The Google rumpus, people are deliberately misunderstanding

AGoogle employee’s manifesto arguing that programmes increasing race and gender diversity be replaced with a commitment to “ideological diversity” has spread rapidly across social media sparking a furious backlash.

The 10-page document, apparently drafted by a senior male software engineer, was initially posted on the company’s internal forum.

Critics reacted angrily to its argument that the lack of women in tech companies was down to genetic factors, saying it was evidence of Silicon Valley’s hostility to women and minorities.

No, that’s not actually what was said, this is:

“I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership,”

Outside the ideological echo chamber that’s an entirely unremarkable thing to say. They do go on to make it absolutely clear that while the average propensity for grasping the brass ring, for coding, for whatever, might vary that tells us nothing about any specific individual, as the variance among individuals is greater than the average variance.

But, you know, cue screaming harpies.

31 thoughts on “The Google rumpus, people are deliberately misunderstanding”

  1. He’s quite right. 30 years in software. A bit more if you include messing around at school.

    Few girls were interested in my ZX Spectrum (yes, I really was that smooth) when I talked to them. Boys were. This was before any “patriarchy” got off the ground. My computer science course at the local tech college was about 90% male.

    Early days of career: worked with lots of women. Companies took them on as trainees. Most did not apply themselves like men do. They got given expensive training. Not fired because it was so hard getting replacements. After work skunkworks projects and taking overtime (meaning, gaining more money and faster growth in experience) almost exclusively men.

    And the PC/internet era really made it more of a meritocracy. Anyone could buy one and learn. Shit programmers (male and female) couldn’t compete. Guys would go home and learn stuff, while women didn’t.

    In the last decade, I’ve worked with 6 women programmers across many, many sites. Two of those were in one local government site, and taken on as trainees and trained.

    I do technical interviews and of a dozen candidates I’ve seen, one was a woman, and she simply failed on a test of programming recursion. There’s no patriarchy in a programming test. She just couldn’t do it. Pity because as a person, she seemed smart and good.

    Most women in software are in management, business analysis and testing. Programmers often don’t make good managers (lacking soft skills). Business analysis? That’s a whole lot of “soft skills” stuff. Testing? Bureaucratic as fuck, boring detailed shit. Women often better at that than men.

    And none of this is “women can’t code”. In my mainframe days I used to say that there were 2 women I always wanted on projects. They were great.

  2. “There’s no patriarchy in a programming test. She just couldn’t do it. “*

    More proof that programming is nothing but white-supremacist phallocentric oppression, comrades!

  3. Back in the 80s, I trained as a programmer with the Inland Revenue. The course was 100% bloke; the department about 90% bloke. My boss was a woman; not sure what she was like as a programmer, but she was one of the best bosses I’ve ever had.

    Afterthought: most of the blokes on the course were non-graduates. I was one of the 2 (?) graduates and did worst. The star performer was a uni dropout who had previously been working in a bakery.

  4. Back in the day I remember we had a telex system which had an operating menu so perverse and illogical only women could understand it.

  5. The feminists know very well that there are biological differences between male and female abilities, otherwise why aren’t they out there agitating for all inclusive sports? Where everyone, male or female is treated exactly alike and expected to compete on equal terms? Because they know no woman would get anywhere near the top 1000 competitors in the vast majority of sports, due to their biologically determined lack of ability. Such an outcome is obviously not acceptable to the ‘equality’ loving feminists so women get special treatment.

    This disparity between the numbers of male and female computer nerds is entirely to be expected on our knowledge of psychological gender traits, but of course, any well paid office job to which more men tend to gravitate than women has to be made ‘equal’ while any job that women tend to dominate is ignored entirely. Where are the campaigns to make teaching less ‘female dominated’? Or for the NHS to reflect the gender makeup of the population it serves? Crickets…….

    Of course the jobs that are male dominated but involve getting covered in shit, having nasty accidents or being out i all winds and weathers are studiously ignored by the equality brigade.

