Google’s firing of James Damore has already drawn sharp criticism from the general public, but it’s also been ripped apart in academia.
Several academics have stepped in support of Damore, who was fired by Google yesterday for writing a memo in which he argued that Google should hire people based on ability alone. Damore had said that men and women had different biological traits, and more men occupying engineering and leadership positions wasn’t a result of discrimination, but because of their innate natures. Damore had said that Google’s preferential hiring programs, which emphasized on hiring women and people of colour, were bad for business.
Academics have thrown their weight behind the memo. “The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right,” said Lee Jussim, a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University and was a Fellow and Consulting Scholar at Stanford University. He also sharply rebuked Google’s official response, which said the memo perpetuated gender stereotypes. “If I had one recommendation, it would be this: That, before commenting on these issues, Google executives read two books: John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind.”
Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychology professor at University of New Mexico, had similar sentiments.”For what it’s worth, I think that almost all of the Google memo’s empirical claims are scientifically accurate. Moreover, they are stated quite carefully and dispassionately. Its key claims about sex differences are especially well-supported by large volumes of research across species, cultures, and history. I know a little about sex differences research. On the topic of evolution and human sexuality, I’ve taught for 28 years, written 4 books and over 100 academic publications, given 190 talks, reviewed papers for over 50 journals, and mentored 11 Ph.D. students,” he said.
He also mocked Google’s VP of Diversity’s claim that the memo advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. “I was impressed to see that her Michigan State B.A. in Business and her U. Michigan M.B.A. qualify her to judge the scientific research,” he joked. The author of the memo, on the other hand, had a PhD in Systems Biology from Harvard.
Even women scientists found nothing offensive in the memo. Debra W Soh is a Toronto based science writer who has a PhD in sexual neuroscience from the University of York, and she thought the memo was well thought out. “As a woman who’s worked in academia and within STEM, I didn’t find the memo offensive or sexist in the least. I found it to be a well thought out document, asking for greater tolerance for differences in opinion, and treating people as individuals instead of based on group membership,” she said.