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Google's Gaff

Is this guy at Google for real? It is the 21st Century, after all. Circulating a memo among Google colleagues James Damore opined, "Female engineers might not reach leadership roles because of “biological differences.” They are "gregarious and agreeable" rather than assertive – maybe that's why they have a “harder time” asking for salary increases, speaking up and leading." Damore also asserted in his now notorious memo that positive discrimination for equal representation is “unfair, divisive, and bad for business.” Damore was fired for asserting his views.

Damore, who went to Harvard, evidently wasn't paying attention when Harvard President Larry Summers provoked a furor by arguing along the same gender lines that men outperform women in math and the sciences because of biological difference, and discrimination is no longer to blame, no longer a career barrier for female academics. (Tell that to women in academia in male dominated fields. A good example is medicine. While many more women---almost 50% are medical residents, only 15% are Department Chairs).

Summers apologized, and most notably, the presidents of MIT, Princeton and Stanford released a statement rejecting Summer’s outrageous remarks. Summers eventually "got religious" and worked hard to distance himself from the remarks he made over and over again. "My January remarks substantially understated the impact of socialization and discrimination, including implicit attitudes -- patterns of thought to which all of us are unconsciously subject," he said. "The issue of gender difference is far more complex than comes through in my comments and my remarks about variability went beyond what the research has established."

Duh. Research, indeed. Speaking of research, it suggests that testosterone can make people more "poised for aggression", according to Scientific American. Should we then deduce that men are less suited for public office? Because of higher testosterone levels, they're more prone to social dominance, prone to be more inclined to war? Considering the fire and furious direction current events seem to be taking, it could be argued that a little less testosterone---fewer men--- in policy positions might be in order.

While there are obvious biological differences between the sexes, needless to say, no differences in intelligence between the sexes, has been found. Then there's the issue that gender traits, regardless of sex, have been found to be on a continuum: some men are more feminine than others, some women more masculine. Yes, it's far more complex than your comments take into account, Mr. Summers.

Even though differences in brain areas where males and females manifest their intelligence has been found, there is absolutely no research to suggest that women are not suited to positions in engineering and STEM in general. It's not as though STEM was monolithic and didn't require a wide diversity of talent. As we teach girls at Girls Inc. of NYC, in G3, Generation Giga Girls (our Moody's Data Analytics Program) jobs in technology include everything from coding to analytic skill to creative design to developing horizontal distribution networks and integrating various data bases of information. Jobs in these fields require a wide diversity of skills and talents, and in fact, integration and creating networks are skills where women have been found to have more natural ability than men.

Further, at GINYC, we have seen firsthand that girls in our Moody's Data Analytics Program:

• Perform better in math

• Pursue a major in STEM at a higher rate

• Demonstrate increased levels of enthusiasm and engagement

• Possess greater confidence in their ability to pursue academically challenging work

Women's thought processes actually lend themselves to much of what is needed these days of hyper-specialization. Women's thought processes are integrative. Studies reinforce evidence of gender differences in decision making. Insights from brain research like the study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, show that men’s brains have approximately 6.5 times more gray matter than women’s, and women’s brains have nearly 10 times more white matter than men’s. Because gray matter characterizes information processing centers and white matter facilitates the connections among those centers, scientists theorize that those differences might explain why men tend to excel in tasks that depend on sheer processing while women show relative strength in tasks that call for assimilating and integrating disparate pieces of information. What’s more, the cord connecting the left and right lobes is 10% thicker, on average, in female brains. And women have wider peripheral vision than men do.

Meanwhile, back at Google, a former employee says she left because the work environment at Google was "simply not welcoming to anyone other than white males." Apparently, Google just doesn't recognize that women can add value to their enterprise. That's not surprising, though, when you listen to female scientific experts who say there does appear to be reason to be concerned; because from its very beginning, misogynous and defensive gender politics around STEM and what we think of as scientific method have been the norm.

When you consider that Francis Bacon, the father of the scientific method famously likened nature to a woman, advising: "You must bind her to your service and make her your slave," we get some insight into how deeply rooted the gender bias in STEM really is. What are the chances of genuine sexual equality when girls are deemed unsuited to study science at school? In one discouraging, but glaring example of that brand of sexism, researchers in the US found that science faculty staff judged a person's aptitude for a laboratory manager job on the basis of their gender. A dummy application with a man's name on the front fared much better than the same application with the name changed to that of a woman. "Female" candidates were deemed less competent – identical skills and experience notwithstanding. (This bias, incidentally, was shown by male and female recruiters alike.)

So, it shouldn't be a big shock that three-quarters of young women in the US believe that true equality in the workplace, even at Google, or maybe especially at a Google, is still a long way off. We have much work to do.


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