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The Google Memo
  #1  
Old 08-10-2017, 08:25 AM
Canarr Canarr is offline
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Default The Google Memo

So, I'm guessing most people have heard about the Google Memo; how it's anti-women, how it's racist, how it's an anti-diversity screed.

And most of the reporting done on this is so shockingly, glaringly wrong, I'm just baffled. The claims made by media - both in the US and over here in Europe - is so far away from the actual content of the memo, you can't even explain the difference through gross incompetence anymore.

The Atlantic sums up the problems with the reporting done so far very well:


One may agree or disagree with the author's opinion, and theories, and the studies he's chosen to back them up. Maybe he has some good ideas; maybe he's full of crap. But any attempt at a rational discussion of the contents of his memo seems to drown in a flood of knee-jerk hate mail attacking him for being racist and sexist.

Why? Why is diversity such a holy cow? Why is it impossible to have a rational discussion about this? At least at Google, it seems to be; the author claims that some topics cannot be discussed there, and they prove his point by firing him.
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Last edited by MadMike; 08-13-2017 at 11:04 PM. Reason: Please don't cut and paste text from other sites.
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  #2  
Old 08-10-2017, 11:19 AM
mjr mjr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canarr View Post
So, I'm guessing most people have heard about the Google Memo; how it's anti-women, how it's racist, how it's an anti-diversity screed.

And most of the reporting done on this is so shockingly, glaringly wrong, I'm just baffled. The claims made by media - both in the US and over here in Europe - is so far away from the actual content of the memo, you can't even explain the difference through gross incompetence anymore.
Funny thing is, I get the feeling most people reporting/commenting on it haven't even read it. The part that the media is focusing on is a small part of the memo. But it does beg the question: Is something "ist" if it's true? I don't know about the validity of the studies or the statements he made, but if one of them he made regarding women is true, does that actually make him sexist?

I think part of what he was doing was trying to point out that Google was aiming for the wrong kind of diversity, in his opinion.

I find two things a bit ironic, though:

1. Google is already facing lawsuits over how much women get paid, and it seems sexual discrimination (i.e. sexual harassment of women, women being passed over for promotions, etc).

2. What's-his-face (the CEO guy or whoever) actually made a statement that "much of what is in the memo is fair to debate".

He basically said that it's "not OK" that the guy made the statements (which, like you, I believe are being misconstrued), but he said it's also not OK that dissenting opinions being silenced are "not OK". But isn't that kinda what this guy got fired for?

He's threatening to sue. I don't know if he has a case or not, but I think he's certainly going to try.

Quote:
Why? Why is diversity such a holy cow? Why is it impossible to have a rational discussion about this? At least at Google, it seems to be; the author claims that some topics cannot be discussed there, and they prove his point by firing him.
It has been, for a while. In some places, it's almost at a "big brother" level. At one of my former jobs, we had to go offsite for a few days. There were big "DIVERSITY!" signs everywhere.

And I think people define diversity differently, depending on who you talk to. In some cases, it's "Hey, straight white Conservative guy, deal with it."

People may disagree, and may not like that position, but I believe it to be true.

I guess it's supposed to create a less hostile work environment. But I ask the opposite question: Can "diversity" programs actually increase hostility in the workplace?
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  #3  
Old 08-10-2017, 06:28 PM
TheHuckster TheHuckster is offline
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Originally Posted by mjr View Post
2. What's-his-face (the CEO guy or whoever) actually made a statement that "much of what is in the memo is fair to debate".
It was actually the person in charge of diversity who said that. The CEO overruled him.

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Originally Posted by mjr View Post
He's threatening to sue. I don't know if he has a case or not, but I think he's certainly going to try.
My understanding is that his case is that he was bringing up HR-level concerns, and therefore his firing was unjustified under the same reasons they would be unjustified if they fired him for bringing up harassment or whatever. Not sure how strong a case that is.

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Originally Posted by mjr View Post
I guess it's supposed to create a less hostile work environment. But I ask the opposite question: Can "diversity" programs actually increase hostility in the workplace?
Depends on the implementation.

I think diversity is something to strive for. However, if you try to shove it down people's throats without being at all subtle about it, you will either come across as disingenuous about the whole thing, meaning it becomes this "we're doing it for the popularity and self-congratulations and not the principle of it" or you come across as authoritative assholes who will silence anyone who does so much as ask, "Hey, what if we try this instead?"

Some of the words he used in the report made me cringe. I think he could have worded them better, but while things in the report are divisive and controversial, that, alone, doesn't warrant firing him. Unless he's an active member of HR who makes decisions, his report (which was shared internally, btw, it wasn't until it was leaked by other people that he was fired) should have resulted in an internal discussion at most. The media is making a mountain out of a molehill.

But, Google did totally prove a good portion of his report correct just by firing him.
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  #4  
Old 08-10-2017, 07:56 PM
s_stabeler s_stabeler is offline
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it... depends, and there are valid points in the report
1. sometimes, I will admit that some of the attempts to counter systematic racism can seem like "no white person would succeed without racism"- which is clearly false. 2. he does raise a valid point- if they are mandating an exact 50/50 split between men and women, then that can cause discrimination- if a diversity policy causes someone to be hired based on their gender as opposed to their actual qualifications, it is discriminatory- regardless of which gender.

I don't necessarily agree that gender-only programs are a bad thing- it would be ridiculous to let men into a program designed to encourage more women to become programmers, for example.
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  #5  
Old 08-11-2017, 01:59 AM
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D_Yeti_Esquire D_Yeti_Esquire is offline
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Regarding the firing - your employer is not there for you to voice your opinion. Your employer is there to get work from you. The guy caused problems - the result is forseeable.

Regarding the media - I read the whole thing when the story broke. Part of the reason (I think) Google HAD to fire him was that the objective reality of the public reaction was that it was perceived as a sexist screed. That was entirely due to the reporting which often summarized and cherry picked what they quoted. And to some extent, THIS IS WHY PEOPLE NO LONGER WRITE COGENT POSITION PAPERS AND PEOPLE LIKE TRUMP EXIST. In public, you do far better to stay on message and remove the nuance.

To the guy's individual points - he's definitely a mixed bag. He's a jilted conservative (obviously.) But he reads like a technical person and technical people OFTEN look at things like this in terms of inputs and outputs. HE does a really good job of positioning what he's saying so someone reading him in context does not confuse the point he is making. That said, some of the stuff is bone headed. Some of it is backed up. This should have been a discussion inside of Google to either get it taken down so it didn't cause an issue or someone should have engaged him.

Instead it was a clusterfuck because someone leaked it to the media.
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  #6  
Old 08-11-2017, 11:44 AM
mjr mjr is offline
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Originally Posted by TheHuckster View Post
My understanding is that his case is that he was bringing up HR-level concerns, and therefore his firing was unjustified under the same reasons they would be unjustified if they fired him for bringing up harassment or whatever. Not sure how strong a case that is.
I've seen several comments where people (including some "legal experts") who say he has no case because the 1st Amendment doesn't apply in the workplace. That's an argument I've seen made. Another that I've seen is that by putting the memo out, he was causing a "hostile work environment", and therefore also has no case.

Quote:
But, Google did totally prove a good portion of his report correct just by firing him.
That is, also, an opinion floating around. I tend to agree with it as well, but others say that it's because the memo was "sexist" and that's why he was fired. But as D_Yeti_Esquire points out, it's mainly because the media is covering the story as if he went on a 10-page rant about women.

I read the entire 10 pages, with the sources. It seemed to me like he was questioning their overall diversity strategy, and making suggestions. Which as I'm sure we can all agree, is not intrinsically sexist.
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  #7  
Old 08-11-2017, 12:17 PM
Canarr Canarr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Yeti_Esquire View Post
Regarding the firing - your employer is not there for you to voice your opinion. Your employer is there to get work from you. The guy caused problems - the result is forseeable.
In principle, I agree with you; but this isn't a case of just his opinion, with no relevance to his work. He looked at the business practices of his company, criticized the parts he believes to be wrong, and offered alternative suggestions. He basically gave constructive feedback on his employer's internal processes - something that most companies encourage, at least on paper.

Not to mention, if I understand the concept right, then Google does maintain several internal networks explicitly for employees to exchange ideas and discuss them. If that is correct, then he was using the company IT infrastructure the way it is supposed to be used. Whether or not he was the one to leak the memo externally, I don't know.

Concerning the lawsuit: I understand he's suing because he sees his memo as pointing out possible discrimination perpetuated by Google's diversity policy, and they fired him for that - which is something that might violate the law:

The complaint, as filed to NLRB, alleges that Alphabet violated the National Labor Relations Act in the following specific ways:

since on or about august 2, 2017, the above-named employer has interfered with, restrained, and coerced employees in the exercise of rights protected by Section 7 of the Act by threatening employees because of their protected concerted activities and by making threats of unspecified reprisals against employees because of their protected concerted activities,

According to the NLRB website, Section 7 mostly pertains to workers’ right to unionize, and guarantees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” A “concerted activity” is described as an activity related to the right workers have to “address work-related issues in many ways.” Examples given by the NLRB include:

Talking with one or more co-workers about your wages and benefits or other working conditions, circulating a petition asking for better hours, participating in a concerted refusal to work in unsafe conditions, openly talking about your pay and benefits, and joining with co-workers to talk directly to your employer, to a government agency, or to the media about problems in your workplace.

