Google Memo — James Damore Firing Unwarranted, but His Argument Was Naive

Google shouldn’t have fired James Damore. The company claims to encourage internal dissent and debate, and that is what Damore provided. But the contents of his memo are nothing to celebrate: He said nothing that hasn’t already been said, in tiresome fashion, for decades.

Moreover, the people defending the content of Damore’s memo, rather than his right to write it, ignore an important subtlety: Google has a practical job to do — manage the people who make up its business — and Damore’s memo made that job harder.

On the page, Damore comes across not as iconoclastic, but as naïve. His memo reads like something a diligent and earnest high-school freshman might write. “On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways,” is hardly shocking news. As for the rest, we have heard it all before. Women like to stay home making babies and cuddling kittens, while men like to go to war and drive red sports cars fast.

It only echoes Damore’s naïveté to acknowledge that there is some truth to this, but that it is hardly the whole story. Biological determinism is a simplistic worldview. Biology likely plays a role in discouraging men from becoming nurses despite the relatively high pay, and in discouraging women from writing letters to the editor. But nurture, culture, and the natural environment play roles, too. It is prudent to assume that we don’t know much about how these factors work together. It is imprudent, by contrast, to assert that differences stemming from “biological causes . . . may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

Likewise, Damore’s suggestions for how Google can support women are hardly novel. He wants Google to encourage more collaborative programming work to reward cooperation and “agreeableness” and, somewhat vaguely, to “make tech and leadership less stressful.” He also dislikes affirmative action, and here, too, offers a well-rehearsed argument.

Damore, like any novice rhetorician, relies on straw men. He is concerned that in aiming for perfectly equality of the sexes, Google will deplete its financial resources and become less competitive. Google’s tech workers, however, are 80 percent male, and its leadership is 75 percent male. If the company is indeed striving for numerical equality, it is a long way from the danger zone.

Likewise, Google’s parent company has $95 billion in cash on hand. This amount is…

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