Thursday, August 10, 2017

Women Weaker than Men?


By now, probably everybody has heard of James Damore.  If you haven't, here's an article he wrote that basically got him fired from Google. (source, full pdf).  What I find curious are how the news articles I read contrast  with his actual writing: either by misrepresenting what he said or by pushing views that are actually more biased than anything Damore wrote.  Take this article, for instance.  The author states clearly that he thinks traditions female preferences are indicative of "weakness."

"at 4 pm PT, the tech giant will hold an all-hands meeting to discuss the firing of James Damore and the controversial internal memo he wrote about women and their biological weaknesses related to tech that got him canned from the company." (source)

Note again that word "weakness."  James Damore never wrote about biological weaknesses.  He wrote about statistical preferences and choices that men and women make.  I would be surprised if he did consider the various preferences of men and women a sign of "weakness."

This bothers me because it denigrates the choices women make more often than men.  Are only the choices which more men make than women indicative of strength?  Are women weak if they want to drop out of the workforce to raise their children?  Studies say a majority of women with children under 18 would prefer to be a homemaker.  The number of men who prefer to do so is much, much smaller.  Does this make women weaker than men?
Then there are the routine misrepresentations of the Damore article.  Here's one misrepresentation by the Google CEO, "To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK."

Damore never did that.  He clearly stated that googlers were different than average people.  He also clearly stated that one could never assume things about individuals based on group averages.  I'm pretty sure that applies to small, non-representative subsets of women, such as one finds at Google.  He was simply making the argument that individual choices driven in part by biology would make absolute equality of numbers impossible in the workplace without coercive efforts that ignore women's preferences and are unresponsive to their needs.  He also suggested some ways to increase workforce participation that would be non-coercive in nature.


Here's another misrepresentation, "
The 10-page treatise also claims that biological difference between men and women are responsible for the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry."

Again, not what he said.  He said it was partly responsible.  He readily admitted that sexism exists and should be rooted out.  He just didn't think it was the whole story and thought that assuming it was the whole story misdiagnosed the problem and would have negative consequences.


Damore's firing and the misrepresentation of his viewpoints to justify that firing do not bode well for free speech in this country.  It also points to the fact that the greatest danger to free speech right now is not government but the business community.  Heck, even when the government does come down against free speech, it is often at the behest of powerful business interests (e.g., religious freedom protection acts being struck down).


I care about this issue because I have a daughter and am trying to figure out how to raise her in such a way that her choices, options, and happiness in life are maximized/optimized.  I've actively encouraged her to pursue STEM fields, even though she has said she wants to be a teacher, because I think STEM subjects are the least likely to be tainted with ideological biases that corrupt students and ultimately make them unhappy.  For a long time, I've been keeping my eyes out for female STEM mentors and have actively reached out to them in preparation for her getting older.  However, I know that in doing so, I'm encouraging her to take a longer route to getting a degree in her primary interest (MS in education) and wonder if her choice to change fields will be viewed by feminists and their ideological supporters as a sign of "weakness."


I hope not.

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