ver the weekend, news of an internal document written anonymously by a senior software engineer at Google went viral. The ten-page manifesto, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” contained incendiary remarks denouncing the companies diversity initiatives, largely on the premise that issues of representation and job performance are due to biological differences between men and women.
“We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” the author writes. He then goes on to outline some dubious support as to why it’s untrue that “implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership,” including the notion that “Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males,” and “[These differences are] exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective.”
These bizarre, unsupported assertions are expounded upon at length, peppered a-plenty with the “I’m not saying, I’m just saying” qualifiers that are often the rhetorical tool of choice for mansplainers.
Motherboard originally broke the story on Saturday morning after the document had been circulating at Google since at least Thursday, and Gizmodo obtained and published the manifesto in full shortly later that same day. Motherboardalso reported on reactions pulled from the anonymous tech-industry messaging platform Blind, which show a range of support and outright disgust.
And of course, Twitter is going at it:
To be clear, it went viral because 99% of people wanted to comment about how unsupported/wrong/hurtful the doc was— David Aronchick (@aronchick) August 5, 2017
I experienced this at Google, and was frustrated that they did nothing about rhetoric that was harming employees. https://t.co/EtO4ehnILL— Kelly Ellis (@justkelly_ok) August 5, 2017
Current status: failing at disconnecting from my job during vacation because some asshole’s sexist essay is all over my Twitter— Ted (@TedOnPrivacy) August 5, 2017
Man in tech: *10 pages on women as biologically bad for tech*Others: “I wonder why women feel uncomfortable in tech”#GoogleManifesto— Lexi G (@galantlex) August 6, 2017
Google responded with a supplied internal memo from Danielle Brown, VP of Diversity, Integrity and Governance, who started the job a few weeks ago.
Taking a moment to introduce herself to the staff for the first time, she goes on to assert that, “Like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender…Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. 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.
“…Strong stands elicit strong reactions. Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable. But I firmly believe Google is doing the right thing, and that’s why I took this job.”
They also included a statement from Ari Balogh, VP of Engineering (to whom the manifesto’s author presumably reports,) which he also published on Google+:
“Questioning our assumptions and sharing different perspectives is an important part of our culture, and we want to continue fostering an environment where it’s safe to engage in challenging conversations in a thoughtful way. But, in the process of doing that, we cannot allow stereotyping and harmful assumptions to play any part. One of the aspects of the post that troubled me deeply was the bias inherent in suggesting that most women, or men, feel or act a certain way. That is stereotyping, and it is harmful.
Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ‘Nuff said.”
Amidst a number of ongoing investigations into the sexist culture of Silicon Valley—including the US Department of Labor investigating Google over allegations that women are paid less than men—the manifesto and support of its message, both internally and from commiserating tech bros on Twitter, continue to illustrate how deeply embedded sexism in tech is, and why diversity initiatives are more important than ever in dispelling these damaging beliefs.