STUMP » Articles » Editing the James Damore Google Diversity Memo: Improve the Summary and Focus (WITH GIFS!) » 10 August 2017, 11:56

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Editing the James Damore Google Diversity Memo: Improve the Summary and Focus (WITH GIFS!)  

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10 August 2017, 11:56

Lots of “hot takes” running around about the infamous Google Diversity Memo, but the following facebook exchange got me thinking:

Charlie Martin’s facebook post

Charlie Martin
August 8 ·

Okay, look: everyone who is saying what the Washington Post is saying about the Google memo has either not read the memo, hasn’t read it closely enough, or is actively lying about the memo.

My comment on Charlie’s post:

Mary Pat Campbell I assume most of these people were too lazy to read the paper. It wasn’t that long, but damn, it has graphs. How are word people supposed to understand graphs? Even if they’re just illustrative?
Like · Reply · Storify · 6 · August 8 at 5:32pm

Charlie Martin When Gizmodo published it, they carefully removed both graphs and hyperlink citations.
Like· Reply · Storify · 2 · August 8 at 6:12pm

Mary Pat Campbell well damn, im not gonna read a bunch of WORDS…I demand animated gifs · Reply · Storify · August 8 at 8:41pm

And it devolved from there.

The memo, such as it is, is very short (at least compared to my volume of reading), and that removing the hyperlinks removed various contexts and support. But I don’t think that’s the big issue.

The issue is his summary sucks.

THE SUMMARY

Here it is: (that link to the full pdf)

TL;DR

● Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety,
but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.

● This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too
sacred to be honestly discussed.

● The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this
ideology.
○ Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
○ Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression

● Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we
don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership.

● Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business

Number one: the “TL;DR” is entirely too cutesy-poo for something this serious.

Number two: he has put extremely emotionally charged statements in his summary, and people will react to those — no, they didn’t read the full paper. They read this:

Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we
don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership.

That line is almost tweetable (it’s 150 characters), so guess what people will tweet?

I don’t entirely disagree with him on this point, but the problem is people are knee-jerk reacting to this, and it’s his fault. He failed to communicate.

I don’t want to beat up on the guy — plenty of people are doing that already. He’s young, and he’s trying to cram too much into one thing. So let my at-least-additional-six-years-of-business-writing-experience help.

PRINCIPLES OF BUSINESS WRITING

Here is a big principle:

What is the one thing you want your audience to remember?

Not five things. One. What one thing do you want them to remember?

The problem with the paper, partly, is that I see multiple big goals/topics in the paper:
- improving ideological diversity at google
- improving gender diversity at google
- there are discriminatory practices at google that people see as exclusive, fomenting ill will
- treating people as individuals, not as groups

You have one group of people getting caught up in the specific line I mentioned, and then conservatives and libertarians are pointing at this part:

Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety,
but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.

This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too
sacred to be honestly discussed.

And going SEE! You proved him right!

Yes, I know, the gender/racial diversity aspect is where he’s touching on an “ideas you can’t speak” point. But this is the weakness of the paper as a persuasive piece: it’s got too much going on. Of course, once the extremely lazy media get a hold of it, you get a feeding frenzy.

So my first suggestion would be to split this into multiple memos. Let’s go with the topic that really has everybody frothing: the issue of gender diversity.

PROPOSED SUMMARY FOR GENDER DIVERSITY MEMO

I am not changing the ideas in his paper, I’m changing the emphasis in the summary:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

ISSUE:
- Google’s gender diversity is lacking in leadership and tech

CURRENT APPROACHES:
- Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race
- A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates
- Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate
- Setting org level OKRs for increased representation

RESULTS:
- No noticeable increase in gender diversity in tech and leadership since xxxx
- Bad feeling among excluded groups

PROPOSED APPROACHES:
- Make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration.
- Make tech and leadership less stressful
- Allow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive
- Allowing and truly endorsing part time work

Some of what I put in there are additions, but I mainly copy/pasted text from his own paper (yes, you can repeat your words in a summary). Yes, there is some of the google insider speak still there. This was intended for an internal audience.

Note I never mention the reasons for the proposed approaches or even supporting data (except the first item, just because I want you, my readers, to go look at the stats. That’s not the point of the executive summary. The executive summary is supposed to give you actionable items, and you put supporting material in the full paper.

Mind you, the paper would have still likely gotten him fired, but the lazy media feeding frenzy would have been subdued.

RESULTS-ORIENTED

I did add one thing I didn’t see in his paper:

No noticeable increase in gender diversity in tech and leadership since xxxx

So here’s the deal about business in general: it’s results oriented.

Because if you’re not results-oriented, you may soon find yourself having no business whatsoever.

“Results” can mean a lot of things, though.

In my case, I think there are good cases for gender diversity at Google, and James Damore sounds like he’s really behind gender diversity but he disagrees with the approaches currently being taken. I’ve been there.

Now, I didn’t look at the stats, but I believe Google has been working at this gender diversity thing for many years now, and it’s not like the tech or leadership stats have moved much at all. I would assume Damore could get at the data that would tell him how much the diversity efforts at Google had failed. Because they’re obviously not reaching their targets.

20% females in tech, 25% females in leadership. Maybe they’d be happy with something less than 50%, but that’s obviously low for whatever targets they’re considering.

The point is that Damore is trying to persuade people to do something different. Part of that persuasion is “What you’re doing isn’t getting you the results you say you want.” I think he has some good ideas, especially with regards to part-time work. I think it could broaden diversity in loads of ways, not just in terms of gender diversity.

Thing is, “Results” means lots of different things. Some of us, including me, are calling into question what Google’s goals really are re: gender diversity. Are they really all that concerned? If they were concerned, I would think they would notice that their particular efforts aren’t doing shit. (And the HR people should have the info to indicate that).

Could be their goal isn’t really gender diversity, but to look like they’re trying. And trying in “acceptable” ways.

So “everybody” feels good. The result is that “our targeted groups feel good” not “we actually get more women into tech and leadership”.

ABOUT THAT IDEOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

But yeah, not everybody feels good about this. So yeah, ideological diversity isn’t allowed at Google. No duh.

In the past, I’ve been contacted by Google recruiters (many many years ago). I would be willing, in the past, to talk with them, just because I was curious, but I never knew why they were talking with me. Maybe they weren’t used to people pushing back “Why did you contact me? What kind of positions are we talking about?” (I think HR was in disarray at the time). I don’t really expect ever to be contacted again, but if I were, I wouldn’t waste my (or their) time. I would clearly be unwelcome there.

For one, I’m a lifetime member of the NRA. No, gun talk doesn’t come up much in my work. But I do sometimes have My favorite NRA mag for reading material.

What do you want to bet that some Google snitch would see that magazine in my hand (and yes, sometimes there’s a gun on the cover) and claim to feel unsafe?

I also often have First Things for lunchtime reading. What do you want to bet that people would claim I’m a hatemonger as a result? (One of this month’s articles is titled “First Church of Intersectionality”).

Don’t worry, I’m not about to apply. I like where I am. In finance, we get all types (well, most types. Communists might get uncomfortable.)

It’s good to have a diversity of backgrounds, and it goes far beyond gender and race. That I come from the Southeast, and most of the people in the office are from the Northeast makes for a difference. Yes, the Yankees re-invading the South after air conditioning was invented has also had a lot of beneficial effects.

But Google may want to think the kind of “results” they want. Pretty much everything they do is easily replaced by services that already exist. Many have switched to DuckDuckGo and Bing for their search needs. FFS, it’s not like Google is needed for search when you’re really wanting to look at wikipedia, amazon, imdb, or weather.com.


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