A Google software engineer recently circulated an opinion piece on the nature of inclusion and diversity efforts within the company, and it’s causing quite a stir.
The document itself sticks to a few core theses that the author finds problematic about the company’s focus on achieving equal representation in the workforce.
Digging a hole
First, the author opines that an attempt to reach a perfect 50/50 gender representation isn’t feasible, due to differences in population distribution and differences in “leadership” traits between men and women. That second part has a lot of folks riled up; the author states his beliefs as follows:
“On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
- They’re universal across human cultures
- They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
- Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
- The underlying traits are highly heritable
- They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective
Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”
Aside from the offense taken to the thesis itself, critics take issue with its implication that a woman’s biological nature is inferior for leadership and for work in the tech sector.
Second, the author states that systems in place at Google strive to achieve diversity for diversity’s sake, which makes it a moral issues instead of a cost/benefits decision. The author believes that the following company practices are evidence of this ideology:
“Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race
- A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates
- Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate
- Reconsidering any set of people if it’s not “diverse” enough, but not showing that same scrutiny in the reverse direction (clear confirmation bias)
- Setting org level OKRs for increased representation which can incentivize illegal discrimination”
No way out of this hole
Finally, the author believes that the culture around the diversity initiative creates a complex around protecting the victims. In such a culture, those who disagree become villanized, and contrarian opinions are silenced and shamed. As a result of this mindset, he believe, an honest dialogue of the issue cannot occur because it prioritizes feelings over facts.
Part of the discomfort around this manifesto stems from gender discrimination and harassment issues in Silicon Valley as a whole.
We’ve all seen what Uber is going through in regards to the latter. Google itself is reportedly facing an investigation regarding gender-based compensation discrimination. In that light, it’s easy to see this mindset as emblematic of the problem inside these companies.
The author himself wants to be clear that he believes that racism and sexism exist and should be confronted. However, he believes that a better solution is to “treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).”
In that, he arguably makes his best point.
There are plenty of studies that conclude that blind tests of performance, aptitude and personality fit yield the best decisions because they eliminate inherent biases and assumptions.
At the same time, companies do need to examine how their values may overly incentivize individuals with a certain personality, aptitude or opinion, in order to avoid creating an echo chamber.
However, in focusing on questionable science around the nature of gender and the nature of opinion shaming, his argument becomes clouded and ineffective.
Tribalism not so far fetched
Google’s response seems to play into his thesis. Danielle Brown, Google’s new VP of Diversity, Integrity and Governance, released a statement saying that the opinion piece, “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”
She goes on to reiterate that diversity is a core value to Google and that they will continue to work towards that change. However, the tone hints at a tribalism that the author believes exists in the company.
How well-meaning diversity and inclusion hiring practices could backfire
(BUSINESS) More companies than ever are considering their diversity and inclusion hiring practices and internal culture, but there is an unintended consequence already happening that could easily be stopped.
It is a widely accepted fact that hiring for diversity improves profitability, whether a small business or a massive company that pours resources into diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices companywide. You probably already know this, but if it’s news to you, Google around – it leads to improved innovation (since you’ve avoided an echo chamber), customer support ranks better for diverse teams (since your team has a wider ability to address more pain points), and it attracts more talent.
Imagine if you build a company and fill it with people that look, act, sound, and think like you. And imagine how agreeable everyone is during every moment of production, and no diversity of thought is ever injected. Any investor can tell you it’s a death sentence. To be blunt, it’s hiring “yes men,” so to speak, and does little more than serve your ego (consciously or subconciously).
American culture has rapidly evolved regarding diversity and inclusion (D&I). There are entire teams in companies dedicated to it (#profitability). I can tell you firsthand that the people devoting their jobs to this really do care. And today, more than ever, the topic of race (which is only one of many components of diversity) is top of mind, so we must all individually, and as companies, push to improve our workplace for the BIPOC while also remembering the LGBTQIA+ community, avoiding ageism, and so forth.
And while positivity surrounding D&I practices abounds, something is happening that is going to backfire.
Businesses are resorting to a “checklist” mindset wherein a CEO says, “we don’t have enough Hispanic women or trans employees, fix that” and drops the figurative mic. It sounds noble to see there is room to improve, but diversity and inclusion is about creating a company culture and hiring practices wherein people aren’t discriminated against, NOT fulfilling some impossible checklist.
I was in a meeting of a company inviting us to be on their board, and one of their first questions was if we knew any black women or Asian men that would join the board because they already had “most of the rest of the rainbow.” Again, sounds like the right direction, but it’s a hollow effort if you’re building a rainbow, not examining merit, not building out an actual culture of inclusion. Try harder.
And that brings us to a weak spot in this practice that we’re already seeing come to fruition. Large companies, particularly in the tech sector, are putting in the real effort to be inclusive, but it’s backfiring.