  6. I started working for a new practise at the end of May. My boss has been looking for people for around 6 months now, and has hired around 20% of those who’ve made it to interview. So far the team is 100% blokes (although he said he’s found one woman who fits the bill – she should be joining the team in another couple of months – that’ll make 1 out of 12).

    My boss is getting flak from his bosses for “lack of diversity” but there’s just so few women who want to do the job or are qualified (and I’m sure he’d be flexible, given the flak he’s getting).

  7. Whenever I see the phrase “across social media sparking a furious backlash” I immediately know someone has said something both obviously true and completely taboo.

  8. My boss is getting flak from his bosses for “lack of diversity” but there’s just so few women who want to do the job or are qualified (and I’m sure he’d be flexible, given the flak he’s getting).

    If he had hired someone useless and diverse he’d have got stick for that too. Senior management live in a strange world.

  9. …any job that women tend to dominate is ignored entirely. Where are the campaigns to make teaching less ‘female dominated’? Or for the NHS to reflect the gender makeup of the population it serves? Crickets

    As far as teaching goes it is the opposite, now that women are dominant in education from kindergarten to teens, they are using “pedo hysteria” to get rid of the remaining male teachers who have not already been ousted.

    Obviously there have never been any female paedophiles ever, so ensuring teaching becomes a solely female occupation is essential for the good of the children.

    😐

  10. Found out just today that a male test guy where I work is leaving to become a Primary school teacher. Good luck to him.

    It’s indeed a strange world where stating obvious truths gets you so heavily criticised.

    RE senior management they respond to incentives just like anyone else does. For instance knowing they can be jailed for various things drives a lot of corporate culture.

    Knowing Government is hovering above you telling you if you don’t voluntarily do something they’ll make you do it concentrates minds somewhat to. See shrinking chocolate bars, it’s one way of reducing the sugar content. A big stick was waved by the Government, and it was done. Who knows what shenanigans are going on in the background about this diversity business.

  11. But does hiring ‘a chick for a bit of variety’ get you in the shit with HR cause a storm?

    Bloody hell, the furore…

  12. We have a big diversity drive right now with internal focus groups on why women might not get promoted. Am going along to one.

    Am keen to see whether diversity of ideas will be tolerated as if we change the rules to prefer female traits we will by definition be preferring them against male traits.

    And if I hear “diversity is our strength” one more time I will scream.

  13. “See shrinking chocolate bars, it’s one way of reducing the sugar content.”

    Is that actually correct? That they can meet some government mandated target to reduce sugar content by merely reducing the size of the portion? Surely it would have to be as % of the makeup of the item, not portion size? I thought the shrinking Mars bar phenomenon was down to trying to keep the headline price down while raising the price per gram?

  14. But does hiring ‘a chick for a bit of variety’ get you in the shit with HR cause a storm?

    If you’ve ever conducted final round interviews with a HR rep (inevitably some lantern jawed feminist), then you’ll know that they push the affirmative female hiring schtick right up to the point where the blonde with big tits walks through the door…

  15. Nothing new here.

    Writing “Christianity, especially Catholicism, is a bogus mix of nonsense created by crazy religious people and con-men.” is perfectly safe today. 500 years ago, I’d be in hiding.

    We are hairless monkeys full of sin and hubris, with a taste for trouble, money, gin and bad sex.

  16. “Of course the jobs that are male dominated but involve getting covered in shit, having nasty accidents or being out i all winds and weathers are studiously ignored by the equality brigade.”

    I’m not comparing software work, but at times it’s the shittiest office work. All-nighters trying to get systems working again, pulled in for a weekend to get something ready early etc etc.

    And it’s more and more not a bureaucratic job in a big company.

  17. This reminds me of one Unity’s last posts over at Ministry of Truth; this one here:

    http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2014/10/23/so-where-did-all-the-women-coders-go/

    (Good grief, it’s nearly three years old! Would that be around the time Gamergate started kicking off? Or the early stages, at least.)

