Monday, 19 February 2018

I’m An Ex-Google Woman Tech Leader And I’m Sick Of Our Approach To Diversity!

quote [ As part of my UrbanAMA journey, I’ve worked with many young women in high school and college, encouraging them towards pursuing computer science and getting a tech degree. Many of them have opened up about the hostile environments they face even in progressive schools such as UC Berkeley and have thanked me for the support and encouragement. Now that is where we must bring change.

If we increase the inflow of women into tech education, we will automatically increase diversity in hiring. ]

She's a better writer than I am...
[SFW] [science & technology] [+2]
[by donnie@12:55amGMT]


Taxman said @ 3:16am GMT on 19th Feb [Score:5 Good]
Hey look at that, from the article:

Many different discussions are happening.

This one supports the general notion that men are more likely to be technical. This is directly observable in the technical and engineering fields I have worked in over the last 30 years. More men are candidates. More men are hired. More men are promoted. Etc.

Another thread revolves around whether there is some cause for this. Genetics. Societal. Intellect. Etc.

Another thread revolves around what assholes men are, generally as a subtopic of societal causation.

I don’t think the three can be disentangled. Men are often assholes and generally unable to see how their (my) actions and behaviors affect women differently than expected. This is observable. Men (like myself) may assert that they are exceptions. Fine. But in general it seems to be true, in my observation, that “boy will be boys.” Or dogs. I am not a spokesperson for my gender. Those who disagree are welcome to do so.

Everything in this general discussion would likely roll up from this issue. It would therefore be incumbent upon all of us who live in this time to attempt the kind of correction, affirmative action of a sort, along with social awareness and teaching. Think of it as an investment.

Gender bias, like racial or others are deeply wired into our lives. My wife and I, both engineers and both having exceptional scores in math and science, and education to match, have raised a son and daughter. Our son wants nothing to do with engineering. Our daughter learned recursive programming as a sophomore in high school and thought it was cool. We did everything we could to provide gender neutral upbringings, and “everything” is pretty much nothing. Girls and boys are girls and boys from the moment the pink/blue cap is put on their skulls moments after birth.

My current company is also a startup. We also do everything we can to be competitive in hiring with Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. but after trying to compete on salary, several years ago we tried a new set of tactics. We pursue women preferentially. There, I said it. Oh, we also pursue others who are not the anointed few preferentially. This is strictly business, and it sounds as though we have had different outcomes.

In our first year, we were able to attract one woman to our team of 20 engineers. We did not cherry-pick resumes, and we rejected or were rejected by an equal share of women as men. This year, we sought out women from clubs, groups, colleges, and using our contacts from women who worked in related technical groups within the company. We got more qualified women to come in for interviews.

But we also did another thing or two. First, we made serious efforts to explain and teach men in the company why the status quo was biased towards men as engineers, and how we could be a much more successful company by breaking that view. This was hard. We had to reassess our interview process. We trained men how not to be jerks. We had to fire one person. We disciplined several others. We actively worked to make the company, and our engineering team, non-toxic for women.

Now we have a “critical mass” of women. And that makes it much easier to attract other women. And that means we have a much larger pool of candidates. Our two year “investment” is paying off.

Are women as good as men? Not sure. We hire to build teams rather than seeking unicorns. We hire those who can learn rather than those who know. We train rather than have an expectation that people will be know everything.

What I can say is that we are vastly more productive this year compared to last.

I do see, for example, that women are far more willing to ask questions that men might see as “simple” or “basic”. And we had to coach even our most enlightened men not to react with “let me Google that for you” or some other chest-beating response. Remarkably, when people ask questions and don’t get shot down, others ask too, and we all learn. Positive and constructive communication, not our greatest strength, has improved dramatically.

Of the ten or so new software engineering hires this year, about half were women. We would still be hiring, or settling for less capable people if it were not for the pool of candidates we had.

Hmm. Maybe sheer aptitude and test scores don’t tell the whole story.
milkman666 said @ 6:16pm GMT on 19th Feb [Score:2]
Look at that. There's a utility to social skills. Must suck if you're neurologically wired without them. You might even be apt to not even recognize and quantify such a thing.

Honestly, and i might be remiss in bringing Google Doc guy into this, but i think theres a lesson to be learned. Damore is disabled. In a shrinking world its increasingly more difficult to be a hermit. To etch runes into stones that you come across during your dusk wanderings. Hermit opportunities are vanishing. Its much more vital that you're able to network with people, to be able to interface. Damore is missing communication protocols. Education can help, workshop sessions and meditative practices to help you stop yourself before you say some shit liable to get you fired or branded a creep. For really bad cases, i think there should be the equivalent of a seeing eye dog. In this case, an adorable puppy, or kitten. Just to take the edge off when it comes to interactions.

