, and less assertive, than men. That women are relatively more interested in ‘people’ and seeking ‘work-life balance’, while men are relatively more interested in ‘things’ and driven by ‘status’. The memo goes on to claim that Google’s diversity practices are, in fact, discriminatory – ‘based on false assumptions generated by our biases and can actually increase race and gender tensions.’
When we asked Alasdair Scott, Chemistry’s Head of Inclusion & Wellbeing, to share his thoughts on the memo, his primary concern was that it undermines the amazing work women already do in tech, and does nothing to break down the traditional, stereotypical view that gender-specific job roles exist and everything to limit the possibilities that young people see for themselves. In response to the idea that, on average, men value ‘things’ more than ‘people’, he asks, ‘What about the countless men who expertly navigate people politics and empathetically manage their teams? What about his male colleagues who prioritise building close, reciprocal and human relationships with their colleagues?’ and goes on to argue that the author’s world-view is a narrow one, in which walls are built around what men and women can and can’t do or achieve.
Google’s VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown, who has only been in the role for a couple of weeks, also responded to the memo, stating that it ‘advanced incorrect assumptions about gender’. Of Google, she said: ‘We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.’ Her response also stressed that while changing a culture is ‘hard’ and ‘often uncomfortable’, it’s ultimately the right thing to do.
Here at Chemistry, we’re extremely proud to live by our mission of giving everyone their opportunity to be brilliant, regardless of who they are, so it goes without saying that Diversity & Inclusion runs through our core. Age, race, gender – none of these should be a barrier to finding your opportunity to be brilliant, not even (gasp) in the tech industry. In fact, we’ve often argued that the more pressing issue in the ever-growing and ever-evolving tech industry – the skills shortage – could be solved by fostering a more inclusive talent pool. In Gareth Jones’ blog, he asks: Could Silver Coders Solve The Skills Shortage In Tech?
Jason Carlson, meanwhile – who is Chemistry’s VP of Engineering, based in Seattle – tells us in his blog why he volunteers at Female Developers Academy, Ada. Building a healthy, inclusive, collaborative team has always been Jason’s top priority as a manager: ‘Until you’ve built a well-balanced, healthy team,’ he says, ‘you cannot truly understand how much better the culture can be. Ideas flow freely and no-one fears being shot-down. Team members feel valued and empowered. You build much better software. It’s also, frankly, a damn better environment; an environment that means you want to come to work each day and be a contributing part of a well-oiled development machine.’
The author of the memo has since been dismissed from Google for ‘perpetuating gender stereotypes’. That’s despite opening his memo with: ‘I…don’t endorse using stereotypes’. The irony is not lost on us.