So Owen hasn’t understood it at all

Google has just reportedly fired one of its workers for circulating a memo discussing the biological inferiority of his female colleagues, and how this made them less suitable for tech.

No, he didn’t say anything like that at all. What he said was that the occurrence of those attributes which make a good engineer – yes, including the interest in being a good engineer – are variably distributed across the populations of men and women. We can thus say absolutely nothing at all about the likely ability of any individual, whether male or female, but we can say something about the likely make up of the workforce as a whole.

And that’s it really.

It’s also what absolutely every damn scientist specialising in the subject tells us is true too.

47 thoughts on “So Owen hasn’t understood it at all”

  1. It’s lazy ‘Grauniad’ click-bait. The acolytes don’t care if there’s a shred of veracity, they just want to see their chosen enemies – white men – get a kicking.

    It does t even qualify as ‘journalism’ any more.

  2. Last week it was tech workers, yesterday investment management – 1,400 fund managers, of which only 67 are women running funds or in all-women teams. Insiders say that 99 times out of 100, women leaving the financial services industry cite its ‘lad culture’. And yet yesterday’s report that the premature death of our northern cousins can be attributed in part to an absence of lad culture, that middle-class girls have largely excluded them from the workforce, that ‘guys like me can’t be a doctor any more’.

  3. Bloke in North Dorset

    “hasn’t understood”

    That’s a big assumption that he’s read it, and in the unlikely event that he did it read it it was with an open mind, followed the references and the. Gave it some thought. i

  4. @BiND – I’d wager he hasn’t read it. If he did, his paycheck relies on him not understanding it, and he understands his own economic self-interest well enough.

  5. Bloke in North Dorset

    Hmm, just seen that it should have been “didn’t read it with an open mind”.

    abacab, yeah, that’s where my money is.

  6. So is Mr Jones dim or mendacious?

    As you say, the fact that you can reasonably expect there to be fewer women in tech industries, or mechanical engineering or whatever, doesn’t tell you anything useful about the competence of any given individual standing in front of you. It’s just about the general numbers you’d expect to meet a certain threshold.

    And in fact “diversity” hustling and “affirmative action” actually create doubts regarding competence, in that such policies raise the possibility that the person standing in front of you may have been indulged with lower standards and lower expectations on account of their allegedly oppressed group identity.

  7. @BG: “that middle-class girls have largely excluded them from the workforce, that ‘guys like me can’t be a doctor any more’.”

    That was the experience at Cambridge when the men’s colleges went mixed. An influx of middle-class girls displaced the weakest male candidates for admission. That included twits from the Public Schools but also marginal candidates from state schools. No doubt those displaced people went to other universities, displacing weaker candidates in their turn. Since the huge expansion in university admissions was not accompanied by a substantial expansion of admissions to medical school, there may well have been a reduction in ‘guys like me’ as doctors.

    Still, at the individual level my advice to working class whingers remains unchanged. Get off your fucking knees.

  8. “yes, including the interest in being a good engineer”

    This really can’t be understated. I knew no girls that wanted a home computer in the 1980s and the ones at college with me were far behind the chaps.

    It’s also why they generally fail in the industry. The value of your knowledge is constantly sinking in value. I remember a time when knowing HTML had some value. Today? It’s expected you know HTML. And men will keep on jumping off to the next new thing. And women don’t. You want to know who’s looking after old systems written in old tech in dying companies? Yeah…

  9. My profession has a very, very specific skillset – basically we need engineers or scientists who can reason spatially at a very high level, can reason juridically (which is something we all had to learn on the job), are good with languages, and can write technically and juridically clearly to describe complex systems.

    We struggle to find anyone at all to do the work, and are male-dominated due to the whole science/engineering and spacial reasoning part.

  10. Medicine presumably gets a pass because one day you may need the services of a top surgeon and you don’t want one of the beneficiaries of your equality scheme reaching for the trepanning saw.

  11. We must be constantly on our guard against fake news!

    The most obvious way to do it, of course, is to avoid reading the fucking Gruan and all the rats who sail in her.

