Politics & Policy

Discrimination against Men at Google

(Stock photo: Nullplus/Dreamstime)
Setting the facts straight about the science of sex differences.

A male engineer at Google created a storm by arguing that men and women are deeply different and that the difference helps explain why women are less likely than men to work for Google and rise to the top there. His statement has been met with anger and disbelief. Google’s new vice president for diversity tried to calm the waters by refusing to provide a link to the offending post and declaring that she “found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.” She continued,

Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. Strong stands elicit strong reactions. Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable.

But this verbal smackdown was not considered sufficient in the Google cocoon of political correctness. The engineer has now been fired.

Changing a culture is indeed hard and uncomfortable, but so too is changing a worldview. Central to the progressive/feminist worldview is the belief that men and women would make the same choices with regard to work and family life if they were not socially trained to do otherwise.

I have a few questions for proponents of this view. First, do you believe in evolution? Progressives will say yes. Second, are you aware that the vast majority of evolutionary psychologists believe there are deep-seated sex differences that, on average, will lead men and women to make different decisions about work and family?

This statement will send progressives scurrying in search of dissenters who might enable them to avoid rethinking their worldview. James Damore, the would-be anonymous former Google engineer, set forth some findings widely accepted among those who study sex differences. Here is some of what he said: Women are relatively more attracted to occupations dealing with people; men are relatively more attracted to occupations dealing with things. Thus, a technology company such as Google will attract more men than women. Men are also more concerned about achieving a high status within an occupation, in part because, when looking for a mate, high status in a partner is more important to women than to men. Thus, on average, men will be more willing than women to endure long hours in stressful positions in order to achieve higher occupational status.

I have recently set forth some equally important conclusions of those who study sex differences. Women have a stronger desire than men to spend much of the day with their young children. Therefore, mothers are much more likely than fathers to want part-time work. This preference for part-time work is strongest among the best-educated mothers.

In pointing out such facts, I will have no more influence on Google than James Damore, but in my comfortable retirement I will not have to look for another job. Policies such as Google’s that favor women in hiring and promotion are everywhere — even at the National Science Foundation. One writer noted that in 2004, the NSF awarded half its fellowships for engineers to women. That might sound fair, but women made up a significantly smaller fraction of applicants. The men apparently weren’t quite good enough. Yet the male applicants garnered 80 percent of the honorable mentions — a proportion more in line with their representation in their profession.

Policies such as Google’s that favor women in hiring and promotion are everywhere — even at the National Science Foundation.

Maybe these results had little to do with the caliber of the male applicants. One past NSF president, Rita Rossi Colwell, gave speeches in which she said promoting diversity “begins with guidance on grant proposals and extends every step of the way, as an element in the final evaluation of the work.” Just last year the NSF initiated a new funding program to increase diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Like other initiatives, this one will run up against some politically incorrect facts: Parenthood makes talented women less career-centered and men more career-centered. And far more men than women score at the very highest level in mathematical-, spatial-, and science-reasoning ability.

Google’s vice president for diversity says Damore made “incorrect assumptions about gender.” He didn’t. He presented scientific facts, not assumptions. When will progressives and feminists be willing to face those facts?

Far fewer women than men want top engineering jobs. Nevertheless, diversity agendas, as at Google, insist on gender equality in top jobs. It stands to reason that some of the women achieving promotions as a result will be less worthy than the male applicants. That hardly sounds like a recipe for business success — or, more important, for true respect between the sexes.


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— Steven E. Rhoads is emeritus professor of politics at the University of Virginia and the author of Taking Sex Differences Seriously.


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