No one should be fired for being an incurable asshole, in much the same way you shouldn't fire an alcoholic. That is of course after they admit to having a problem.
hellboy said @ 7:49pm GMT on 19th Feb
Alcoholics get fired all the time. If it adversely affects one's work, it's a legitimate reason.
milkman666 said @ 8:05pm GMT on 19th Feb
Taxman said @ 9:58pm GMT on 19th Feb
Get sexist or asshole classified as a disease and you might be on to something.

Or, you know, just treat women like human beings. Whatever's easier for everybody.
milkman666 said @ 10:26pm GMT on 19th Feb
Damore already tried to judo his misogyny by saying "its you guys who are the real bigots!" .
Now I'm curious to see if someone will use what we traditionally consider character defects and tries to parlay that into a disability. "I'm not an asshole, i have Aspergers. I have a letter from my GP, Dr. Harold Bornstein!"

The hairs on the back of my neck go up when i hear someone try to sneak in some seriously greasy shit in the guise of logic or statistics. "Women don't have the appropriate brain matter for abstract math. That space is instead reserved for knitting cakes and baking babies. Oh, and Negroes have poor night vision. I have studies to back me up. Look at these night game statistics. Atrocious."
Taxman said @ 10:50pm GMT on 19th Feb
What I've never figured out, and neither have they apparently (just ask them), what are we supposed to do with these 'smaller brain ratios' or 'poor night vision' statistics?

X: "Are you suggesting that we ban/change/reduce employment of these people based off the studies you've presented? Do you think that class of people would accept such a change, even with the presented data?"

Y: "Uh, no I'm just saying the studies were done and we, uh, should, uh, take that into account when we, uh, talk about such things. We're simply asking what the implications of the data are!"
donnie said[1] @ 11:57pm GMT on 19th Feb
Well, X and Y here are both failing. This entire discussion stems from the supposition that all gender imbalances in all fields of employment are the result of malice, oppression, shaming, other hostile or coercive forces, or otherwise some other cultural failing that is discouraging the participation of one gender or the other.

The counterargument here is simply to consider that, once all of that shit is eliminated, it still might not be the expected outcome that an exact 50% split results - and that there might not be anything wrong with that at all. What if we produce an idyllic, utopian, free and completely liberal society where, unencumbered, we find that we still end up with a few more men laying concrete and collecting trash, and a few more women providing translation services and helping children with speech disabilities? Is that terrible? Are we somehow a broken species for it? Why is it so repulsive to think that men and women might have some small degree of statistical complementary skills bias that has baked into our evolution over millions of years?

You ask what we're supposed to do with such information - the point is to focus on what the real problems are. Is there harassment? Fine - put an end to it. Is there a toxic work environment? Fine - fix it, fire the assholes, be relentless and stamp out the real problem.

Are girls being discouraged - by society, by their peers, by parents, by media and marketing - are they being discouraged from entering certain occupations? Are men being shamed out of others as well? Is there teasing and bullying that is stopping Steve from being a dancer and Amy from being a hacker? Fine - put an end to it. Are poor neighbourhoods not getting the education and support they need to produce quality employees? Fine - fix it; fund the schools, clean up the trash, whatever.

The point is that you can't just look at a statistic and say that it's a problem because it doesn't match some arbitrary notion of what "normal" should look like. It's far more productive to let normal sort itself out and focus on identifying and correcting the things that are actually wrong with our society. Positive discrimination is just a crutch, and it's one that only helps to reinforce the attitudes that it is trying to counteract. If people from whatever groups are hired because they belong to a group that is seen as not capable of competing equally then how can they feel like they've achieved anything? How can they feel like they are really equals?

Maybe things are so fucked up south of the border that you really need this sort of thing for the time being, I don't know, but at some point, when the shit calms down and everyone is living a happy, idyllic life, it's going to be important to ask these kinds of questions. The human species can't ever progress unless we really work at understanding ourselves and being honest with ourselves.
Taxman said @ 1:23am GMT on 20th Feb [Score:1 Interesting]
The only reason to bring up the studies is to A) change something or B) not to change something.

If it's A, then there is nothing wrong for X to simply ask if Y plans to use these studies to change something and if they think there will be fall-out when people get upset that Y is judging them based on something people can't physically change.