    I’m not wholly convinced by his (her?) explanation, but the last comment is interesting. And I’ve only skimmed the Google memo, and not wholly convinced by that either, although TimN’s post from yesterday raises some interesting points.

    It’s curious that the debate seems to focus on programmers (it seems that Engineer is just code for that), and prior to what used to get called the Desktop Revolution, there were only three main IT specialisations, operations, analysis and development. A CS degree, focused on programming, quite probably with a fair old wodge of formal logic (starting at A level), was a reasonable entry point to all three career paths.

    Strikes me that the introduction of the PC, and generic software like dBase and Lotus 1-2-3, blows a very large hole in the value of the generic CS degree, and makes the specialist career paths more than a bit fuzzy. If women were more focused on the economic security of a career path, before and after having kids, and the PC makes IT more generalist (bit of support, bit of development, bit of networking etc), and if that generalist technology is itself evolving at one hell of a rate, then they’ll choose something else.

    Now this happens at almost exactly the same time as the first generation of teenage boys who have been PEEKing and POKEing about on ZX81s and VIC20s throughout puberty start to enter the workforce, and that whole puberty thing is a damn sight less disruptive and stressful for boys than it is girls.

    So, those boys already have an advantage in actual experience, and as far as the social skills bit goes, a PC is exactly the same as a C64 or any home computer, in that it won’t easily talk to anything else. You can be effective as a PC generalist because you don’t even have to interact with the SA, or the DBA or the guys in Ops, and those specialisations don’t begin to become widespread until after NT3.51 starts getting adopted, which is about 10 years later.

    Now assume that the degree providers can’t begin to supply relevant courses in any useful size without some sort of lag, call it 3-5 years, 7 until they start to ramp up the number of students. NT gets launched in 1993, 3.51 in ’95. Colleges and universities won’t be in position until about 2000, which is after Y2K and the TMT boom, and slap bang in the middle of the TMT crash.

    So, if the apparent shortage, or lack of diversity, is a result of a purely economic decisions by 18 year old girls choosing degrees, then it seems most likely that would begin to self-correct, and be detected by that signal alone, by around 2005-2008, which is an unfortunate year, and that women with degrees and 8-10 years of experience should be showing up right about now. When they’re about 33-4. What’s the current average age of first partition again? Oh. The first wave is probably just about to have kids and exit the labour market for a year or two, if it hasn’t already happened.

    One other thing (promise!); Generic software. There’s a vast amount of functions scattered throughout corporate departments, that only ten years ago would have required a fairly decent amount of technical knowledge to execute, and it probably would have resided in the IT group. These days, the specific knowledge is how to drive the software, and it’s sitting in the marketing group.

    There simply isn’t a problem here.

  18. Andrew again,

    “We have a big diversity drive right now with internal focus groups on why women might not get promoted. Am going along to one.

    Am keen to see whether diversity of ideas will be tolerated as if we change the rules to prefer female traits we will by definition be preferring them against male traits.

    And if I hear “diversity is our strength” one more time I will scream.”

    Someone should get a list of these companies together as a long-term “short” fund.

    The problem with stuff like “diversity is our strength” is that it’s rarely true. The gamechangers in companies, the people who start them on the path to being giants are nearly always men. Women come along and do a load of admin. Necessary, but not the purpose of the company and you could hire men to do it. It’s not changing what you do, it’s just necessary crap to support the people doing what has to be done.

    You could probably analyse companies for when to sell your stock on the level of female employment. Women love comfortable places to work. Nice shiny offices, HR department, work/life balance, get to sit in lots of pointless meetings, do team-building exercises and attend diversity seminars. At that point, the company has peaked and is only going to go downhill.

    It would be parasitic except that they’re invited in. They soak up a lot of the profits and give little back. They might be “doing their job”, but they’re not building for the future.