Companies are inadvertently segmenting their populations for D&I purposes, and while it’s not some evil plot, it negates all D&I programs. We’re witnessing “diverse” companies allow their teams to be built out, diversity-free. Perhaps their development teams are only white men, their marketing teams are only white and Hispanic women, their support teams are primarily Indian Americans, their sales teams are mostly black team members.
It’s wild to walk into a large company and see this strange… segregation.
It is natural to surround yourself with people that look like you, and I have endless theories on this topic, but I’ll confess to you that most of my thoughts have been influenced by reading “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum back when I was in high school (required reading for anyone pondering the topic of race now or in the future). And many practices are well-meaning, but companies are sabotaging themselves with flawed methods.
A company might look great as a whole with various ages, races, religions, gender identities, ethnicities, sexuality, national origin, and so forth, but if they’re all segregated into their own teams based on how they were hired (or by whom), it’s literally the opposite of diversity or inclusion. Swing and a miss, y’all.
If you’re in a decision making role at your company, please bring this topic up as soon as possible, and examine how your own diversity efforts are going – are you sincere, or just looking for positive press?
Are you helping overall?
Or just making things worse?
Etsy is trying on second-hand fashion with purchase of Depop
(BUSINESS NEWS) With the younger generation moving away from fast fashion, it makes sense that Etsy has acquired one of the most popular Gen Z second hand apps.
Over the last few years, sustainable shopping has been a bullet point in the large-scale topic of the environment. Burning through clothing by disposing of old clothing and shopping from places specializing in “fast fashion” is causing damage to the earth.
According to the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
As a result, shopping second hand has become more popular, as opposed to mass-produced fast fashion. Online platforms like Poshmark and ThredUp have grown tremendously over the last 3 to 5 years.
Etsy paid $1.6 billion to acquire the UK-founded company, which has attracted a younger, Gen Z-based audience due to its social media use and messaging on shopping in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.
Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said the company was “thrilled” to be adding what it believes to be the “resale home for Gen Z consumers” to Etsy. Depop has approximately 30 million registered users spanning 150 countries.
“Depop is a vibrant, two-sided marketplace with a passionate community, a highly-differentiated offering of unique items, and we believe significant potential to further scale,” Silverman said in a statement Wednesday.
“We see significant opportunities for shared expertise and growth synergies across what will now be a tremendous ‘house of brands’ portfolio of individually distinct, and very special, ecommerce brands.”
Due to the COVID-related e-commerce boom, shares of Etsy have more than doubled in the last year. The stock was up about 6.7% Wednesday afternoon.
According to data from Crunchbase, Depop had raised a total of $105.6 million from investors including General Atlantic, Creandum, Balderton Capital, Octopus Ventures and Klarna CEO and co-founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski, prior to their agreement with Etsy.
With fashion being so cyclical, it may be safe to say that second hand will never fully go out of style.
What are your thoughts on resale apps being the answer to fast fashion woes? Let us know in the comments.
As masks become optional, businesses find themselves stuck in the middle
(BUSINESS NEWS) One liquor store’s decision on mask policy following changes in local laws has become a recurring story throughout the nation.
The American mask debate has comprised a whirlwind of clashing political ideologies, legal dilemmas, and personal agendas, with businesses placed directly in the middle of the storm. As the pandemic continues to run its course, a disparity in state mandates and legislation is only serving to increase the strain on these establishments.
With increased access to vaccines and several states rolling back their COVID guidance, the option to wear—or not wear—masks is becoming more discretionary, with businesses often having the final say in whether or not they expect masks to be used on their premises. One such business, a liquor store, posted a notice regarding their staff’s decision to continue wearing masks:
“In accordance with Johnson County mandates: Masks are now optional. Please do not berate, verbally assault, or otherwise attack the staff over their choice to continue wearing masks.”
The notice went on to say, “It is painfully depressing we have to make this request.”
That last line epitomizes many business owners’ stances. Places across the country have started allowing customers to discard their masks with proof of vaccination, but if employees choose to keep their masks for the time being, it’s difficult for clients not to view it as a kind of political statement—despite their decisions often being corroborated by local laws.
And, as long as businesses continue to operate within the confines of those laws, their decisions should be free from public scrutiny.
Sadly, that’s not what’s happening as evidenced by the notice posted by the liquor store in Johnson County. The same disparity that allows for some freedom despite COVID still being present in many Americans’ lives often leaves those who choose not to wear masks to conclude that those who do wear them are being judgmental or unnecessarily cautious.
Those judgements work in reverse as well, with businesses who allow their employees to work maskless facing criticism from masked clients. It seems that the freedom to choose—something for which people strongly advocated throughout the pandemic—continues to cause separation.
As businesses change or adapt their regulations to fit state mandates and employee (and customer) concerns, everyone would do well to remember that the decisions these establishments make are usually meant to affect some kind of positive work environment—not to welcome harassment and abuse.
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