Tag Archives: diversity

Comment Of The Day: “The Viral Google Diversity Memo”

The perspective Ethics Alarms readers often add to topics based on their personal experiences is a often great enhancement to the discussions here. This Comment of the Day by Alex is a perfect example, as he clarifies the context of the Google diversity memo through his own observations as an employee of another large tech company.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “The Viral Google Diversity Memo”:

Rather than rehash the memo or analyze it or say what is right or wrong with its reasoning, I’ll instead add my experience dealing with internal policies and “requests for comment” at a large tech (software) company – this is a direct competitor of Google, based in the Pacific NW and employing ~100,000 people (you can figure out who they are with that). My background is in Electrical Engineering with a strong focus on Computer Science, and I was hired by my previous employer just out of college after spending a summer internship with them. I worked there for 12 years, until the summer of 2016 (actually today is my one year anniversary at my new job). In my time there I can only describe diversity and HR policies around race and gender are schizophrenic, even if well-intentioned. These are my stories [insert Law and Order opening notes].

The official harassment/discrimination policy as stated in the employee handbook (which was updated every year) is incredibly vague, and this is intentional (although no one will come out and accept it publicly). We are in an at-will state, so you can be easily dismissed based on that one vague rule; and it has been used as a negotiation tactic on borderline performance dismissals to settle for a lower severance package. (“Do you really want us to state that you’re leaving for violations of the harassment policy? No? Ok, how about you settle for 2 weeks instead of 4?”) But I also have to state that the cases where I saw this section being arguably misused can be counted with the fingers of one hand. Also, I am certain that there are good intentions behind this policy, but as is the case with many well-intentioned rules, it is when the rubber meets the road that things get messy.

Every year we had to take Standards of Conduct training. Every year we had a new edition, and every year there was at least one case study dealing with gender or racial discrimination. Some years were better than others, but in general the training was terrible. If you had the cognitive abilities of a 7-year-old you could figure out what were the right responses without watching the videos or reading the policies. (The Saturday morning cartoons I watched in the 80s – G.I. Joe, He-Man, Transformers – had more complex moral dilemmas). I remember one year around the middle of my tenure when the videos and cases were actually interesting and engaging. A case that I still remember from that time is about an ambiguous situation between a male manager and a female engineer not in the same chain of command. There was a big internal debate about that one, and the next year we had the blandest possible training to avoid controversies.

The above two points are to set the stage: corporate policies are clear, you should toe the line, do not do anything that might be misconstrued, you can be dismissed for very small transgressions.

And then… well… tech companies are rebels, they thrive in chaos, and you’re expected to rock the boat. In many (may be even all) groups you can only grow so much by being a technical expert, you are expected to influence larger and larger teams as you get promoted to keep getting good performance reviews. You can be the only expert on a certain software component, but unless other people know about you and have been “influenced” by you, you are not considered good enough. This has the effect of incentivizing “visibility”. Other people and other teams should know you exist and be willing to state that you’ve had a positive impact for the company. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/9/2017

Good Morning!

1. On the matter of whether James Demore’s Google memo was unethical in its distribution, which some commenters here dispute, apparently he took the precaution of hiring an employment lawyer before he sent the memo. This strongly suggests that he was not merely opening up an internal discussion, but intentionally provoking a confrontation. If he just wanted to alert management to a problem, the ethical approach was to speak directly to management, not put out an e-mail that he had to know someone would leak to the internet.

Meanwhile, Google’s firing Demore for politely raising legitimate culture issues belies its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. It also may be illegal: Federal labor law bars union AND non-union employers alike from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions. California also has a very strong anti-political discrimination law which “prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”

2. I noted this in yesterday’s post, but it’s worse than I thought: the left-wing news media, which is to say the news-media, has displayed neither discipline, common sense (you can’t keep signalling how biased you are, guys—eventually people will notice) nor ethical journalism by outrageously misrepresenting the message and the tone of the memo. CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, for example, described the memo as saying  “I don’t really like women anywhere near a computer.” That’s false reporting. Do these people understand that anyone can read the memo and see that either they are lying, or haven’t read the memo?