  12. David Thompson,

    “And in fact “diversity” hustling and “affirmative action” actually create doubts regarding competence, in that such policies raise the possibility that the person standing in front of you may have been indulged with lower standards and lower expectations on account of their allegedly oppressed group identity”

    There’s a lot of bullshit computing degrees being created for this reason. See the thing from the chap writing in the Atlantic. Comes under Department of Computing, raises the numbers.

    In the real world, we want to know what you’ve done and what you can do. I’d rather take someone who can show me code in an open source project they wrote or an app they wrote than someone with a degree. I’ve failed people for interviews with degrees who can’t pass a simple coding test.

  13. You want to know who’s looking after old systems written in old tech in dying companies?

    You may well be correct, but demonstrable proficiency in Cobol is an in-demand skill and likely to remain so for a decade or two yet. I wouldn’t recommend developing such skills to a 20-something coder, but for those nearing retirement it can be quite a good squeeze.

  14. I’ve interviewed people in a previous life who had physics degrees yet couldn’t identify AND and OR gates. They knew they were logic gates, but that’s all.

    In my present life, I had a colleague (who I wasn’t involved in hiring) who struggled to interpret line drawings and couldn’t understand that from a transverse cross-section alone you couldn’t see whether a surface was conical or facetted. This person just couldn’t understand that if the section’s on the midline of 2 facets (with an even number of facets) the section is identical to that of a cone. Basic spacial reasoning stuff. PhD and post-doc in physics.

  15. Perhaps it’s time to divest of Google stocks.
    Now that this is known rival companies will be poaching their best talent.

  16. abacab: That’s just you perpetuating the patriarchy. You should ensure that your profession doesn’t need the ability to think spacially and write technically about complex systems, you oppressor!

  17. “You want to know who’s looking after old systems written in old tech in dying companies? ”

    Don’t know about now, but 10 years ago it was mainly old geezers like me. And for several years after I had hung up my card punch I was still getting calls from desperate agencies.

  18. And when Jones appears in a video by ISIS or whatever comes after them take over? Will he still be blaming ‘White male backlash’ then?

    Unquestionably a tool on a par with Murphy. Only the relative lack of typos might put him marginally ahead – an odious little whinger…

  19. ” demonstrable proficiency in Cobol is an in-demand skill and likely to remain so for a decade or two yet. I wouldn’t recommend developing such skills to a 20-something coder, but for those nearing retirement it can be quite a good squeeze.”

    Mate of mine works for a large financial institution and he’s one of the main men involved in keeping their rickety outdated banking system functioning, largely because he knows the code its written in back to front and the younger generation haven’t got a clue. So he’s exceedingly well paid, and approaching retirement…….what they’ll do when he wants to retire God only knows.

  20. Pat,

    “Perhaps it’s time to divest of Google stocks.”

    It perhaps signals that the bureaucrats have taken over. That the sort of fast-moving, people getting things done thing is gone.

    In the past it used to be when companies did team building awaydays and getting an Investors in People plaque, but I guess diversity stuff is the new corporate bullshit.

  21. Julian M “It does t even qualify as ‘journalism’ any more”.
    – yes.
    I realise the world has lots of opinions, and i think there’s definitely a place for opinion in journalism. What makes interesting reading though is how they came to form that opinion, you never know you may hear something you’ve not considered or didn’t know about. But if someone starts saying this is wrong because this is what those other people think.. well that’s arse about face, and that’s what owen does far too much.

  22. I’d recommend anyone having a read of the original memo by James Damore.
    It starts “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.”

    https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586/Googles-Ideological-Echo-Chamber.pdf

    And then go compare what it says with what is being said that it says…

  23. Company I work for is having a global meeting today. At the end of each of these you can ask a question. I’ve posted this question to be asked. Could be interesting.

    “In the last few days a Google engineer who wrote a memo suggesting that the lack of women in Computing was due to biological differences with men has now been fired. If a XXXXX engineer wrote such a memo would he be fired too.”

    The new CEO is sufficiently switched on to know a politically incorrect reply would be career limiting. So I’m not expecting any great insights to b revealed, but it will be amusing to see how skilfully he manages to dance on a pin head.

