Google Firing Engineer: Thoughts?


Of course, the Internet is abuzz about this:



I do think that on the whole men and women are different and do have different motivators, but this person makes way too many claims that were not backed up by any references.


I think if we are going to talk about the memo at all then everyone should read the original source first.
I don’t really have much of an issue with most of it and agree with @bryanlunduke’ s assessment of the memo as essentially pro-diversity and just outlining why James thinks the gender gap is there and his personal opinion on what Google should (and shouldn’t) be doing to resolve it. James did make a couple of claims on the biological differences which he backed up with Wikipedia links (which is not the best idea, especially if you know your claim will perturb people) but other claims he backs up with research papers.

Also the backlash to the memo is, IMHO, completely uncalled for but also solidifies his argument in a lot of places that Google’s work environment and the wider tech press circle is “too PC” and vastly populated with people who believe in Google’s current “liberal” methods to increase diversity (including as yet unproven “Unconscious bias training”) .

TLDR: Largely agree with the Google employee


I love working in the criminal justice field <3


The comments on Ross Douthat’s column today about the same issue are about the most cogent and civilized I’ve found on our Internet so far (

That said, I think this guy painted his HR department in a corner, leaving them no choice but to let him go - especially once the email got out to the larger world. What message does it send to female employees who have to supervise or work for this guy if they decide to keep him? That he doesn’t think they are biologically as capable of doing good work as their male counterparts?

I vehemently disagree with the attempts of some to cast this as some sort of free speech / thoughtcrime issue when the issue is a straight up violation of Wheaton’s law.


Would you mind posting from his memo where he says this?


I used to be a trade union rep in a previous job and i’ve been involved in cases where people have been gotten carried away and said things that, in retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have.

DIFFERENT BEHAVIOURS ARE EXPECTED OF YOU IN THE WORK PLACE. You may be free to hold strong opinions but you’re certainly not free to tell any motherfucker who cares to listen.

What is OK with one group of people and permissible as harmless office banter may be totally out of order and harassing with other group.

It’s impossible for employers to provide a definitive checklist of what people can and can’t say or do. Most equality, diversity, bullying and/or harassment policies that codify the expected behaviour from employees tend to focus on the impact your words or deeds may have on others.

I think this guy has been a compete and utter weapon. It would be silly enough to say things that may be considered inflammatory and offend people but to publish it in a ten page document with his employers cherished brand name plastered throughout is off the scale moronic.

It really doesn’t matter if you agree with what he said or not. If he’d have published this in a suitable forum and not specifically mentioned the company he works for he might have kept his job.


At the risk of sounding cranky… Here you go. Start around page 3 if you’re in a hurry.

2x15: One Mouse in a Row

I have read this. Where does he say, specifically, that women are not as capable? How ironic that this is called an “Anti-Diversity Manifesto” being that he repeatedly stated the goal of diversity. Makes one wonder if these reporters actually read the thing.


What was the setting in which he posted this memo?


I admit I haven’t read it yet and have been mostly staying out of it. This video pretty much explains why. From what I see on Twitter there appear to be some parallels here:

Update: Now I have read it. It looks like people have been reading things into it in a way that was not intended, very much like the TED talk above. It is unfortunate because it looks like he did not intend harm and it will likely take him a long time to recover from this.


Do you think that’s accidental? This is how to avoid having a discussion when someone raises some potentially-controversial points you don’t want to bother debating.

Step 1: Leak (for publication) internal memo with accompanying article which summarises “what he said” but with all nuance removed and some outright misrepresentations
Step 2: Wait for Internet to explode (it’s a good bet most people won’t read the actual source material)
Step 3: Assert that the employee has caused a PR problem for the company and/or has said some of the things they actually didn’t say
Step 4: Fire employee

It is amazing that so many people think he said that. He not only didn’t say it, he denied it explicitly. “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.”

Whatever you think of his points, the assertion that he said that particular women were “not as capable” as men is a slander.


I don’t think that is accidental, I think it is unfortunate and not surprising. In an era of Twitter and similar I think having a healthy debate on such subjects is not easy without putting your career in jeopardy.


