Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

About that Manifesto and Diversity Programs

Comic by Randy Glasbergen

When the recent Googler Anti-diversity Manifesto went viral I was vacationing in the mountains, safely out of reach of WIFI or cellular service. I enjoyed the weekend ignorant to the 10-page rant about Google’s so-called echo chamber, where women are not biologically suited to a career in tech or leadership or really anything involving “status” or a “desire for things.” By the time I returned, enough time had passed for rational discourse to prevail. Adam Grant weighed in with data refuting the gender stereotype comments, and a Yonatan Zunger, a former Sr. Engineer from Google, wrote an excellent piece suggesting that the writer was not only a poor engineer, but a poor team player overall.

Yesterday morning, Google’s management likewise weighed in by firing the manifesto’s author. Hats off to Google for taking action. They realized that when an employee publishes a screed that unwittingly condemns half the world’s population, it might be hard for said person to continue working with said population, even if said population comprises less than 20% of technical positions, and holds very little power in the organization. Lest we forget the context of the author’s manifesto, men currently hold an 81% majority of technical roles at Google.

Eighty. Freaking. One. Anyone else out there thinking this is just a biology problem?

Not surprisingly, the author is seeking “legal options” and right-leaning groups are running to his side in support of his claim that he is a victim of discrimination. I am unclear how anyone with the math skills to read a bar chart would buy into such nonsense, but then again, I am just a woman with biologically inferior math capabilities.

In his manifesto, the writer claims that he has been ostracized for being politically conservative. I am no Googler, but I suspect he was not marginalized for his politic beliefs, but rather for his lack of social skills. And while it is certainly within his rights to publicly debase an entire gender (albeit horrifically stupid), Google is within their rights to fire him for exposing his bias, violating their code of conduct and inciting a good portion of their workforce to want to punch this guy in the face. As former Googler Yonatan Zunger put it, “[y]ou have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment.”

Cheekiness aside, this latest firestorm about gender illuminates an age-old problem with diversity programs: they contribute to the very cultural animosity that they are intended to weed out. While I despise the context in which this issue was brought to light, I believe we need to look past the apparent misogyny and pay attention to the real problem at Google (and elsewhere):

  • Diversity programs don’t often work.
  • At all.
  • Not even a little bit.
  • They have the potential to create animosity toward women.
  • And we are already dealing with an undue share of animosity.

But there is good news. There are other things we can do to create an inclusive workplace without making folks like the Manifesto’s author feel like a girl with cooties just infiltrated his tree house. About a year ago, some smart folks at Harvard did a study about diversity programs, and they discovered that the typical “command and control approach” to diversity relied too heavily on “blaming and shaming” managers with rules and education. This method tends to backfire, with diversity measures actually trending in the wrong direction.

Here are the tools that they recommend instead:

  1. Engagement — Give managers an action to complete that is pro-diversity.
  • Encourage managers to mentor or sponsor a minority
  • Encourage voluntary participation in special recruitment programs

2. Contact — Create teams that mix genders and races.

  • Initiate management rotation programs
  • Create cross-functional “self-managing” project teams

3. Social Accountability — Use metrics and measurement to hold your managers accountable.

  • Report diversity numbers quarterly, by function and leader
  • Identify root causes of diversity issues (a lack of mentoring, small pipeline, etc) and include these items as part of your measurement

Without question, the Google Anti-diversity Manifesto was offensive, at best. Looking past the stereotypes, we should not ignore the red-flag that it raises. Diversity programs still need a lot of work so that they become inclusive and effective.

If you like this post, please share it on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Instagram, Snapchat and Email are fine too. Admittedly I am one of those gold star people who appreciates (arguably obsesses over) those green hearts, but spreading the message of gender equality is my goal.