  19. DuckyMcDuckface,

    The thing that the Unity article gets close to is that home computers gave people a very open JFDI entry into programming. You could buy a ZX81, plug it in, open the book and learn BASIC.

    Now, women don’t do this. They want to be told what to do. They want formal education and a badge that tells them they’re a programmer. It’s the same problem with filmmaking. Women sit around waiting for an arts council grant. Men just go out, make stuff on iPhones and cheap handycams and post on YouTube.

  20. BiS; had to think about what JFDI was…

    That Unity post was frustrating; it was so close then diverted into sexist advertisers, missing the elephant in the room by noticing it, swerving around it, and going “phew, that was a close one!”.

    I’m not sure if the home computers of the early 80s were as open an introduction as you might be thinking. Booting from ROM straight into the interpreter forced you to learn BASIC to get the box to do anything; with an RPi, there’s a fair amount of setup to do first, before you even get to the interpreter. Whether that difference will turn out to be an important part of things to come, I have no idea.

    “They want formal education and a badge that tells them they’re a programmer.”

    Not sure that’s true enough to be useful. Certainly, IMHO, it’s men who fall very badly indeed into the trap of credentialism. A similar effect; remember sitting at work watching the new graduate hire with his Software Engineering degree making a complete hash of getting a machine out of the cardboard box and plugging it in. It was after lunch before one of the network guys couldn’t take anymore and did it for him. Then the graduate started installing the software…that didn’t end well for him when he started annoying one of the women on third line tech support.

  21. @John Galt

    “If you’ve ever conducted final round interviews with a HR rep (inevitably some lantern jawed feminist), then you’ll know that they push the affirmative female hiring schtick right up to the point where the blonde with big tits walks through the door…”

    And do you know (and I promise this is true), that was what happened here, and I had never put two and two together.

  22. DuckyMcDuckface,

    I’m just saying that it opened up the market in terms of people could have a bash at writing code without having to touch an expensive computer. More so than it had previously been.

    By the mid-late 90s, we had users in the company I was working in writing macros to program Excel to do things. A few of those people moved into the IT department.

    “Certainly, IMHO, it’s men who fall very badly indeed into the trap of credentialism”

    I know no female programmers who are self-taught. I know some self-taught men.

    I’d say to anyone: avoid the degree path unless you absolutely feel it’s the only way into the industry.

  23. I knew a hundred programmers in my job. Me and maybe 5 others could actually program. It is a rare skill, even amongst “programmers.”

  24. BiS; ah, right. Sorry, you seemed to be getting a bit Ecksian there, I wasn’t really sure.

    We had female, self-taught 1-2-3 macro developers join our group, who picked up ‘normal’, non-macro languages very quickly. One joined on the strength of pretty much nothing demonstrable – PC installed in the branch, used it a few times, but we liked her, saw no good reason not to hire her. Picked up things very quickly indeed, largely via RTFM for Clipper (v. Summer 87), and went on to be a senior person at an oil major about 10 years later. Nearly all the male hires straight out of college, or school, all self taught, all found A-levels a complete irrelevance. So that was the latter half of the 80s.

    Thinking about it, it might well have been only myself and our manager who had any (beyond secondary) educational background in the subject at all, at that point.

    Didn’t come across anyone who wasn’t self taught in some way until the early Nineties. The CS graduates generally caused far more grief than they were worth. The guys with maths or physics degrees were generally more valuable to the business units than the IT group. The DBA with Art History was just peculiar. Very nice guy, just couldn’t figure how or why or where he’d picked up Sybase and Unix to that level.

    Yes, avoid a CS degree like syphilis.

  25. GC;

    Yes. Actually being any good at it is rare. Those people are worth an awful lot of money, to the right firm. Of course, finding the right firm could be a bit of a problem.

    I can write half way decent code, but I will fail, and have failed, coding competence tests, usually involving recursion. On the other hand, my coding style is probably best described as extremely defensive.

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