If it's B, then the studies are pointless because you don't plan on using them to change anything. The only reason to bring them up, then, is so that your real intentions are muddled up in studies, statistics, and other outside information. "Women have smaller brains, maybe Tech isn't for them? I'm not saying banish them from Tech. I'm just asking the questions!"

You're inserting the idea of 'small brains' into the discussion, dismissing it as not the main point, and then continuing the discussion leaving that idea in the back of everyone's mind.

Maybe you're an online gamer. Bear with me.

Have you ever heard of pre-game alpha builds? Players test the system before an online game goes live? There's a controversy, apparently, about whether these early access players should have their alpha characters wiped when the game goes live. Since they've had pre-access they've had a head start on gathering resources, learning the game, getting their characters up to snuff (max level if you will). If left with these characters, they would dominate the game (at least in comparison/competition with new players) once it was released.

Now come back to the real world. Men have had access to the 'alpha build' of STEM since the 1950's. We can't 'wipe' these people's characters. We can't go back in time and give women access to the alpha.

What we CAN do is make the playing field even, until it is fixed. Women get access to AN alpha build (reserved spots), not exactly like the men's (remember they basically had 99% complete access for 50+ years) but one that is significant enough for that minority to get their foot in the door.

After 50 years, we can revisit the issue. Heck, we can revisit it earlier if you ACTUALLY do all the clean up you've promised in the above statements.

Men were not competing fairly for the last 50 years. You can say "Ok, Ok, we're not being racist/sexist/whatever-ist NOW so the slate is wiped clean." but you'd be wrong. The damage from those policies has already taken affect on an entire generation.

Women have unique skills and perspective that men CANNOT have, and vice versa. It is imperative that all walks of life be inclusive of any that want to participate. If women were 0% interested in the field (i.e. no applicants) then by all means, fill those slots with men. But see, you KNOW there are women interested. You KNOW (and possibly want) them to compete with alpha-access men.

If they don't have to compete toe-to-toe, you cry that the competition is unfair. You say that positive discrimination is a crutch? You broke these fucking women's legs 50 years ago, that is LITERALLY what a crutch is for. It supports you while the leg heals.

So get to healing that sexist behavior that was rampant in the past. Google's going to give women (that are interested) a mini-alpha build so they can 'get up to snuff'. Maybe, just maybe, men will grow up a little and understand that 8 out of 10 of the positions isn't that bad after all. That just because someone else is getting a benefit they've enjoyed for 50 years, that it doesn't mean they've lost anything. Because the human species can't ever progress unless we really work at understanding ourselves and being honest with ourselves.
milkman666 said @ 3:35pm GMT on 20th Feb

I could see someone at a tech company looking to improve employee selection, by making a program to sift and rank applicants. Certain things get factored in; school you got your masters is renowned for so and so field, you have these hobbies that lend itself to this, oh but you're restless and like to travel, you have never stuck at a job for longer than 18 months. We'll pass.

I can see that being expanded, and the mechanism quietly tucked away. Looking to start a family? Going to get married? String of relationships as cataloged on social media? Some ugly ass assumptions, with a number tacked on, all humming under the hood. So a candidate gets a B rank instead of an A because historically women who get married or intend to have kids leave and don't come back. Nevermind we sampled data from the 60's. You sleep around a bit? Bit of a jezzebelle, could compromise the company by being unwholesome and fractious. Whats to be done, its the data, its logical. Doesn't matter if we use datasets that we like, and ignore confounding factors. Its not lying, its logical, and dishonest.

Because so many god damn variables are involved. And in the end the choices we make resonate and affect future selections. Chasing a .05% difference in suitability that leads to slow drift in the employee makeup. Its already happened just via the old fashioned method of recommending new hires via word of mouth. Because of racism and sexism, the people we know and work with are kinda like us. Then affirmative action.

Companies have to be competitive, so naturally they want the best employees. How they decided to define best should be their purview. But there are some things that can't be countenanced because of the effect on the population at large and for the health of the company in the long run. All male all white designers. engineers, and management is how you end up with "The womans tablet", hot pink and loaded apps that; teach yoga, provide a grocery list, and a panic button that txts hubbies when you see a mouse.

This is some complicated shit. Something i wouldn't trust to a person like Damore to discuss in good faith.
hellboy said @ 11:30pm GMT on 20th Feb
Sure, but:

The ADA considers granting an employee appropriate leave to go through alcohol rehabilitation a sufficient and reasonable accommodation, and does not require that an employer tolerate relapse or consistent refusal to obtain help when given the appropriate chance. If an employer offers appropriate accommodation to an alcoholic employee, and the problems with the employee's alcohol abuse and resulting performance persist, than an employer can rightfully terminate the employee.


