The tech industry has a big problem with diversity.
This issue has been magnified by a recent 10-page memo that circulated at Google, arguing that the company’s gender gap in leadership positions and other jobs is a result of inherent biological differences between men and women. James Damore, the employee behind the memo, has already been fired — after drawing criticism for a lot of explicitly sexist comments in his writing, including claims that women on average have more “[n]euroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance),” are too agreeable, and aren’t assertive enough.
As Rani Molla noted at Vox Media sister site Recode, the industry’s diversity problem was clear even before this memo surfaced. No major tech company, based on Recode’s analysis, has anything close to gender parity.
It’s not just gender. Although tech companies have managed to fill a lot of jobs with Asian workers, Recode found that the numbers for black and Hispanic employees still lag far behind.
Damore’s memo both explains and threatens to worsen this problem.
The fact that it was circulated at Google suggests a lot of people agreed with it. As ArsTechnica reporter Tim Lee noted on Twitter, “A significant number of people share Damore's view or something like it. They're going to see his firing as confirmation of his point.”
If you’re a woman or a black or brown person planning out your future career, the fact that this kind of sentiment is so widespread in the tech industry may lead you to rethink whether tech is a good place for you. After all, why would you work at a place where many people seem to think that you are literally biologically deficient in some way?
The tech industry is taking steps to change that, with Google, Facebook, and other companies now fostering big diversity initiatives. But it’s clearly not getting through some employees, if this new memo is any indication.