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Friday, August 11, 2017

Google CEO Sundar Pichai's stated reason for that firing

You've undoubtedly heard by now of how that Google engineer James Damore was fired for having written a carefully worded, thoughtful, and balanced criticism of Google's internal hiring and promotion policies.

Damore was fired the day after his identity was uncovered. Google CEO Sundar Pichai then issued a statement explaining the firing:

To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination."

Let's pause and think about that a moment. As far as the "harassment" goes, Damore is obviously not the kind of leering guy who makes a practice of harassing women and commenting on their body parts. Take a look at this video of him being interviewed. He's a mild-mannered, nerdy brainiac.

To equate a thoughtful, nuanced essay with sexual harassment is a big stretch.

Pichai also claims to want a workplace culture free of intimidation. But when you fire someone for speaking out, isn't that pretty much the ultimate in workplace intimidation?

Pichai also says he doesn't want unlawful discrimination. But that was actually exactly what Damore was describing: programs designed to help women and certain minorities, from which white and Asian men are excluded. Granted, women and blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented at the company. But is that really because of "bias," as Pichai would have it?

Google, like most American companies, undoubtedly falls all over itself trying to hire women and blacks and Hispanics who are qualified engineers. But if there simply aren't proportional numbers of them who are qualified, does that really constitute "unlawful discrimination" and "bias?"

Imagine if the NBA were under pressure to hire more white and Asian players until each team's roster proportionally reflected the racial percentages of the population. Then imagine that the coaches pointed out that blacks are simply more likely to be top level players. Then imagine that everybody screamed, that's racist! So then the coaches and GMs, afraid of lawsuits, had to institute programs to groom whites and Asians in an effort to make their teams "look more like America."

Then imagine that a black NBA player wrote a calmly worded, reasonable essay to the effect that the players ought to be chosen on the basis of merit, and that special programs designed to help only whites and Asians were unfair. Then, his NBA team fired him for having had the temerity to write such a letter.

What would the reaction be?

That analogy seems ridiculous because physical talent -- unlike mental talent -- is so clearly visible. But that doesn't make intelligence and inclination any less real.

Or, imagine if someone decreed that the NBA had to be 50% female. (No more of this "separate but equal" sexism that consigns women to the lesser-paid ghetto of the WNBA! Equal pay for equal work!)

Naturally, those on the Left who have objected to Damore's essay have characterized his message as saying that no women is capable of working at Google as an engineer. Damore was in fact careful to point out that that was not what he was saying:

Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of 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 distributions.

But the Left always has to mischaracterize the statements of the Right as absolutes, in order to make them sound unreasonable. To them, "bell" and "curve" are dirty words. They prefer to willfully misinterpret, because that's the only way they sound reasonable.

If you want to "create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination," you ought not to fire an employee for speaking out. And if someone analyzes bias and discrimination, you ought not to call that bias and discrimination.

All this said, Pichai is in a tough spot. He knows it's worth his job not to toe the line himself on this types of issue, particularly with the US government currently investigating Google for paying women less, on average, than men. He also knows that the Left is a lot more vicious about promoting their agenda than the Right is, as I explained here.

But the hypocrisy in mouthing those platitudes while doing exactly the things he claims to abjure is hard not to notice. 


Anonymous said...

Well, at least James Damore is a thinking human being who is hopefully awake, understanding the PC drill/culture that we live in.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
Yes, he's obviously quite smart.

arthur thurman said...

I read his entire essay and contrary to the media narrative it was not an anti diversity screed. It was written by a Harvard graduate and brought up many points that are ignored these days regarding gender and the workforce. If you walked into almost any workcenter at my site, women are underrepresented. Does that mean Aviation maintenance is sexist?

John Craig said...

Arthur --
I read the entire thing too, and had the exact same impression. He was calm, reasoned, articulate, and well-informed. Of course, that's no defense against the Left these days.

Women just aren't as interested -- on average -- in becoming engineers and computer programmers -- or aviation maintenance personnel -- or firefighters or soldiers, the same way men are.

Anonymous said...

I’m a female who has worked in ‘technical’ jobs the last 20 years. In all of the offices where I have worked, 95% of my colleagues were men. At the college where I studied – the overwhelming majority of students taking technical courses were also males.