And here you see why the word “manifesto” is all over the media about this. The definition of “manifesto” is “a written statement declaring publicly (italics mine) the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.” The issuer of the memo meant for it to be internal to Google, a point that seems to be lost on the media, and to most people upset over this. But, what kind of story would it be if aspects of this memo wasn’t taken completely out of context?


I think this is a bit of a problem area because I can see the point of view here.

Bad Voltage has had very few female guest presenters and that reflects the fact that technology in general and software in particular are very male dominated.

I have met several brilliant female engineers and programmers but they are very much in the minority. I think it is probably true that the average male brain is more suited to the type of thinking required than the average female brain but the bell curve here is very wide and there is significant overlap, I think in part this is down to a perception that programmers and engineers are men so girls don’t see it as a career goal. This is a pity they should, My Psychologist and my GP are both women and excellent at their jobs so clearly women are just as capable of being in the industry.

There are other areas where women tend to out perform men so I want to be clear that this is in no way misogynistic just are recognition and celebration of our differences.

Having read the original document as well as some of the stories in the news it’s clear some of what was said was taken out of context and the engineer involved has been treated unfairly.


It’s amazing how people can claim that someone didn’t say something he plainly said. Right there. On page 3. The fact that we can look at the same bit of empiric evidence - the same .pdf! and come away with entirely different conclusions is frustrating because how can you have a productive discussion when we can’t even be agreed on what happened?

This whole idea that this is an over-reaction of the PC police is so much BS. Here’s a post from an actual woman in tech who explains the outrage way better than I can:



Would you mind posting specifically what on page 3 that you are referring to? You see, I’m a bit thick and need help! :smile:


[Note for the hard of thinking: this message is NOT intended to argue either for or against the idea that the preference/ability distribution curves for women and men in software engineering are not identical.]

I agree it’s very frustrating when two people look at the same document and draw different conclusions. Let’s agree to reference this PDF so we all have the same page 3:

Having agreed that, is the section you are referencing to on page 3 of that doc? Can you quote it exactly so we know what we are discussing? Like oldgeek, I cannot see where he said that the female employees around him at Google are not biologically as capable of doing good work as the men around him.

It will not do to support that assertion by quoting statements he made about populations. You need to show where he said that about individuals. Because that’s the entire point. “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.” In other words, even if women have a stronger preference than men to be, say, nurses or primary school teachers, that does not say anything about the abilities of any particular man who is a nurse or a primary school teacher, compared to any particular woman.

I would expect it to be true that any women in a software engineering position at Google is highly competent at their job. Google’s recruitment process does not suck. However, by the laws of logic, that statement can be true at the same time as the statement “The preference/ability distribution curves for women and men in software engineering are not identical.” (That latter statement may be true or false; my point is not to get into an argument about which it is, my point is to argue that its truth or falsity or indeterminateness is independent of the truth that the female software engineers who are employed at Google are all highly competent.)

In other words, the fact that he believes that there is some degree of gender-based preference difference or ability difference does not automatically mean he believes that all women working as software engineers are idiots. And I’m depressed for the state of humanity that the Internet cannot see the massive logical flaw in jumping to the conclusion that he does.


OK. Let’s try this:

“I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of menand women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain whywe don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

So the argument is that the average woman has abilities that are different from the average man. Ergo, diversity programs like the ones at Google are bad because they put people into positions their natural abilities wouldn’t have taken them without those programs. Ergo, “women”, either as a group or as individuals at Google got their because of a well-meaning but wrong-headed diversity program- not because they’re super smart; not because they’ve worked like hell to get there; not because they have great ideas; not because they are every bit as good as the men they work with. Is it hard to see why a woman who works at Google might be triggered (rightly) by reading that?

PS: Another column on the matter that does a better job explaining this than I can:


That’s what I think this really comes down to: Ability to recognise greater context.

I think maybe I’m more of a cynic (or maybe just lazy…yeah, I OWN that supposedly “male trait” ;)) than you are in that I’m not even going to try to show the err (maybe I’d feel different if these were youths, but I think everyone here is an adult). I do wish you the best of luck though :slight_smile:

Please respect our code of conduct which is simple: don't be a dick.