Neither federal nor state law mentioned above protects employees who abuse alcohol while at work, or whose alcohol abuse prevents them from performing any part of their job.

Just being an alcoholic isn't enough.

(And maybe I'm an asshole for thinking this, but I'm not sold on alcoholism being a disease, given that it's generally self-inflicted and non-contagious. Alcoholics don't have a disease, they have a predisposition to addiction.)
milkman666 said @ 3:36pm GMT on 21st Feb
My mistake was in implying copping to a disease made you bulletproof in the eyes of HR. It would just be another kind of leverage to use, like threatening to sue over intolerance of political or religious beliefs. Even if those beliefs say shit like women are inherently inferior, or gay are abominations.

With your definition Heart disease would not be a disease. Or type 2 diabetes. I know what you mean, it feels weird. Like calling a tomato, or Rock Hudson, a fruit. It doesn't jive. Maybe because you can accept your arm being diseased and rotting off, because it is of you but its not you. Its not the seat of your sense of self. Parasites, cancers and other gross afflictions on the brain are easier to accept. But the idea that the personality itself is diseased, it forces you to recognize that you're made of a meat substrate.

I think there is room for distinction. Depression, schizophrenia, bipolar. Are they diseases? Disorders? That seems weird to. I dunno.
biblebeltdrunk said @ 4:24pm GMT on 21st Feb [Score:2 Interesting]
It doesn't help that different organizations have different definitions. SRCA and other worker comp groups would say PTSD is an injury but back pain is a disease, because of the onset time frame.
theRed said @ 4:20pm GMT on 20th Feb
Was this removed from the article or am I misunderstanding?
Taxman said @ 4:27pm GMT on 20th Feb
Sorry, it was a response to the article in the comments section.

I thought it relevant that someone responded going a different direction than the author and had reported success.
foobar said @ 2:16am GMT on 19th Feb [Score:3 Insightful]
We try hard, but again find ourselves with a 98% male candidate pool. You should know that we are an early stage startup that cannot afford market salaries.

Sounds like the problem is really that women are smart enough to nope the fuck away from her entitled, abusive ass.
endopol said @ 11:26pm GMT on 19th Feb
"Nope the Fuck Away": Peaches' comeback single?
Anonynonymous said @ 1:49am GMT on 19th Feb
The first step can the removals of "feel-good" degrees such as women/gender study. If you want to learn about the subject, go ahead and take related classes, just don't fucking expect it to be a real degree as in something you can survive on like a stereotypical self-entitled snowflake the far right always makes fun of.

It's STEM or nothing.
Hugh E. said @ 2:30am GMT on 19th Feb [Score:1 Underrated]
Mr Poe, can I get a ruling on this one?
5432 said @ 2:05am GMT on 20th Feb
Taxman said @ 4:58pm GMT on 20th Feb [Score:1 Underrated]
This is not a paradox.

Women and men are biologically different. Their bodies, including testosterone and estrogen, will push them want to participate in tasks they may find easier/enjoyable/interesting based on their biological setup. Strong men/women might be drawn to a job that requires feats of strength, but they might be drawn to accounting. Intelligent (loaded word) people might be drawn to science, math, or engineering, they might also want to be a professional weight-lifter. All of this is acceptable.

These arguments are irrelevant when it comes to those that want to participate.

A system that includes only males is inherently inferior to a system that includes diversity of opinions, perspective, and viewpoints.

Excluding people based on gender, or getting upset when there are positions reserved to maintain that diversity, is sexist. Trotting out 'biological reasoning' to make an excuse for that exclusion is no different. It may explain why the numbers skew gender-wise one way or another, but doesn't give anyone a reason to change (or be upset) about protections put into place to maintain diversity.
hellboy said[1] @ 9:56pm GMT on 20th Feb
Right. The issue isn't forcing women to do STEM, the issue is making sure that the women who do want to do STEM aren't being excluded because of their sex.

One reason why Shuri is such a great character in Black Panther. In a decade or so expect to see a surge of women and PoC enrolling in STEM programs at universities and taking STEM jobs, in part thanks to the movie.
donnie said @ 11:02pm GMT on 20th Feb
I don't think anyone is suggesting preventing women or men from doing whatever the hell they want - if they're passionate about something and do it well, more power to them.

