Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pushback Against Gender Diversity

Hopefully, you will not be shocked to discover that the rage for gender diversity in Silicon Valley has produced a backlash.

As it happens, diversity initiatives are always double-edged. Long ago Shelby Steele argued that affirmative action programs unfairly stigmatized black applicants who could succeed on their own merits. Once the programs were initiated, every minority candidate was assumed not to have been judged on his merits. In universities minority students were treated differently, as though they did not really belong.

Something similar is happening now in the tech industry. What with James Damore’s screed attacking gender diversity programs in Silicon Valley, the men of Silicon Valley are beginning to organize… and to fight back against what they perceive as unfair treatment afforded to women. 

Not only do they now believe that companies use different criteria in hiring and promoting women, they also understand that women pose a threat to their livelihoods. They have noticed something that men in many other fields have already figured out— a man having a closed-door meeting or even a public dinner with a female associate or subordinate is taking a risk. Today’s enlightened men have concluded that they should no longer associate closely with women staff. Why risk your livelihood in a cultural environment where women are generally considered to be telling the truth about harassment. As it happened, the raised consciousness about sexual harassment has worked to the detriment of working women.

Today, Nellie Bowles reports in the New York Times about the Silicon Valley backlash to gender diversity efforts. One notes that it is also a backlash against the pseudoscience that is buttressing the movement.

The Damore letter is one element among many. Prominent Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has morphed into a feminist heroine and Yahoo’s former CEO, Marissa Mayer was supposedly giving preference to women in hiring and promotion decisions.

Bowles explains that men are starting to rebel against the oppressive atmosphere in companies infested with groupthink:

While many in the tech industry had previously dismissed the fringe men’s rights arguments, some investors, executives and engineers are now listening. Though studies and surveys show there is no denying the travails women face in the male-dominated industry, some said that the line for what counted as harassment had become too easy to cross and that the push for gender parity was too extreme a goal. Few were willing to talk openly about their thinking, for fear of standing out in largely progressive Silicon Valley.

As mentioned above, the Damore letter caused people to start speaking openly about their objections to feminist orthodoxy. They stood up for science:

After months of apologizing by Silicon Valley for bad behavior, here was a young man [Damore] whom some in tech’s leadership could potentially get behind.

Paul Graham, who founded an influential start-up incubator, Y Combinator, posted two articles about how the science behind Mr. Damore’s memo was accurate. Another start-up investor, John Durant, wrote that “Charles Darwin himself would be fired from Google for his views on the sexes.”

And the investor Peter Thiel’s business partner, Eric Weinstein, tweeted, “Dear @Google, Stop teaching my girl that her path to financial freedom lies not in coding but in complaining to HR.”

People like Damore have even dared challenge the canard that diversity makes for a more efficient workplace:

This turn in the gender conversation is good news for Mr. Damore. “The emperor is naked,” he said in an interview. “Since someone said it, now it’s become sort of acceptable.”

He added, “The whole idea that diversity improves workplace output, it’s not scientifically decided that that’s true.”

As for Yahoo, we know that Marissa Mayer did not prove to be a very effective or competent CEO. She did not save the company. In fact, the company, such as it was, no longer exists.

Mayer’s diversity initiatives diminished workplace morale and caused some men sue for discrimination:

Two men who worked at Yahoo sued the company for gender discrimination last year. Their lawyer, Jon Parsons, said the female leadership — Yahoo’s chief executive was Marissa Mayer, before Verizon bought the company — had gone too far in trying to hire and promote women. He tied the suit into today’s women-in-tech movement.

“When you’re on a mission from God to set the world straight, it’s easy to go too far,” Mr. Parsons said. “There was no control over women hiring women.”

He said that his clients, Greg Anderson and Scott Ard, had faced gender discrimination in Yahoo’s media teams and that other teams like cars were headed by women, which to Mr. Parsons was a sign of problems.

“No eyebrows are going to rise if a woman heads up fashion,” Mr. Parsons said. “But we’re talking about women staffing positions — things like autos — where it cannot be explained other than manipulation.”

In truth, if gender diversity will greatly improve tech companies the companies need but try it. Perhaps they will become world beaters. Perhaps not. At least they will allow the market to decide. And they will stop forcing themselves to hire less competent candidates in order to fill diversity quotas—thus damaging employee morale and causing more jobs to be shipped out of the country.


Sam L. said...

I keep reading that HR departments are mostly women.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

It seems that corporate leaders expect or believe things about women that are quite monolithic. In a world the Left claims is very complex and nuanced, their solutions are very simplistic and authoritarian. Not to mention that most women do not actually like high-status women like Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer and (gasp!) Hillary Clinton. Most women are not willing to do what it takes to obtain and hold a high-level executive position. Those that do choose that org, should be treated equitably, and with fairness, but the truth is that the size of the female executive, engineering and computer science pool is noticeably small. Therefore, seeking 59-50 parity is not only difficult, but statistically discriminatory on its face. Most women are part of a family, with children. Family demands require choices. Yes, there are Mr. Moms, but such arrangements are also disproportionate in number. For all the reasons pointed out on this blog, stay-at-home father positions carry their own burdens. Is it fair? Probably not. Is it reality? Indeed it is.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

“When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.” -- Thomas Sowell

David Foster said...

"“But we’re talking about women staffing positions — things like autos — where it cannot be explained other than manipulation.”

Pretty ridiculous assertion. General Motors is run by a woman, who is apparently doing a pretty decent job. Ditto for Lockheed-Martin. Many other examples could be provided. This lawyer, IMO, is not doing his clients any favor by making such an easily-contradicted blanket statement.