The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right. Its main points are that:
- Neither the left nor the right gets diversity completely right;
- The social science evidence on implicit and explicit bias has been wildly oversold and is far weaker than most people seem to realize;
- Google has, perhaps unintentionally, created an authoritarian atmosphere that has stifled discussion of these issues by stigmatizing anyone who disagrees as a bigot and instituted authoritarian policies of reverse discrimination;
- The policies and atmosphere systematically ignore biological, cognitive, educational, and social science research on the nature and sources of individual and group differences.
I cannot speak to the atmosphere at Google, but: 1. Give that the author gets everything else right, I am pretty confident he is right about that too; 2. It is a painfully familiar atmosphere, one that is a lot like academia.
.. I mainly focus on the reactions to the essay on the Gizmodo site, which indirectly and ironically validate much of the author’s analysis. Very few of the comments actually engage the arguments; they just fling insults and slurs. Yes, slurs.
.. The arrogance of most of the comments reflects exactly the type of smug self-appointed superiority that has led to widespread resentment of the left among reasonable people.
.. Even the response by Google’s new VP in charge of diversity simply ignores all of the author’s arguments, and vacuously affirms Google’s commitment to diversity. The essay is vastly more thoughtful, linked to the science, and well-reasoned than nearly all of the comments.
.. But it is not clear to me how such sex differences are relevant to the Google workplace. And even if sex differences in negative emotionality were relevant to occupational performance (e.g., not being able to handle stressful assignments), the size of these negative emotion sex differences is not very large (typically, ranging between “small” to “moderate” in statistical effect size terminology; accounting for less than 10% of the variance). So, using someone’s biological sex to essentialize an entire group of people’s personality would be like operating with an axe. Not precise enough to do much good, probably will cause a lot of harm. Moreover, men are more emotional than women in certain ways, too. Sex differences in emotion depend on the type of emotion, how it is measured, where it is expressed, when it is expressed, and lots of other contextual factors.
.. Among commentators who claim the memo’s empirical facts are wrong, I haven’t read a single one who understand sexual selection theory, animal behavior, and sex differences research.
When the memo went viral, thousands of journalists and bloggers transformed themselves overnight from not understanding evolutionary psychology at all to claiming enough expertise to criticize the whole scientific literature on biological sex differences... Even Google’s new ‘VP of Diversity’, Danielle Brown, criticized the memo because it ‘advanced incorrect assumptions about gender’; I was impressed to see that her Michigan State B.A. in Business and her U. Michigan M.B.A. qualify her to judge the scientific research... I think that almost all of the Google memo’s empirical claims are scientifically accurate. Moreover, they are stated quite carefully and dispassionately... Whoever the memo’s author is, he has obviously read a fair amount about these topics. Graded fairly, his memo would get at least an A- in any masters’ level psychology course. It is consistent with the scientific state of the art on sex differences. (Blank slate gender feminism is advocacy rather than science: no gender feminist I’ve met has ever been able to give a coherent answer to the question ‘What empirical findings would convince you that psychological sex differences evolved?’.. implicit in the author’s critique of Google’s diversity programs. This dogma relies on two core assumptions:
- The human sexes and races have exactly the same minds, with precisely identical distributions of traits, aptitudes, interests, and motivations; therefore, any inequalities of outcome in hiring and promotion must be due to systemic sexism and racism;
- The human sexes and races have such radically different minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and insights, that companies must increase their demographic diversity in order to be competitive; any lack of demographic diversity must be due to short-sighted management that favors groupthink.
The obvious problem is that these two core assumptions are diametrically opposed.
.. The usual rationale for gender diversity in corporate teams is that a balanced, 50/50 sex ratio will keep a team from being dominated by either masculine or feminine styles of thinking, feeling, and communicating. Each sex will counter-balance the other’s quirks. (That makes sense to me, by the way, and is one reason why evolutionary psychologists often value gender diversity in research teams.)
But if there are no sex differences in these psychological quirks, counter-balancing would be irrelevant. A 100% female team would function exactly the same as a 50/50 team, which would function the same as a 100% male team.
.. psychological interchangeability makes diversity meaningless. But psychological differences make equal outcomes impossible. Equality or diversity. You can’t have both.
.. His most important suggestion though is apparently the most contentious: ‘Be open about the science of human nature’. He writes ‘Once we acknowledge that not all differences are socially constructed or due to discrimination, we open our eyes to a more accurate view of the human condition which is necessary if we actually want to solve problems.’ This is also correct. If American businesses want to remain competitive in a global market, they must open their eyes to the research, and ground their policies in the known facts about the genetic evolution of sex differences, rather than blank slate delusions about the ‘social construction of gender’.
.. As a woman who’s worked in academia and within STEM, I didn’t find the memo offensive or sexist in the least. I found it to be a well thought out document, asking for greater tolerance for differences in opinion, and treating people as individuals instead of based on group membership.