Have you heard about the diversity rant manifesto published by one of Google’s employees? A man with conservative views states that the reason why women are underrepresented in the tech industry is because of biological differences between men and women.
I’ve actually read a version of the manifesto just to check whether the author is justly accused of sexism by the media. Let’s be honest, the moment something goes viral the actual story may fade away. Not this time! The guy puts it all out there. He enumerates “possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech” and quotes among them “personality differences”. Women, according to this specialist in our nature, are:
- more interested in people than things
- extroverted and gregarious rather than assertive
- more agreeable
According to him, instead of focusing on why there are so few women in leadership positions, we should focus on why there are so many men there. The reason for that is higher drive for status in males. The author suggest that the non biased-way to support women in tech is to embrace their “natural” characteristics.
I was shaking a little bit with anger and I was teary when I was reading it. Perhaps I’m being more “naturally” emotional as a woman and that’s why. Or perhaps we know shit about how men or women are. We can’t attribute to biology what’s in fact cultural. For centuries we’ve been living in a patriarchal society that told women they’re not as good as men. We’ve endured centuries of suppression of female intellect and stereotyping. The drill is: women are the caregivers, males the breadwinners. The success of a man is associated with money, self-expression and assertiveness. The success of a woman with obedience, homeliness and pleasantness. After centuries of such conditioning perhaps men may seem to be “naturally” more driven to achieve status and women more agreeable. It just seems natural, however, because that’s what we mostly see and this is because such characteristics are results of imposed social conditioning. We can’t possibly know how males and females would be if not for that! If in a hundred years of teaching women that they have the right to speak up and that their opinions matter, they’ll still be more agreeable than maybe (just maybe) we can start to talk about our natural inclinations to be in such a way.
As a kid I used to be a hardcore gamer and I knew a lot about computers. I could even fix small problems and if I couldn’t do it myself, I knew how to follow the instructions. I liked books and I liked computers. Informatics was one of my favorite subjects at school and I always had A’s in it. Then I went to high school and our informatics class got divided in two: boys and girls. For all I know the curriculum was pretty much the same and yet, there must have been a difference between us if we got divided in that way? I used to help others with various assignments as I just found them easy. I really enjoyed the class but I felt that whatever I did wasn’t going to get me recognition. And it didn’t. When the regional competition in informatics was happening none of the girls was encouraged to take part in it. I think that’s when I lost interest. Then life happened and I didn’t have time for gaming anymore. Slowly but surely I stopped reading updates about the newest gadgets in the tech world. Now, I need to ask my husband to sort things out for me, just like I’m “biologically” inclined to.
The guy who wrote the manifesto got fired. Justice has been done? Not really. Finger-pointing will just discourage people from speaking up and if they don’t speak up we’ll never know how many people believe such theories. We should find ways to make people understand why they’re wrong in their internalised sexism. They’re views are not “biological” and they’re not just like that. Such thinking is a product of social conditioning too and we should try to find ways to undo it. This guy is a Google engineer for goodness’ sake! We must ask ourselves: How do people with such views still slip through the cracks during their education?