On the Science of Changing Sex

Tech Bro’s and Silicon Valley’s Misogyny Problem

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on September 10, 2017

Kay Brown 2010A few weeks ago, I came across an essay that wondered aloud why it was that no prominent trans-activists had written about James Damore’s Google Memo (read: screed).  For a long time, I didn’t want to read the Damore missive, but I read what seemed like a rational take on it from a woman who spoke the kind of language of using science and not shying away from evidence that is unpopular or challenges received orthodoxy… which, is very much something that I strive to do.  So… I read Damore’s Google memo.

OMG! Does his misogyny and even racism leak like a sieve, especially in his footnotes and ending recommendations where the misogynist and racist dog whistles were the loudest. While he uses many science references that I happen to know quite well… he fails to note the effect sizes which he makes sound really big… but are in fact, so small that most psychologists believe that they can be best explained as artifactual based on stereotype threat, etc.  In one footnote he declares that “political correctness” is a “phenomena of the Left and a tool of authoritarians”.  In other words, having to be polite and respectful of others not like himself is felt to be an authoritarian oppression.  Wow!

screen-shot-2014-10-22-at-7-27-29-pm

But what REALLY got me, was that he referenced work that is outside of the mainstream (read: likely bullshit) that states that people’s stereotypes are actually quite accurate and reflect real differences between groups… and based on that, Google should stop its stereotype awareness training – You know, the training that helps people become aware when they are using a stereotype as a short-cut to decisions where they shouldn’t… as in our bias to see a resume with a female or culturally African-American name as less competent… a well documented phenomena.  (Because, hey everyone knows that women aren’t really interested in tech, right?  They just earned that tech or science degree cause it was the way to get easy grades, right?)  In other words, he spent a lot of time dissing feminist orthodoxy (sounding almost reasonable, but in fact not being so) then basically replaced it with a call to allowing hiring and promotion to be based on stereotypes… of which he contributed several.

Let’s talk about women, their psychology, and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), shall we?  Above I posted a great graph that showed that women, once finally (somewhat) unshackled from sexist limits imposed on them at the university level began to take more STEM largely due to Title XII passage in 1972 making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex in the United States.  But it took time to be enforced.  To know how bad it was, consider that until 1980, Harvard admitted five men for each woman, and only ended that discrimination when gender blind admissions were instituted.  Note that this graph sums up what happened to women in my lifetime.  When I was a child, very few women were admitted to STEM programs.  But I earned my BS in physics in 1982 and was admitted to Stanford Graduate School in the Materials Science Dept. right afterwards, during the most rapid expansion of women entering STEM.  Please understand, the field of materials science, and especially at Stanford, is where one learns about applied semiconductor physics and integrated circuit fabrication technology.  Stanford’s Materials Science department was Silicon Valley’s premiere place to learn this field, along with the Electrical Engineering and Physics departments.   Until that fall of ’82, Stanford’s Materials Science Dept. would only allow ONE token woman as a graduate student each year.  In the fall of ’82, it jumped to one in three students.  There had always been women interested and applying… they just weren’t being admitted.

But something ugly happened in computer science around 1984 to 1986.  Suddenly, as the demand for programmers dropped due to a recession in Silicon Valley and massive layoffs became the norm, women took the brunt of it.  But as later total student admissions skyrocketed and along with it their salaries upon graduation, the subject became the province of tech bros and the relative percentage of women admitted to those programs plummeted even as the absolute numbers of women in computer science remained stable or even continued to climb.  But, still the data clearly shows that women like being in STEM.  Any discussion about women being unfit or disinterested in STEM fields is disproven by the data.  They just aren’t welcomed in computer science.

student-numbers-in-computer-science-210116-large

Damore made several insinuations common among misogynists and racists, namely that Google’s diversity efforts were anti-meritocratic, giving unwarranted opportunities to women and others, failing to note that Google was working to make hiring and promotion free of bias, while encouraging women and minorities to apply and to seek out promotional opportunities.  He made comments that Google’s culture was antithetic to “conservatives”, but never quite defined what or who a “conservative” is.  If he is an example, and I do believe that he was in fact making himself the exemplar, then he is defining “conservative” as someone who holds a view that working toward a diverse workforce should not be one of society’s goals.  In fact, he explicitly stated that Google, as a company, was a “zero-sum” game, with an insinuation that working toward a diverse workforce inherently punished men like himself.  To that, I would say, “To those who are accustomed to privilege, equality is mistaken for oppression.”

Although he repeatedly stated that he was not bigoted… his very arguments and especially his ending recommendations belied that assertion.  His arguments regarding population level differences between men and women are in fact a strawman to the real issue at hand.  To wit, is there a bias against women in tech?  Does it affect the level of participation in tech, especially over time?  The answer is YES and HELL YES!  But Damore never addressed the evidence for bias against women in tech, especially in the computer sciences, of which there is plenty (e.g. identical resumes are evaluated differently depending on the perceived gender of the applicant, to the extreme detriment of women.)  Instead, he went off on the tangent of differential gendered desire to be a technologist… and on a non sequitur regarding whether boys or girls are the disadvantaged sex in primary education… that even if true, is meaningless to the issue of eliminating hiring and promotional bias inside of Google, which effort he recommended to be abandoned and replaced with a nebulous “psychological safety” concept that upon careful reading seemed to be premised upon his own feelings of being oppressed as a “conservative” man.  Again,  “To those who are accustomed to privilege, equality is mistaken for oppression.”

Recall that I am a Silicon Valley technologist and entrepreneur with over a forty-year career now.  I grew up in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale and Los Altos).  Went to the same high school and at the same time, as Steve Jobs.  My first job was as a teenaged secretary at a high-tech company at the corner of Scott & Bowers, at the very heart of Silicon Valley, in 1976.  I worked my way up from there to be a founder and CEO.  I KNOW Silicon Valley.  I know tech.  I’ve seen the bias against women, those with disabilities,  ethnic, and sexual minorities first hand, sometimes up close and personal.  Heck, I’ve got over a hundred patents, a text-book chapter, and dozens of conference papers & journal articles… and a prestigious professional society award.  And yet, multiple times, my presence in tech and in tech management has been questioned by the likes of James Damore.

I’ve met with a goodly number of Google employees and executives, VP level and above…  up to and including Megan Smith and Sergey Brin.  I know that Google is making a sincere effort to eliminate bias in hiring and promotion.  Heck… they even offered me a position there (which as I was already CEO of my own start-up, I declined).  But this is an industry wide problem that no one company can solve on its own.

Oh… and I’m a very open-minded scientific “skeptic” when it comes to sexually dimorphic behavior, of which I have shown that there are many.  So I know the science.  I have managed many technologists, both men and women, from ‘baby techies’ to senior researchers that are far more talented than James Damore…  From all of that, I can personally tell you,

This shit of Damore’s stinks!

There, to the author that wondered where an essay from a trans-activist was… now you have one.

Further Reading:

No… you really don’t want to read this tripe… but if you must:

https://medium.com/@Cernovich/full-james-damore-memo-uncensored-memo-with-charts-and-cites-339f3d2d05f

Advertisements

Comments Off on Tech Bro’s and Silicon Valley’s Misogyny Problem

%d bloggers like this: