In his memo entitled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, ex-Google employee James Damore points out that there are other reasons than bias on why gender gap exists in STEM fields.
He laments on his point by outlining the possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech, more specifically pointing to biological and personality differences between men and women, as well as men's general desire for higher status. To give color, here's a snippet:
"Personality differences. Women, on average, have more:
- Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).
- These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.
- Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.
- This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there's overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women's issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support.
- Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs."
The memo in and of itself is a pushback writ large to women. Despite using the words "relatively" and "generally", he positioned his speech very authoritatively and takes a dismissive stance on workplace research such as Elephant In The Valley. As expected, this does not sit well with most people.
I've mentioned the memo just in case you are unaware, but this space is not really to debunk all of Damore's points but rather to highlight those women who are currently changing the playing field, creating opportunities for inclusion, and making significant impact globally.
Bozoma Saint John - Branding and Diversity, Uber
This year, Uber decided to hire Bozoma Saint John as its Chief Brand Officer. Saint John was previously from Apple, making a name as its Global Head of Marketing. Hiring her was a fairly good strategy by Uber, considering that it is not the firm (nor its former CEO) that will first come to mind when we talk about gender diversity. What’s even better is that as part of her work, Saint John recently spearheaded an initiative to grant $1.2 million to Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization trying to close the gender gap in the tech sector.
Tracy Chou - Software Engineer
This woman is on a fast lane to the top. She started out as a software engineering intern for Facebook and Google from 2007 to 2008. In 2009, she gained internship experience from Rocket Fuel as a rocket scientist.
Right after, she worked as a consultant for the United States Digital Service, which is part of the Executive Office of the US President. Her accomplishments landed her countless times on lists such as Forbes 30 under 30.
Her laundry list of the companies she had worked for keeps growing: Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Quora, just to name a few. Now her main efforts are going into a non-profit called Project Include, which targets to help companies solve diversity and inclusion issues.
Fei-Fei Li - Cofounder of AI4All, Chief Scientist AI/ML (Google Cloud)
I first encountered Li when she was doing her TED talk on how computer vision works and its applications, making this pretty complex technology something that anyone without a technical background could easily learn.
Aside from running Stanford University's AI and Computer Vision Lab, her biggest contributions to this field is introducing the application and development of AI to several case studies including: retail (Google AdSense is taking great advantage of ML algorithms, with it providing end users with more appropriate advice), media and entertainment (autotagging on Google Photos and Youtube’s suggested playlists, as well as computer vision for AR and VR applications), finance (mainly credit card risk and fraud detection), and healthcare (enhancing patient care and diagnosis through computer vision and building “intelligent hospitals” with sensors).
Jessica Livingston - Cofounder, Y Combinator
Not a lot of people know of Jessica Livingston, cofounder (now Founding Partner) of Y Combinator. Y Combinator is the startup accelerator and incubator that funded and launched some of the biggest brands that we know of nowadays such as Airbnb, Reddit, Dropbox, and Stripe, among others. She and her partner, along with 2 other people, built YC, which is famous for its standardized branded form of funding and Demo Days. In YC she is considered as the "Social Radar" - her ability to handpick startups to seed-fund and judge a founder's character has been one of the most critical part of running the firm. So far they have funded at least 1,464 startups since 2005, and up to this day she continues to build a community of founders and investors.
Pretty sure there are countless others who are doing their own to address diversity and inclusion in the STEM fields. We at Rush would like to see more women in the field, especially in highly technical roles, and are taking small steps to open the discussion and make it a reality.