Over the weekend, an internal document at Google had effectively gone viral within the tech company's workforce. The memo, penned by one of Google's senior software engineers, thoroughly and perhaps excessively explains that the tech company's diversity initiatives need to be replaced in favor of programs that promote “ideological diversity.” Unfortunately, the memo didn't read that way.
The 10-page memo, titled Google's Ideological Echo Chamber (a full copy of which was obtained by Gizmodo), argued that while diversity can be a good thing, overtly promoting diversity, in so many words, is bad. In the same tone as a men's rights activist calling for more male-focused appreciation on Father's Day, the author insists that initiatives promoting women and minorities are inherently unfair, and that the gender gap exists for a good reason: biology.
“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… Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50 percent representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.”
And then, he doubled down on the negative effects of promoting diversity, stating:
“Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts.”
For the record, diversity is not bad for business. In fact, it's quite the opposite. According to data from McKinsey, companies with a gender diverse workforce typically outperform their counterparts by 15 percent, while companies with an ethnically diverse workforce typically outperform their counterparts by 35 percent. Dare I say, that could be considered good for business.
The memo, which goes on to explain the personal and biological differences between men and women in depth (always a good sign), received widespread backlash from Google employees, with many taking to social media to condemn the anti-diversity slight.
Even Ari Balogh, CTO of Google, felt the need to internally chime in via a Google+ post to the entire company:
“Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ‘Nuff said,” wrote Balogh.
The memo gained so much traction that Google's new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity and Governance, Danielle Brown, felt she had to issue a statement. Having just taken the position a few short weeks ago, the statement came well before she planned on establishing her presence at the tech giant.
“Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate,” wrote Brown. “We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.”
This kind of dissension is common in the discussion of diversity. Whether it's affirmative action or diversity initiatives, the majority (in this case white men) have trouble coming to terms with the perceived “unfairness” of overtly promoting women and minorities in tech. In fact, one former Google engineer told Motherboard that some employees believe initiatives like this are having a negative effect across the board.
“I feel like there's a lot of pushback from white dudes who genuinely feel like diversity is lowering the bar,” they told Motherboard anonymously, due to Google's strict non-disclosure agreements.
However, this kind of dissension, no matter how eloquently penned, allegedly researched, or virally spread, will not deter those of us who want to close the minority and gender gaps in the tech community. Aside from the success it brings, inclusion is about expanding the progress that industries like tech can influence. Initiatives that overtly promote diversity are not designed to stifle a company. They're designed to innovative new ideas, elevate those in power to higher standards, and inspire those that don't believe tech is for them to give it a try. And if you're really a part of the tech community, you know that tech is for everyone, not just white dudes.