    On the old skill front perhaps I should consider dusting off my MACRO-11, and FORTRAN knowledge. Apparently many old nuclear power stations are run by PDP-11s. These will need to be kept running if anyone wants to walk into a room in a few years time and expect the lights to come on when they hit the switch. Could be a lucrative pre-retirement gig, and most of them are by the coast. So happy days.

  24. he’s one of the main men involved in keeping their rickety outdated banking system functioning, largely because he knows the code its written in back to front and the younger generation haven’t got a clue. So he’s exceedingly well paid

    Signal to younger generation. Quite an incentive there. Can you spot it?

  25. Ian Reid

    Ian, as i hope you know, no one gets fired in this company for doing their job well and that means following our company’s policies. We have an equal opportunities policy, we won’t tolerate sexism,bullying or racism. In our company if you experience, and that means not just the subject of it but witness to sexism or racism at work the policy is to go to your manager and if that’s unsatisfactory or if your manager is the problem, go to HR. I assure you we will treat it seriously and confidentially. We’ll investigate and yes action will be taken if our policies have been violated.

    But if i understand it rightly the incident you referred to at google was originally about the gender balance in google techs but turned in to something else. I don’t know, i’m CEO of this company not google.
    What i can say is when you look at the numbers in our company yes there is an issue too. We acknowledge that. We’re aware some of that is historical. i’ve talked about this with the board and Alex and i’m confident as we target our recruitment at the milk run and we hone our ability to attract the best women (as well as the best male grads) we’ll see that number come down. But attracting is only one half. We have to retain the best women. We have to make sure its a place where they want to work, where they can thrive and build a career. We need to do more on that front. Ah, keeping an eye on time here, just to say i’m actually very passionate about it and could talk for hours but need to go to next question, but i encourage any of you who have ideas in this area to come to me at the break.

  26. I once knew a Chairman of Department in a STEM subject in a famous US university. He told me that one consequence of feminism was that it had made his department less likely to hire a female Assistant Professor. Because if she proved a dud it would be far too hard to get rid of her.

  27. Rob,

    “Signal to younger generation. Quite an incentive there. Can you spot it?”

    Weeeell… having just done some research on Jobserve, there are 6 jobs in the UK mentioning COBOL. There are over 1300 mentioning C#. Of those jobs, all but 5 are “nice to have”.

    There’s still some COBOL work around, but a lot of it is going abroad or disappearing due to rewrites, parallel systems (company puts new orders on new system, lets the old one just be an archive) etc, or just companies going out of business.

    You can earn good money doing it, but the problem is that it’s a small market so you get high fluctuations. It’s like my skills with Microsoft WPF. If I focussed more on that, I’d make a lot more per day. But they come up rarely.

  28. So, the Google perp is one James Damore.

    Good, not my nephew.

    Bad, not my nephew. I hoped somewhat that it was he who stould up and spoke the truth.

  29. ‘And in fact “diversity” hustling and “affirmative action” actually create doubts regarding competence’

    Indeed. Frederick Douglass warned 150 years ago that the assertion of differences in people encouraged, even demanded, discrimination. Today’s blacks and Democrats assert that blacks are different, an absolutely stupid policy.

  30. Management’s valuing degrees and certifications is a manifestation of their inability to judge competence required in the posted field.

    It also provides anus protectus, should the new employee fail.

    “Well, she has a computer science degree!”

  31. @GameCock
    My skills have atrophied more than I thought. I haven’t a clue what you’re going on about. OK you’re incrementing the value of r1 which is one of 8 built in registers IIRC but pop the stack WTF. Still a quick hour with google would probably see me right. I won’t be making that investment in time though until I think there might be a return on it.

  32. BinS:
    Agreed. I remember in the 1980s “Word Processor Wanted” ads, at high wages, completely filling the shop windows of Employment Agencies.

    A female friend of mine made a great deal of money at the time by virtue of being able to open such daunting software as WordStar and typing. She also knew how to use a spreadsheet which further propelled her wages into the stratosphere. A few years later and those skills were two-a-penny.

    Despite her father being a relative “high up” in IBM and having college holiday jobs working with punch cards when most people had only ever seen a computer in Billion Dollar Brain she had zero interest in programming or IT in general as a job.