3. The memo’s allegedly “controversial” statement that men and women have some innate physiological, emotional and psychological differences that make their genders (in general, not in specific cases) better or less-well-suited for certain jobs, tasks or fields takes me back to my multiple battles with feminists who insisted that I cast female actors in “Twelve Angry Men.” They simply put their fingers in their ears and hummed when I pointed out that the play was about the group dynamics when twelve disparate male strangers are locked in a room. Do women in such a situation keep threatening each other physically? I think not. Actually, the play is an advertisement for diversity: having women in that largely dysfunctional fictional jury would have probably solved many of its problems, but because women are different from men, not because they are exactly the same, as the Georgetown feminists insisted. Women really need to decide what their stand is: are they different in ways that can be advantageous, or not different at all? They can’t have it both ways. On Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds recalled “The Althouse Rule of Gender Research”, which is, : “Scientists: remember to portray whatever you find to be true of women as superior.”

This goes for commentators, pundits, journalists, educators and, of course, Presidential candidates. ‘We need a woman in the White House (because men screw things up)’ is wise and true, and not sexist at all. Continue reading

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That Viral Google Diversity Memo

I’m going to vary a bit from typical Ethics Alarms practice, and ask for comments on the long, viral, controversial memo by a Google  software engineer named James Demore regarding the company’s diversity initiatives before I do a thorough analysis of it.  The author has been fired, of course. He had to know he would be.

The essay covers a lot more than diversity—gender stereotypes, the radioactive question on innate differences between men and women, ideology over reality, fairness, oppressive cultures, and much more. It is courageous; it’s also unethical. Ambushing an employer like this—it is fair to say that the essay has caused a PR crisis for Google—is never fair. He would argue, I suspect, that this was a form of whistleblowing, as well as taking a stand for other employees who feel as he does but who fear making their opinions known.

I have taught diversity seminars, often in conjunction with sexual harassment and bias training. The area is inherently dishonest. Of course all races, genders and creeds, ages and types should be welcome in a work environment. The claim that diversity is inherently valuable for its own sake, however, is nonsense, a phony “fact” declared to bootstrap other initiatives, such as affirmative action. The alleged innate value of diversity is cited to justify the and out-balance the inherent disadvantages and injustice of not hiring the best applicants for a job or position based on their demonstrated abilities and experience. This is a myth, and pretty obviously so. Diversity is not a virtue when it leads to incompetence, bias, resentment, and staffing that is less talented and effective than it might be. Diversity should never take priority over getting a job done as well as possible.

The bias in the news media’s coverage of the memo has been palpable, and would be very revealing regarding how ideological bias warps coverage, if so much evidence didn’t already exist. This particular biased reporting is likely to mislead more than it should, because the memo is long, and most readers will accept on faith (why? WHY???) the false characterizations of it. It is not a “screed” (The Atlantic), a “tirade” (TIME), or “sexist.” (Recode). The memo does not say that women are inferior,  or “genetically unsuited” for tech jobs. (Washington Post). Nor does he write that women are “biologically unfit” for tech jobs. (CNN). The memo isn’t even “anti-diversity” (Vanity Fair, Forbes). This is how ideological propaganda works: slap labels on inconvenient arguments that will pre-bias an objective or open-minded readers.

You should read the whole thing, which is below. As you read it, think about the fact that Google has stated that the content of the memo violated aspects of Google’s Code of Conduct. I find that incredible, and a greater indictment of Google than the memo itself.

The highlights in blue are mine, and reserved for what I regard as ethically significant sections. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/28/17 (Yes, It’s The CNN Sting Video)

1. What weight should we place on the latest James O’Keefe Project Veritas sting video? I detest O’Keefe, whose methods are unethical and whose bias is manifest. Nonetheless, what he catches he catches: like the Wikileaks leaks showing Donna Brazile cheating for Hillary, we can’t pretend that damning evidence doesn’t exist because it has been obtained and released unethically.

To track O’Keefe’s latest, I had to search through multiple websites that I don’t trust, like (yuck! pooie!) Breitbart, because the liberal-biased sources either aren’t covering the story or aren’t covering it thoroughly, because, I assume, “There but for the grace of God go we!”, and everything the stung CNN producer said might have been said by someone in their shops as well.

And, of course, since they are not happy about the #1 Get Trump plot by the Democrats and the news media flopping like a dying mackerel on the deck, they want to hide the story from the public as much as they can.

2. Here is the most publicized part of the surreptitiously shot video’s text, which occurs after CNN producer John Bonifield is asked about the Trump-Russia story and the investigation.

