& cplSiteName &

'Ladysplaining' Ex-Googler's Anti-Women Memo

Mitch Wagner

At first, ex-Googler James Damore seemed like nothing special, yet another privileged twit mouthing off his stupid opinions, no different than a million other dopes you see on the Internet every day.

When it comes to political arguments, I've lately taken to heart a saying by Winston Churchill: "You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks."

Damore was an engineer at Google, who got himself fired after distributing a ten-page memo arguing that women are underrepresented in engineering because of biological differences. (See Google Fires Engineer Over Gender Manifesto.)

It's not that I agree with Damore. I don't. His arguments are idiotic.

But (I thought) they're not worth giving time and energy to. They're just too trivial to bother with.

Fortunately, a woman did my work for me -- as women often do for men. Specifically, Cynthia Lee lays out the issues deftly in an essay on Vox: "I'm a woman in computer science. Let me ladysplain the Google memo to you."

"I'm a lecturer in computer science at Stanford," Lee begins. "I've taught at least four different programming languages, including assembly. I've had a single-digit employee number in a startup. Yes, I'm a woman in tech."

She continues:

I have known, worked for, and taught countless men who could have written the now-infamous Google "manifesto" — or who are on some level persuaded by it. Given these facts, I'd like to treat it — and them — with some degree of charity and try to explain why it generated so much outrage.

At the outset, it must be conceded that, despite what some of the commentary has implied, the manifesto is not an unhinged rant. Its quasi-professional tone is a big part of what makes it so beguiling (to some) and also so dangerous. Many defenders seem genuinely baffled that a document that works so hard to appear dispassionate and reasonable could provoke such an emotional response...

That's me, by the way. The memo didn't seem, on first read, to be misogynistic. But Lee educated me.

...(Of course, some see that apparent disconnect not as baffling, but as a reason to have contempt for women, who in their eyes are confirming the charge that they are more emotional and less quantitative in their thinking.)

Lee describes several reasons why women are -- rightly -- agitated about the memo: "Fatigue" is one reason. Women are tired of putting up with this kind of nonsense.

Secondly, says Lee: Women are resistant to the "divide and conquer" strategy; they won't be turned against their own gender. "Speaking for myself, it doesn't matter to me how soothingly a man coos that I'm not like most women, when those coos are accompanied by misogyny against most women," Lee says.

She adds, "The author says he's open to diversity, yet no real-world diversity-enhancing program meets his standards."

Another reason to pay attention to Damore is that he isn't just some random jerk on the Internet. He's a Harvard-educated Google engineer -- or he was a Google engineer -- supposedly one of America's intellectual elite. People like Damore need to be held to a higher standard than the ordinary monkey with a keyboard.

As to the facts that Damore asserts: They don't hold up to scrutiny. Women were in tech long before men; they pioneered computer sciences, notes. Holly Brockwell, writing at The Guardian. Ada Lovelace developed computer algorithms way back in the 19th century. Grace Hopper pioneered the first code compilers and Cobol. Margaret Hamilton "led the development of the onboard flight software for the Apollo missions and coined the term 'software engineering.' " And African-American women worked as "human computers" at NASA, working out the trajectories for the moon landing.

What are the hottest jobs in the cloud? Get our special report to find out:
Cloud Skills: What's Hot?

Says Brockwell:

The fact is, programming was considered repetitive, unglamorous "women's work", like typing and punching cards, until it turned out to be a lucrative and prestigious field. Then, predictably, the achievements of women were wiped from the scoreboard and men like James Damore pretended they were never there.

Closer to home, we see women taking leadership positions in driving the industry today, and it's nowhere more evident than in enterprise cloud. Some of the biggest businesses in enterprise cloud are led by women: Diane Greene heads up Google's enterprise cloud business and co-founded VMware, which makes virtualization products that are integral to private cloud; Meg Whitman built eBay and now leads Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a leading provider of private cloud infrastructure; Ginni Rometty is looking to cloud to right IBM's foundering business. And Jayshree Ullal is killing it as CEO of Arista, driving blockbuster results despite the long shadow of a lawsuit from Cisco. (See Arista Surges 20% on Earnings Blowout, Google Growth Driven by Enterprise Cloud & Machine Learning, HPE Goes All in With Hybrid IT, and IBM's Cloud Strategy Helps, but Can't Stop Revenue Decline.)

When Damore has accomplished a tenth as much as these women, we can start to listen to what he has to say.

— Mitch Wagner Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn profile Visit my blog Friend me on Facebook Editor, Enterprise Cloud News

(18)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from Wagner’s Ring
Platform is designed to enable enterprises to build big data analytics apps that move easily between public and private clouds.
Buying Evident.io extends Palo Alto's portfolio with API-based security capabilities and compliance automation.
Google wants to win the hearts of enterprise IT for Chrome OS on the desktop, but it has a long way to go.
IBM Cloud gets a security and Kubernetes performance boost.
Atlassian moved its Jira and Confluence developer collaboration tools to Amazon Web Services.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Ngena's global 'network of networks' solves a problem that the telecom vendors promised us would never exist. That doesn't mean its new service isn't a really good idea.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 22, 2018, Denver, Colorado | Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 28, 2018, Kansas City Convention Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
April 9, 2018, Las Vegas Convention Center
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
May 14, 2018, Brazos Hall, Austin, Texas
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Dell CTO: Public Cloud Is 'Way More Expensive Than Buying From Us'
Mitch Wagner, Editor, Enterprise Cloud, 3/19/2018
Eurobites: Cambridge Analytica Feels the Heat
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 3/20/2018
Is Business Voice Rapidly Fading?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/15/2018
Amazon Proves Video's Worth
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 3/15/2018
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed