Did you read the memo? Yes, that memo. It’s the one that James Damore wrote that got him fired from Google. I did. I seriously disagree with Google’s firing of Mr. Damore. Yet, Damore’s varied statements as reported did seem inflammatory and cause for disciplinary action. The only problem is that once you read what he did write, you come to a very different conclusion. You have to be very careful when you rely on information from others for sales.
What did he really say?
Gizmodo identified the email as “A software engineer’s 10-page screed against Google’s diversity initiatives”.
Does identifying a problem count as a screed? I don’t think so. Damore wrote:
Philosophically, I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women. For each of these changes, we need principled reasons for why it helps Google; that is, we should be optimizing for Google—with Google’s diversity being a component of that.
I hardly think a thoughtfully outlined memo that identified the problem and offered solutions is a screed. Screed implies anger and complaining.
Here’s what Damore wrote:
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.
Below I’ll go over some of the differences in distribution of traits between men and women that I outlined in the previous section and suggest ways to address them to increase women’s representation in tech without resorting to discrimination.
Doesn’t sound angry to me.
It might be dangerous to speak truth to power.
He further points out the obvious.
For example currently those willing to work extra hours or take extra stress will inevitably get ahead and if we try to change that too much, it may have disastrous consequences.
So telling Google that he wants to increase women’s representation without resorting to discrimination got him fired. Google obviously doesn’t want people speaking truth to power. I would hire Damore in a New York minute. His analysis is thought provoking and well researched. It’s worthy of a Harvard grad.
Some reports are misleading.
Even The Wall Street Journal can be unreliable.
Here’s what they reported:
Google on Monday fired the employee who wrote an internal memo suggesting men are better suited for tech jobs than women, escalating a debate over free speech at the company.
I didn’t interpret Damore’s email as suggesting that men are better suited for tech jobs than women. I concluded that Damore suggests that some men are more willing to accept the challenges of working in IT than women are.
Here’s what he wrote:
Men’s higher drive for status
We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life. Status is the primary metric that men are judged on4, pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail. Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths.
Yes, work-life balance is a key issue in business today for both men and women. And the research shows how each gender is impacted.
Pleck’s (1977) research suggests that family-to-work spill-over is stronger for women and the work-to-family spill-over is stronger for men.
Damore doesn’t cite his statement that the same forces that drive men to high status jobs also drive them to dangerous jobs. The statement does sounds reasonable. By firing Damore, does Google think it’s a good idea to promote more women dying in work related accidents to promote diversity? Of course not. Ignoring logic shows how Damore’s email has been distorted.
The Wall Street Journal distorts the memo further by implying that women aren’t as good negotiators as men are. They report:
In his memo, Mr. Damore argued that women are generally more interested in “people rather than things, relative to men,” which in part explains “why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding.” He added that women are also generally more “cooperative” than men, hurting their ability to negotiate, and that they are more prone to anxiety and seek more work-life balance, leading to fewer women in high-stress, high-paying jobs.
Damore didn’t tie being cooperative to women’s ability to negotiate. In fact he stated:
Women, on average, have more:
○ 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.
It turns out he’s right about this aspect of negotiating. Women don’t ask for raises.
Is citing fact a problem for Google? Apparently so.
You should not conclude from this dustup that women are poorer negotiators than men. Artificial intelligence company Gong.io has done research primarily in the sales sector. They looked at more than 30,000 sales calls under the microscope of Gong’s self-learning conversation analytics engine. The results? Female sales agents were 5 percent better at pushing opportunities to the next level with a client, and a whopping 11 percent more successful at win-rates.
“Our research has found that women outperform men in sales and especially when they’re selling to women,” explained Amit Bendov, CEO and Co-founder at Gong.io. “This should definitely be a wake-up call for women who were led to believe that sales is a man’s game. The data shows quite the opposite. It also means that we can all up our game by learning from what women are doing to close more sales than men.”
What’s this all have to do with selling? You should be doing research before you make sales calls. That research will help you draw conclusions about your prospects and customers. Be careful because some of the research may be misleading.
Take extra care when you approach prospects with controversial conclusions. Why? You just might be wrong. Ask before you state something that could be controversial. That’s a much safer way to approach prospects and customers.
I don’t know how Google management addressed the email with Damore, but I think they should have acted differently.
It’s been reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai stated in a company-wide email that Damore in his email did “violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”
And how was that? By citing research that shows gender differences?
I would have concluded that Mr. Damore didn’t violate the code of conduct. The points he raises about having a diverse culture without discrimination are valid points. Who doesn’t want a diverse culture without discrimination?
I would have addressed how Google is working on that journey. Of course based on the Damore memo it seems that Google needs to modify some of its discriminatory programs so they actually don’t discriminate.
Pichai made a mistake. He is now on record of contributing to a culture where speaking out will get you in trouble or worse. Instead of a diversity meeting, why not have senior managers openly discuss the concerns they hear from Googlers and what their thoughts are on next steps. They should model respectful behavior when they disagree.
I would think that there would be differences of opinion. At least I hope so. If all senior management thinks the same and supports the firing, then Google has bigger problems than one programmer speaking out.
Here’s what Damore also said in his memo:
I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).
I take him at his word. Why didn’t Google management want to treat people as individuals, too?
Apparently, Google doesn’t get it. The new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown, wrote Googlers an email in response to Damore’s email. She said, “And like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”
What’s the viewpoint? That men and women are different? Well, sometimes they are.
And now we know how men and women are the same. Both Pichai and Brown missed the point that both genders want to be able to voice different viewpoints and be treated respectfully and fairly at work. That doesn’t look like it’s happening at Google.