“Could be bullshit. I mean, it’s mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don’t have any giant proof. Then they say, well there’s still an investigation going on. And you’re like, yeah, I don’t know. If they were finding something we would know about it. The way these leaks happen, they would leak it. They’d leak. If it was something really good, it would leak…. The leaks keep leaking and there’s so many great leaks, and it’s amazing. I just refuse to believe that if they had something really good like that that wouldn’t leak because we’ve been getting all these other leaks. So, I just feel like they don’t really have it but they want to keep digging. And so I think the president is probably right to say, like, look you are witch hunting me. You have no smoking gun. You have no real proof.”

If any of this surprises you, then you really have to get your ethics alarms checked and your IQ-lowering biases treated, because all this has been obvious except to logic and fairness-deprived members of “the resistance,” Hillary bitter-enders, and people who think CNN and MSNBC are trustworthy. Like most Project Veritas videos, this one only confirms what progressives have denied for political reasons, thus rendering themselves untrustworthy.

3. I was more interested in another quote caught on the video, one which was harder to find because most reporters and bloggers don’t think ethics is newsworthy. After describing a CNN meeting in which reporters were told by CNN brass to stop covering the climate accords with the directive, “Let’s get back to Russia!”, Bonifield says,
Continue reading

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Higher Education Indoctrination Easter Sunday Continues: “The Least Diverse Place On Earth”

“College is a place where everyone is supposed to look different, but think the same.”

Can anyone honestly rebut this video?

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Case Study: How Institutions Like Wellesley Get That Way

In the previous post about Wellesley programming its students to oppose free speech, we learned to our horror (I presume you were horrified) what the liberal college culture is doing to the minds and values of your young.

Now comes this: an anonymous account on the website Quillette on how “standards” are created and maintained at some universities. All? We better hope not.

I was appointed by the dean of General Studies to serve as the chair for a writing hiring committee, a committee charged with hiring one full-time writing professor, who not only could teach first-year writing classes but also offerings in journalism. The committee of three met late in the fall semester to discuss the first group of candidates, before undertaking the second set of Skype interviews. I mentioned that I had received an email from one of the candidates and shared it with the committee members. After reading the email aloud, I argued that the missive effectively disqualified the candidate. The writing was riddled with awkward expression, malapropisms, misplaced punctuation, and other conceptual and formal problems. Rarely had a first-year student issued an email to me that evidenced more infelicitous prose. I asked my fellow committee members how we could possibly hire someone to teach writing who had written such an email, despite the fact that it represented only a piece of occasional writing. The candidate could not write. I also pointed back to her application letter, which was similarly awkward and error-laden. My committee colleagues argued that “we do not teach grammar” in our writing classes. Sure, I thought. And a surgeon doesn’t take vital signs or draw blood. That doesn’t mean that the surgeon wouldn’t be able to do so when required.

In the Skype interview following this discussion, a fellow committee member proceeded to attack the next job candidate, a candidate whom I respected. In fact, before the interview, this colleague, obviously enraged by my criticisms of her favorite, announced that she would ruthlessly attack the next candidate. She did exactly that, asking increasingly obtuse questions, while adopting a belligerent tone and aggressive posture from the start. That candidate, incidentally, had done fascinating scholarship on the history of U.S. journalism from the late 19th through the first half of the 20th Century. He had earned his Ph.D. from a top-ten English department, had since accrued considerable teaching experience in relevant subjects, and presented a record of noteworthy publications, including academic scholarship and journalism. He interviewed extremely well, except when he was harangued and badgered by the hostile interviewer. He should have been a finalist for the job. But he had a fatal flaw: he was a white, straight male.

Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On That “This Is The Future That Liberals Want” Meme

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Boubah Barry, a Guinean immigrant and real estate student, saw a striking pair  riding on his subway into Manhattan on February 19. He snapped a photo, and posted it to his Instagram page. The post was shared by the Instagram account “subwaycreatures,” and eventually  /pol/ News Network attached it to a tweet this week with the message “This is the future that liberals want” as a warning about the  danger posed by progressive policies. Naturally, progressives saw nothing alarming about the scene, flooded the site with defiant endorsements of diversity, and shot the meme around the Internet with the same message: This is the future that liberals want, and so there! Then the satirists, adsurdists, and apolitical got into the act—thank god—and we had this kind of thing…

 

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and this…

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…this… Continue reading

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