Dear (former) Google engineer,
Recently, I read a certain memo you authored — about how women aren’t biologically fit to hold tech jobs; sound familiar? — and it got me thinking. I will never run a marathon as fast as a man. I am not as good at lifting heavy objects. But I have delivered two babies without meds. Can you do that?
I am definitely emotional, and I focus more on people than ideas. I am also neurotic. I’m pretty sure that these traits are what helped me achieve five promotions in seven years at my last company, where I was rewarded for my ability to intuit the needs of other employees and anticipate risk. (Who knew being neurotic was such a good thing?)
My point is that there are definitely biological and hormonal differences between men and women; many books and studies have been dedicated to demonstrating that. But this is where all the value comes in. More and more studies show how a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives leads to better decision-making and less group think. And the best of these studies, including my favorite one by Morgan Stanley, shows that companies with better gender diversity deliver better shareholder value. Since this is Corporate America we’re talking to, shouldn’t it all come down to the bottom line?
While the content of your memo is frankly pretty appalling, I don’t believe it’s in any way reflective of Google’s culture — and their swift response has been more than appropriate. As the 100+ reviews left by female employees on Fairygodboss attest to, Google is one of the good guys.
Your charge that Google is silencing dissent seems to completely ignore the extraordinary discomfort and unease that you personally have created throughout the ranks of Google, and at other companies. After hearing your views and those from your supporters, what female employee today is not feeling a little less secure about how she is perceived by the men around her? And take it from my experience — she was already not feeling great about it to begin with.
Diversity initiatives of the kind that you criticize often exclude those who are not minorities. But that’s because they are intended to create a safe space for minorities who tend to be excluded or otherwise marginalized in the first place. Without the proper training, encouragement, and incentives, hiring managers are highly likely to hire people who look and think exactly like them. This is not because they are bad people; it’s because it’s an innate predisposition for most of us biologically (and hey, you yourself are all about biology, right?). Hence, we need deliberate programming and focus to become more diverse. Not just because of human rights, but because it’s what’s going to keep Google — a house built on innovation — a powerhouse for the next hundred years.
Google is an intensely metrics-driven culture, and engineers there are taught not to take anything at face value. (Full disclosure, I worked there for a short time.) For that reason, it’s not totally unsurprising that one foolishly bold — and fairly obnoxious — engineer remains unconvinced about the tangible value that diversity brings. And it also seems like there are others who feel the same way. So I would like to challenge you — and Google, and the rest of the corporate world — to harness the extraordinary power of analytics at your disposal to quantitatively demonstrate the value that I’m confident diversity initiatives deliver to a business. Perhaps you can use this opportunity to spend some time and determine empirically what kind of value diversity, and the programs promoting it, bring to the table.
At Google, data is king. Your memo was sadly devoid of it. But diversity training could clearly use more of it, too. I would love to have enough of it to change your mind, and the minds of others like you… so that my daughter will never have to.
Romy Newman, Fairygodboss Founder, Former Media Executive, and Woman