I hadn’t had a chance to read the full Google memo, so I was excited when I read the show notes and saw you were discussing it since I could listen to the podcast before I’d have time to read the thing. I was pretty disappointed by the discussion. It is kind of ironic, given that the author was complaining about an echo chamber, that you would discuss the author with such negative language without actually reading the memo (I guess you were echoing the opinions of people in your social network who maybe had read it?).
I have read the full memo now. I wonder about the motivations for writing it. Perhaps the author just wanted to express his conservative viewpoint, but he couches everything he says with so many caveats that it makes me wonder if maybe he was daring Google to fire him with the belief that he had left enough wiggle room to win a law suit if they did. It’s hard to comment on the content, partly because of all the caveats and weasel words used and partly because I didn’t read all of the citations. The assertions he makes about gender differences largely disagree with what I thought was the state of research. From what I had heard, disparities between gender vanish when other factors are properly controlled for, but this subject is so fraught with ingrained bias that it is hard to trust any study. The sentiment that everyone should be treated as an individual is nice, but there are a lot of studies that show that even when people try to be fair they have unconscious biases. Combating these biases is why diversity programs exist.
…but I’m falling into the trap of engaging his points. The more interesting questions are whether or not Google should have fired him and what message Google sent by firing him. The author left himself a lot of slack. To me, Google firing him basically says that no Google employee can acknowledge any difference between any classes of people. Pichai’s statement that the memo argued that women were less “suited” for certain jobs than man is hard to parse. Usually “suited” in this context means women don’t have the innate abilities to perform the tasks in quesiton, but it seemed like teh author was trying to argue that women were less likely to want to have certain jobs, not that they were less likely to have the innate ability to perform those jobs (though the point about women being more likely to have anxiety might contradict this – it depends on if you think anxiety is something that can be dealt with or not).