What The Media Aren't Saying About James Damore's Diversity Memo
Like many others, I opened up "Google Chrome" yesterday morning to catch up on the news and was greeted with an unexpected story: the firing of James Damore. Out of curiosity, I started reading about the recent events from sources like CNN, Foxnews, TheHill and any others in order to try and piece together what really happened. The commonly presented take on the incident, which often appeared in the misleading titles, was that Damore detailed to his co-workers why women are unfit to work in technology.
As a woman, I could immediately feel the offense broiling up inside me after encountering the baited headlines. After all, such an assumption is as misinformed as it is sexist. My news traverse continued and I encountered more and more "coverage" of the Google firing, nearly all of which made the same claim: Damore perpetuated sexist ideology while squashing diversity, and Google was absolutely correct to fire him. Except, the very first line of the memo, provided by Gizmodo, reads, "I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes."
Huh, interesting. Upon reading this, I felt the need to investigate further.
His opening sentence was the direct opposite of what mainstream media sources were claiming in order to rabble a rouse. Damore then detailed the logic behind his claim that women are different from men. He never claims that women are inferior, unfit, or deserving of discrimination. Even though I don't consider all of his biological claims to be 100% accurate, the crux of his argument that men and women are comprised of different chemistry and, therefore, possibly more predisposed to certain abilities than the opposite sex, is not an outlandish statement. He openly acknowledges that not all men are different from women in all of the same ways; rather, he suggests that there are norms and trends from sex to sex.
I read further. The memo continues to describe societal expectations for men and women which both directly and indirectly influence the gender disparity in positions of leadership. Although Damore makes certain claims about men and women which are potentially generalizing and offensive, his conclusion that the gap exists due to cultural norms is widely agreed upon by both the right and the left. Continuing, he suggests that Google could more effectively include qualified women by giving them tasks which highlight their natural abilities that men lack, namely concerning people-skills and adaptability. Obviously, readers can recognize that altering Google's job positions would be just as mindless as hiring women simply because they are women.
Unless, as Damore explained, if Google were to only alter jobs for the benefit of the company, the goal of diversifying its staff could be achieved simultaneously. In essence, by including positions and jobs within the company that are beneficial to Google's operations while also encouraging women, it would eliminate the pressure to hire more women simply for the sake of having them. To most, this seems like a reasonable conclusion and fair assessment of company improvement.
So why the backlash?
Damore says it's because "when a man complains about a gender issue affecting men, he's labeled as a misogynist and a whiner." If you don't believe the validity of that claim, consider the fact that soon after his memo circulated, several of his female coworkers stayed home from work because they felt unappreciated, and he was fired shortly after for the writing within his memo. It is difficult to find logical grounds for firing when Damore took every precaution possible in expressing his beliefs: he wrote a detailed and well-written memo; he only shared the memo with his co-workers; he praised Google as a company and their desire to meet the needs of people; he acknowledged that sexism, racism, and gender bias are all valid issues; he encouraged Google to continue diversifying. The only "radical" thing about all of this is that he suggested that Google alter their means of diversification and do so for a reason that benefits individuals and the company at large.
People are reacting as if Damore is a patriarchy proponent simply for implying that women shouldn't be hired in order to increase an image. As a woman, I hope to never be hired on the exclusive basis of being female. I hope to be hired because a company a.) believes that I can be an asset to them, and b.) that I have genuine skills worth paying for. Despite perpetuation from media, Damore's suggestions support the core of feminism: men and women should be valued equally. Hiring a woman simply because she's female is as archaic as hiring a man for the sole reason that he is a male.