The purpose of having a discussion about what appear to be very real differences in how those interests manifest between the sexes is purely to counter the argument that a non-parity gender balance in a given occupation is in and of itself evidence of a systemic problem. This is not to say that such problems don't exist, but, if and where they do, using an unfounded or arbitrary gender balance target as a metric to evaluate whether or not the problem is being corrected is not effective; it doesn't absolve us of the responsibility to dig deeper and actually address whatever underlying issues exist.
Taxman said @ 12:01am GMT on 21st Feb [Score:2]
You keep using 'arbitrary' as if people aren't paying close attention to what they're doing. If it was truly arbitrary the number of reserved spots would be 51% because female population is 51%. No further study as to what's needed or realistic. 51 is the number. Arbitrary.

Here is an article that counters the Damore memo, the small/blue/pink brain nonsense, the video above about children staring at things longer (spoiler: the experiment had terrible controls), and the article about how women would choose something else if they were just given the option to not be in STEM.

I hope everyone can see how ridiculous this is. We've had two full posts, several articles about what women are good at/not good at/what they prefer, what they want to be in, how small their brains are...

None of this happens to men.

What can men not be? What are they pushed away from doing? What occupation has us scrutinizing them to the point of brain sizes just because they want to enter a field?
donnie said @ 2:05am GMT on 21st Feb [Score:1 Good]
Of course it happens to men. We're insensitive, aggressive jackasses who would rather fuck the other guy to get ahead than cooperate. We don't care about people or making the world a better place - we just want our piece of it and will take it. We lack empathy and compassion, we're bullies, communicate poorly, and are stubborn, difficult, and adversarial. We're also disorganized as shit. You can easily run the sword both ways here. I'm exaggerating to make the point, here, but you take my meaning, I'm sure.

The only difference is that it's men who make life difficult for other men. Men who want to study to be hairdressers or dancers, nurses, librarians, or early childhood educators get teased, bullied, and laughed at for those choices. "Gay", "Faggot", "Sissy", "Loser"... whatever. Hell, 30 years ago you got called that for wanting to be a computer nerd (and then probably beaten up). Maybe brain size wasn't the argument, but dick size might have been. We're our own worst enemy, so there isn't actually a partisan fight to be had. Certainly we agree that attitudes need to change and that people need to learn to be supportive of whatever life choices others make for themselves.

At the same time, we have to be careful to not take this into the "Tiger Mom" society realm where somehow being a doctor, lawyer, or engineer is a deified thing where these occupations are seen as superior or more prestigious. Let's face it, the only reason that tech is such a big headline-fest is that we, as a society, see those jobs - those people - as "smarter" or "better" than others when, really, we need to just look at them as being people with skills that are different than other people. Not better or more or less valuable, but distinct and equally important as the skills and workers who make every other part of our society work.

People aren't clamouring to get more women into jobs taping drywall, hauling garbage, or laying brick because society doesn't give a shit about those jobs and treats people who do them as lesser than others. I mean, maybe we just need to make being an asshole a crime.
Taxman said @ 2:18am GMT on 21st Feb
All of these stereotypical negatives of men do not stop them from being the highest employed and highest earners across the world.

In fact, when men infuse themselves in these 'sissy' jobs all of a sudden wages increase... for men:

Nursing, a traditionally female-dominated profession surely has more intrinsic value to society than trading stocks, yet nurses make a fraction of what high-frequency traders make. And nursing did not bring about a global economic crisis that the taxpayer was required to bail out. Yet when the percentage of male nurses increased from a miniscule 3 percent in 1970 to 10 percent in 2011, something else very interesting developed: a gender pay gap in the field of nursing. In 2011, the average female nurse earned $51,100, 16 percent less than the $60,700 earned by the average man in the same job.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that male-dominated professions are high-status and well-paid precisely because they are male-dominated, and female-dominated professions are low-status and poorly-paid precisely because they are female-dominated. When men move into traditionally female-dominated professions, the salaries and status levels of those professions rise because men demand—and get—more for the work they do.
donnie said @ 11:04am GMT on 21st Feb
Correct for hours worked, area of specialization, shifts taken (graveyard, vs day), level of education, etc, and I'm sure most of that gap would evaporate. There is an earnings gap, but I'm not convinced there's a wage gap.

Earnings gap for female MBAs disappears for women MBAs with lower-earning husbands

tldr; If they have someone to look after the kids, allowing them to focus on their career, women achieve the same as men.

A bunch of other things to consider...

Claiming "same pay for same work" is much different than simply same pay for same job title.
5432 said @ 9:33pm GMT on 20th Feb

The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM.

A new study explores a strange paradox: In countries that empower women, they are less likely to choose math and science professions.

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