The females from my high school graduating class were more interested in taking nursing and teaching courses or getting a social degree.

In all of the places I’ve worked – my male colleagues would have loved to have more women working there. They would even have gone so far as to hire a female that was less qualified above a man.

Unfortunately for them – very few qualified women applied for jobs in ‘tech’. They just aren’t interested in that type of work. A couple of my male colleagues also tried to convince their daughters to study ‘tech’ – but with no success. Their daughters wanted to become nursery school helpers or teachers.

Note: less than 10% of professional nurses are male – but have you ever read of men yelling, “It’s discrimination!”

In my opinion where the true problem lies (and why women are a bit ‘pissed off’) is that ‘tech’ jobs pay so much more than the nursing and teaching professions.

John Craig said...

Anonymous Female -
Thank you for your honest appraisal of the situation.

Couldn't agree more. Coincidentally, I tried to convince my daughter that computer programming could provide a good living for her, but she had the one course she took in college for it, and has decided to go into nursing instead.

Alicia W. said...

This whole story has been ridiculous to me. Maybe I'm ignorant on Google's codes of conduct, in fact I'm willing to bet I am, but I still fail to see how what James Damore said made it okay to fire him. Men and women are different. I don't get how that is a controversial thing to say or think. You can tell men and women are different just by looking at the physical differences. It's not that far of a stretch to say there are mental differences as well. All James Damore did was bring up some of those differences. He never said those differences make men superior to women, or that women can't do tech jobs. They're just differences. The fact he got fired is absolutely ridiculous.

John Craig said...

Alicia W --
It IS ridiculous, but that's life in a politically correct society: you can't tell the truth, or you pay the price.

BTW, assuming this is the same Alicia W. who commented on August 6th on the Aspergers post, I AM going to write another (brief) post based on your comment (with attribution). I'll put it up sometime in the next few days.

Anonymous said...

I didn't find anything wrong with what Damore wrote but what he did do was make his boss look like an ass. And that, of course, is why he was fired. Sometimes, if a person wants to expose the muck, that person needs to go all the way with the coup, and plan on being the boss himself.
Also, Damore probably should have left out the part about women and their neurosis. It tends to make women neurotic.


John Craig said...

Hannah --
Yes, Pichai is definitely on the hot seat now. CEOs don't like to get this kind of publicity, as it can never result in anything good for them. It's actually striking that Sergei Brin and Larry Page and Ruth Porat have all managed to stay out of this fray. In all the articles which have been written about this, I haven't seen their names once. And the first two are definitely the ones who have set the tone for this company.

Dave Moriarty said...

i give the guy credit for writing his document because he had to have known the lefties ( aka google mgmt) would come down and make his life miserable just for the practice. this idea we all look different but think alike is striking a revolt among those not drinking the cool aid.
i too think the googl guy ought to get whacked for imposing his intolerance on Damore.

I think espn has lost millions of viewers for touting PC silliness in its broadcasts . maybe google will suffer from people not looking for pc search results.

Anonymous said...

Back during Trump’s campaign, I had a long exchange with a coworker who came here from Croatia. I got to know him pretty well in the late 1990’s, he lived in a nearby apartment complex, and we would play chess occasionally. At that time he also enjoyed talking about politics and leaned Right / Libertarian (in the classic sense). We generally agreed about political issues.

My coworker moved away, and ended up in Chicago, but we kept in contact. During the campaign he passionately argued for Hillary – he was all for the Leftist ideas in general, and definitely for outsourcing work, and letting immigrants in. After going back and forth with him for a long time, I realized he wasn't really making any good arguments. But one thing became strikingly clear: he felt threatened by Trump’s ideas. After Trump won, my friend said he was going to leave the country (he didn’t).

So, when people like Pichai take the positions they do – I believe its mostly about protecting themselves, and attempting to mandate an environment that makes them feel more accepted and safe. Logic has nothing to do with it.

Anonymous said...

If this James Damore is an expert in repairing and/or solving computer glitches, I know of a guy in my neck of the woods who started his own business (charging $50.00/hr. years ago), who now has a successful business. I occasionally see his commercials on t.v. He now has employees and is no longer the young guy he once was (he's in his 30's by now). Sometimes, being self-employed can be worth it.

- Susan