When a Google employee sent out a memo to his company office explaining what he thought was the reason that there are more men than women in software engineering, outrage arose.
Google is a company very conscious of its field’s inherent gender bias.
“At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership,” Google employee James Damore said in his memo, entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” Damore used this memo to explain why he thought that Google’s focus on increasing its gender employees is unnecessary and illogical.
Google, as a technology company, is part of the STEM fields; like other STEM fields, technology is a field more widely occupied than men rather than women. Though many are trying to change this gender imbalance by developing programs to help girls and young women get an introduction to and hopefully later join these fields, this gender bias is still prevalent. Despite the rising number of girls choosing to enter STEM fields, still more men than women end up studying them in college.
Youth STEM programs targeted towards girls are truly the next step towards the end of this gender gap. Organizations like Girls Who Code help prepare young women to enter this field, and they have not suffered from a lack of popularity. Many young women, when given the chance, accept the opportunity to enter STEM fields, including technology, despite the male dominance in the field. It is not their gender that makes people interested or uninterested in technology, but rather their exposure.
Damore, however, disagreed with this explanation; he believes that inherently, differences between men and women are the reason that men tend to dominate STEM fields (particularly technology). He argues that this disparity is because women are more attentive and attuned and thus prefer working with people, not things; he also says that they value openness and aesthetic.
“These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas,” Damore said in the memo. “More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within [software engineers], comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.”
He points out things that he believes are disparate between women and men, not socially but biologically: women are less assertive than men, they have lower ambition and do not strive toward success as much, and they handle stress worse and get more anxious. These, as he points out, are not traits that help in the tech field.
Damore’s main point is this: Google shouldn’t attempt to force gender equality in the technology field when women’s and men’s psychological and biological differences are the cause of it, and it therefore is not something that can or should be controlled or even addressed.
First of all, Damore focused on general statistics for the population as a whole, which are not necessarily applicable for each individual woman — or man — applying for a job at or working for Google. Additionally, though Damore cited studies that psychologists generally agree on, he exaggerated their implications. For example, women tend to be more easily stressed, but only marginally so.
Most of the difference in neuroticism between people is not due to gender but a collection of other factors, according to “Wired” writers Megan Molteni and Adam Rogers in their article “The Actual Science of James Damore’s Google Memo.” Any differences between genders doesn’t inhibit women in the way that Damore describes.
Women are not anxious people-pleasers unsuited for the tech industry. Men are not emotionless, power-hungry machines made to one-up each other and rise in the tech industry.
Women hold no false beliefs of what the tech industry entails. They know it’s not going to be full of touchy-feely face-to-face interactions. They, too, can — and often do — strive for success; ambition is not exclusive to men.
Again, part of this ambition comes from girls’ introduction from a young age to technology as an industry. If girls are taught how to program, or that the tech industry is not just for men, or that coding can be fun and creative, then they are more likely to enter the field as adults; there’s no biological or psychological differences to hold them back.
When women are taught that they can enter the tech field dominated by men, then there’s nothing holding them back. When women are told that they can achieve their dreams, they do so without a second thought. When women are told that the world is their oyster, they step forward to sharpen their knife.