Speed Reads


Google is in turmoil over a viral manifesto suggesting women are biologically less tech-y

Danielle Brown started as Google's new vice president of diversity, integrity, and governance last month, and she "had hoped to take another week or so to get the lay of the land before introducing myself to you all," she wrote Google employees over the weekend. Instead, she felt compelled to weigh in on an internal manifesto by a male senior software engineer that went "internally viral," as a Google employee put it to Motherboard, then externally viral when Gizmodo published the entire 10-page document on Saturday.

The document, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," begins: "I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don't endorse using stereotypes." In the rest of the document, the author — whose name isn't being widely shared — earnestly argues that "Google's left bias" has led to an overemphasis on gender and racial discrimination, and stifled "viewpoint diversity" through shaming conservatives. He shows great interest in promoting a culture of "psychological safety" and warns that Google's emphasis on "political correctness" is leading to "encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies," by which he seems to mean affirmative action.

The most controversial part of the essay is the author's contention that innate biological differences "may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership." Women's "stronger interest in people rather than things" may "in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas," he writes, while "more men may like coding because it requires systemizing." Also, women generally have more "neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance)" and "spend more money," while men's status fixation explains why they fill most top leadership positions.

Kara Swisher at Recode sums up the argument as "men like status and, apparently, ladies like me are too nice to code," which she calls "sexist twaddle, wrapped in the undeserved protection of free speech." Brown was more diplomatic, saying she thought the document "advanced incorrect assumptions about gender" that are "not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes, or encourages."

In his cri de coeur, the author said he's "gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend," and current and former Google employee say that's actually pretty accurate. Google is currently being investigated for gender pay discrimination by the Labor Department.