    I’ve known large numbers of intelligent women as computer-literate as the average man. Never once have I known one who had the slightest interest in IT per se (even to the extent of tweaking the settings on Windows much), They simply wanted to use a computer as a tool to do stuff which did interest them.

  33. “Never once have I known one who had the slightest interest in IT per se (even to the extent of tweaking the settings on Windows much), They simply wanted to use a computer as a tool to do stuff which did interest them.”

    Then my friend who can do a bit of code (enough to set up a website from scratch) despite having no formal education in computing is a rare bird in deed!

  34. jgh on a tablet on a bus

    Mov (sp)+,r1would pop from the stack to.r1. Tst (sp)+ will drop the top item. And mov (sp)+,sp pops the stack fro!m the stack, something I’ve found useful many times.
    I was updating some pdp11 code just yesterday.

  35. Gamecock,

    “”Management’s valuing degrees and certifications is a manifestation of their inability to judge competence required in the posted field.

    It also provides anus protectus, should the new employee fail.

    “Well, she has a computer science degree!”””

    This is why my advice to people wanting to program is to learn and work at it while at school. Build apps, get into open source projects etc etc Then take a min wage job working for an entrepreneur as a trainee. Not a big corporation with managers covering their arse but entrepreneurs who will take a risk. Frankly, that’s how all software is going anyway. You don’t get a job programming at Nationwide, you work for a company working for them. And you won’t be working in big IT as that’s all in India. You’ll be working for small entrepreneurs.

    At one time, there was a lot of hardcore tech on degree courses, but I meet people doing them and a lot of it is stuff you can learn from e-learning courses. You get taught by people who’ve never been paid to code in the private sector.

  36. Mate of mine works for a large financial institution and he’s one of the main men involved in keeping their rickety outdated banking system functioning, largely because he knows the code its written in back to front and the younger generation haven’t got a clue. So he’s exceedingly well paid, and approaching retirement…….what they’ll do when he wants to retire God only knows.

    The big banks are trialling two approaches to this problem. The popular (among clueless PHBs, anyway) one is to outsource the problem to India and hope it doesn’t go bang before you can cash in your bonus and move elsewhere. This hasn’t turned out well in a couple of well-documented instances.

    The better approach is to start a massive (and massively expensive) project to move the whole thing to a modern architecture. DB are rumoured to be doing this, but I’ve no longer any inside info as to how they’re getting along.

  37. JS… ‘I remember in the 1980s “Word Processor Wanted” ads, at high wages, completely filling the shop windows of Employment Agencies.’

    I recall telephoning one of my colleagues at home during a late night session and asking (pleading) “how the fluck does this Amstrad thingy work”.

  38. The Google employee who wrote the memo, James Damore, was spot on. Firstly, there are significant differences between men and women in terms of motivation. In order to attract a high value mate, men have to compete with other men for their rank in the male dominance hierarchy and this translates directly into men contesting each other for positions within organisations. There is no parallel for women. Secondly, male and female brains are wired differently. Simon Baron-Cohen posits that the male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems, whilst the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy.

  39. “The big banks are trialling two approaches to this problem. The popular (among clueless PHBs, anyway) one is to outsource the problem to India and hope it doesn’t go bang before you can cash in your bonus and move elsewhere. This hasn’t turned out well in a couple of well-documented instances.”

    His organisation are going down the first route. The place is overrun with Indian programmers on secondment from overseas. I’ve no idea if the IT system will survive, but the company cricket team is doing well…….

  40. “I shall never again write a line of Fortran. Horrible bloody language.”

    I ran a manufacturing plant with F4P. Did some FOR and some VAX Fortran. I rather liked it.

  41. Jim,

    I’ve played in those ‘diverse’ IT cricket teams.

    On the last occasion, waited weeks to get a game.

    Finally got a bowl right at the end when the oppo had run up a massive score.

    Ripped the top scorers’ middle stump out first ball and generally caused havoc in my one measly over.

    Never got asked again.

    There’s a metaphor for the industry in there somewhere.

  42. I’ve been looking at IT, CompSci and SoftEng courses recently, and they are almost entirely the modern world’s “how to type”. It’s like going to uni in the ’70s in order to be taught how to use a pen and paper.

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