The NLRB further states, “Your employer cannot discharge, discipline, or threaten you for, or coercively question you about, this ‘protected concerted’ activity.”

However, the same definition notes that “you can lose protection by saying or doing something egregiously offensive or knowingly and maliciously false.”


Basically, his point is that he wanted to talk to other employees about problems in the workplace, and Google fired him for it. Google stated that he "perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes" and "created a hostile work environment", and that was the reason he was let go.
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  #8  
Old 08-11-2017, 02:19 PM
s_stabeler s_stabeler is offline
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I actually do think Google went too far in firing him- for a start, while he said that there are biological differences between men and women, my impression was that he didn't mean "so women can't do the job"- which would be sexist- as much as he was saying it might simply be that a truly gender-neutral hiring policy would naturally cause there to be something other than an exact 50-50 split. THAT isn't inherently sexist to point out.

In other words, his memo- while not 100% accurate- doesn't read like he was saying "women should be discriminated against" as much as he was saying "hey, maybe we should double-check if the policies are doing more harm than good, since it's possible that it is actually causing people to fear to disagree with other people's opinions."

particularly with microaggressions- I'm personally of the opinion that a) they shouldn't necessarily be treated the same as other "isms"- that is, "you're racist" should not nessecarily be the end of the story. (one example from this forum is where I got into a pages-long debate over BLM, and I was accused of racism because I pointed out that it might be more useful to focus on encouraging officers not to default to shooting a suspect when things begin to go south, as opposed to focusing just on the racism part- I didn't even claim racism wasn't a problem, just pointed out it wasn't the entire problem.)
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  #9  
Old 08-11-2017, 03:43 PM
TheHuckster TheHuckster is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Yeti_Esquire View Post
Regarding the firing - your employer is not there for you to voice your opinion. Your employer is there to get work from you. The guy caused problems - the result is forseeable.
Voicing a political opinion, yes. But voicing an opinion on company policy should be encouraged in any decent employer. The author of this document's motivation was addressing company policy more than anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Yeti_Esquire View Post
Regarding the media - I read the whole thing when the story broke. Part of the reason (I think) Google HAD to fire him was that the objective reality of the public reaction was that it was perceived as a sexist screed. That was entirely due to the reporting which often summarized and cherry picked what they quoted. And to some extent, THIS IS WHY PEOPLE NO LONGER WRITE COGENT POSITION PAPERS AND PEOPLE LIKE TRUMP EXIST. In public, you do far better to stay on message and remove the nuance.
He didn't intend to release this paper publicly. It got leaked. If someone leaks a paper whose intent gets distorted by the media beyond the control of the employer and author, your position is that the employer is justified in making the author pay the price for that? Google itself is by many accounts a media company. It has more power than most companies to have a voice against media bias. It chose not to. That part is Google's fault.

Quote:
Originally Posted by s_stabeler
particularly with microaggressions- I'm personally of the opinion that a) they shouldn't necessarily be treated the same as other "isms"- that is, "you're racist" should not nessecarily be the end of the story. (one example from this forum is where I got into a pages-long debate over BLM, and I was accused of racism because I pointed out that it might be more useful to focus on encouraging officers not to default to shooting a suspect when things begin to go south, as opposed to focusing just on the racism part- I didn't even claim racism wasn't a problem, just pointed out it wasn't the entire problem.)
That's what happens in an environment where people who have an agenda will squeeze out anything out of one's statement or essay that could be construed as against said agenda take it out of context, and let hacks in the media without any journalistic integrity run with it as if it's fact. By the time George Takei has posted it on Facebook, whoever made that statement's already in hiding.
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  #10  
Old 08-12-2017, 10:50 AM
s_stabeler s_stabeler is offline
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I think what D_Yeti_Esquire means is that he wasn't fired for the memo as such, but because if he hadn't been fired, then people would start claiming that Google was protecting a sexist asshole.

I don't disagree with you about the root cause of a problem though.

1) "That's racist" should not be- on it's own- enough to dismiss an opinion. At a minimum, people really should explain why an opinion is racist.
2) it's worth bearing in mind that there are different degrees of discrimination, even when it's justifiable to call something discrimination, and there comes a point where the discrimination is minor enough that it's not necessarily actually useful to ban it outright. (I'm not talking about things like an assertive women being known as a bitch- that isn't acceptable- but it's always going to happen that the first female employees need to prove themselves, and interfering in that can backfire.)
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