The Google Boogle: Diversity without Difference

Google is back in the headlines for botching its diversity initiatives. I expect that they will be there for a long time. That’s because their thinking is all “boogled” up.

In August, James Damore’s screed on Google’s botched diversity efforts went viral. Soon thereafter, he was fired for violating an unspecified company policy. Seeking to clarify their action, Google said that Damore was “spreading false assumptions about genders.”

Now Mr. Damore is suing Google for discriminating against people who are “perceived to have conservative political beliefs.” At the same time, Google is facing two lawsuits for paying women less than men. It seems that the US Department of Labor found evidence of an “extreme” gender pay gap. How ironic!

Diversity is a sensitive and complicated issue. So it’s not surprising to learn that Google “presumably” pays women less while aggressively enforcing norms against politically incorrect speech. It seems to me, however, that Google’s woes are due as much to “boogled” thinking as to the complexity of the issue.

James Damore points out a number of well-documented differences between men and women in areas such as openness to feelings, neuroticism, and math scores. Despite the body of research supporting Damore’s observations, Google labeled Damore’s observations: “false assumptions.” Meanwhile, Google has affirmative action goals for women, but pays them less when they get there. So, Google denies differences between men and women, promotes women as “diverse,” and pays them less. Perhaps this is as crazy as it sounds-or maybe Google is just interested in anatomical diversity.

Instead of dealing with the plain truth, Google exercises convoluted thinking that can only lead to failure. How can they reconcile policies that give favor to women on the basis of their differences while denying that they are different than men? We can neither honor people nor capitalize on our diversity by acting like we are all the same. James Damore is right. Google is oblivious to their biases. Their irrational attachment to liberal orthodoxy is bound to frustrate them from attaining an otherwise noble pursuit. They are all “boogled”-up.

It’s a shame. Mr. Damore handed Google a chance to practice what it preaches. He gave them an opportunity to demonstrate openness to different ways of thinking and to learn from people who disagree with them. By firing him rather than engaging him, Google made Damore an outcast and invited their people to label him ignorant, backwards, and sexist.

They didn’t just miss an opportunity, they contradicted an espoused value and failed to address the real flaws in Damore’s arguments.

Because of their greater warmth, openness to feelings, and concern for relationships, women make highly desirable Google team members. Programming and engineering are stereotypically introverted activities, but they are also creative endeavors. Since creativity thrives in collaborative teams, women can be strong candidates for leading greater creativity and innovation in Google. While it is true that there once was a large gap in math test scores between the sexes, women have all but closed that gap. At the end of things, Mr. Damore had his facts right, but his analysis was flawed as was his judgment. That is the picture Google should have seen, but they didn’t. Instead, they saw a sexist who threatened their diversity canon.

Google is a diversity mess; it’s a ball of contradictions protected by liberal dogma. They would do well to break from the pack and face reality. If not with the pack, where should they be?

Diversity matters when and because people are different. Men and women think and behave differently due to variances in their genetic code and their life experiences. So, awareness of the systematic differences among people in personality, abilities, perspectives, culture, assumptions, communication styles, etc. is fundamental to any diversity initiative. It is also necessary to equip people with effective communication and relational skills so they can build real relationships and address differences person to person. Forums and procedures for relational reconciliation without the threat of punishment are also important. People behave defensively when they fear punitive action, so why not create reconciliation offices rather than grievance offices?

Each of these things: acceptance of truth, knowledge of differences, interpersonal savvy, and a concern for reconciliation are vital to realizing the hopeful vision of a diverse workforce. Still, they are not enough. Without love for your teammates, it all fails. No knowledge or skill imbues compassion, let alone the desire to honor others. Only love does that, and that is the truth.

I’d like to see how Google handles that!