Wednesday, August 9, 2017
It’s Wednesday, August 9, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
In the name of diversity, Google fires employee for not toeing the ideological party line
The issue of diversity is become one of the most controversial and often discussed of modern times, for good reason. We’re a society that is increasingly attuned to the need for diversity and diversity is exactly the right category for many contexts. The problem is it isn’t the right category for every context and in that situation. We also know that diversity is becoming something that even goes beyond policy; even beyond ideology. For some at least, it appears that diversity just taken alone is becoming something of a religion. Now at the onset we need make very clear that diversity in terms of racial and ethnic diversity is something that everyone committed to the Christian worldview should seek to see manifested and to be celebrated in every context.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking particularly about the issue of gender. Again, in many contexts gender diversity would be an appropriate goal. But we remind ourselves that we are a society that has so confused and even corrupted the idea of gender that we have subverted the very idea of what it means to be a man and a woman. We’ve subverted at least the very prefatory foundational issues of what would be considered gender inclusivity. The modern mavens of the culture argue that there is no such thing as gender tied to biology. Gender, we are told, is now simply a social construct and we’re told that we have now transcended the binary of male and female even to such an extent that an individual human being can be one gender one day and another the next.Show Full Transcript
But you’ll also note that some of the same people who’ve been pushing that particular ideology go back to a previous understanding of gender when it’s convenient, or when the math requires it. The latest controversy takes us to Silicon Valley a place where there is a very significant gender imbalance in terms of employment, not to mention leadership. Just consider the statistic right up front, about 80% of the employees of the major Silicon Valley high-tech corporations are male, and, furthermore, looking at just one company, let’s just say Google just 31% of the employees are female. Now consider the controversy that is swirling about Google just in the last several days.
The story broke, just last week. Here’s a sample new story, in this case from USA Today’s Elizabeth Weise and Jon Swartz reported,
“Despite a veneer of California cool, the sharp dichotomy between progressive and conservative voices nationwide is just as present in Silicon Valley as anywhere else. But here,” they write, “it plays out in debates over why so few women and minorities feel crucial - and powerful – technical and leadership positions in some of the nation’s richest and most influential companies.”
Now at this point I will interject, these are also some of the companies that seem to be most intent on driving the moral revolution, except perhaps in their own buildings. The reporters go on to tell us in an area where embracing diversity is seen as a social good,
“the debate often takes place offline or behind closed doors. But it crashed,” they wrote, “out into the open [last week] with the release of an online manifesto entitled ‘Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,’ in which an unnamed male Google software engineer strongly suggests that the company encourage ‘ideological’ rather than gender diversity.”
The author contends, according to USA Today, “that women don’t make up 50% of the company’s tech and leadership positions because of differences in their preferences and abilities, not sexism.”
But USA Today tells us by last weekend the memo had gone viral, and by Monday, the employee had been fired. This employee, at first unnamed, had charge that Google is not only an Ideological Echo Chamber, but that it was driving what he called a monoculture. A culture that was ideologically placed within a straitjacket so that no one could ask about issues that simply demanded attention, including answering the question,
“Why is there a gender imbalance in employment in leadership in the high-tech industries in Silicon Valley?”
The story got even more interesting, just on Monday when Google fire the employee after making several public statements. As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday and I quote,
“Google on Monday fired the employee who wrote an internal memo suggesting men are better suited for tech jobs than women, escalating a debate over free speech at the company.”
The Journal went on to report,
“Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said in an email to his staff that the employee’s memo violated company policy. Google, part of Alphabet Incorporated, didn’t publicly name the memo’s author.”
Nevertheless, the Wall Street Journal did identify him as software engineer James Damore who said in an email that he wrote the memo and was fired for it, and that he was considering legal action against Google for firing him after he complained to federal labor officials about executives alleged efforts to silence him.
Now at this point we simply need to interject a couple of points. One is we really don’t know what goes on in most personnel situations. The legal context means that neither the Corporation, nor the employee can often reveal much, but in this case, it was revealed in public by Google that it had fired an employee, now identified as Mr. Damore, for writing the memo. That linkage was made very clear by Google. But it’s also clear that when it comes to Google is a private enterprise, it has the right to hire and fire, to promote or to denote employees as it sees fit, at least according to state and federal and other laws and regulations. But when it comes to this particular story, which is now very much in public view, Google on many issues simply can’t have it both ways. Consider this line from the Wall Street Journal reports,
“The controversy poses a thorny question for one of the world’s largest companies, one that espouses free speech: How would it handle an employee who offered opinions that were, too many inside the company, offensive?”
Well, here you have the limits of free speech and the company says it’s absolutely committed to free speech but now, it fires an employee for speaking the wrong speech. In his now infamous memorandum, Mr. Damore made two arguments about the gender imbalance in Silicon Valley. He said part of it may be due to the fact that there is a skill differential between men and women in terms of analytical skills as priced in Silicon Valley; analytical skills that are tied to mathematics, technology, and engineering.
But he went on to say that was also an imbalance in terms of preference. He was arguing that there is an imbalance between the number of young men and young women who actually want to enter into these fields and find themselves preferring these intellectual task over others. Here’s where the modern ideology indeed, we will argue that modern religions of diversity, again, wants to have it both ways. There is an absolute prohibition on arguing not only that there might be a differential in terms of abilities, but that there would even be a rifle, or at least a natural, differentiation amongst preferences.
Let’s take abilities for just a moment. Clearly, there are many, many women who are the equal of men when it comes to these analytical skills. But we have to note that even as this is now forbidden language the very same language is being used by some of the very same people. Just take for instance the faculty of a university like Harvard University that argues on the one hand, there can’t be a difference between men and women when it comes to these analytical skills because it’s now politically incorrect to say so, but at the same time, other members of the same faculty are arguing, sometimes even not only in peer-reviewed articles but also in public discourse, that there is a difference between men and women, and that one of the reasons why many men are falling behind in the larger economic picture is because there is a tilt away from those skills and toward relational skills, and there are many more women who seem to have those relational skills than young men. Well, I’m not going to make an argument one way or the other on the issue of differential abilities, I’ll simply leave that to others. But when it comes to the issue preferences, well, that’s where I want to draw our attention. Responding to the controversy at Google, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook said,
“inequality in tech isn’t due to gender differences it’s due to cultural stereotypes that persist. We all need to do more.”
Very pointedly she was speaking not only to the question of a difference and ability, but to a difference in preferences. And here the argument is being made that if there is a difference, even in preferences, then that has to be due merely to some kind of cultural stereotype. That’s now a central doctrine of the new religion of diversity, but if flies in the face of reality. And when it comes to the orthodoxy that is pressed by this new religion that was made very clear in the Wall Street Journal article in a statement from Daniel Brown identified as Google’s vice president for diversity and inclusion. She said that the online memo written by Mr. Damore had,
“advanced incorrect assumptions about gender,” and is “not a viewpoint that fire this company endorses promotes or encourages.”
Notice those first words in the Wall Street Journal quote. She said that Mr. Damore advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. Well, that’s just another way of saying that in this new religion, Mr. Damore is a heretic, and as a heretic he simply has to be removed. There may at the personal level, as I’ve said, be more to this story, I wouldn’t be surprised. But there certainly isn’t less than now what meets the eye because Google and its friends have now given us plenty of evidence about the contours of this new religion of diversity.
In Silicon Valley, quest for diversity does not extend to older workers
But next, as we’re thinking about how this actually works, one of the main arguments from a Christian worldview that we need to understand is not only the fact that in the secular world and, according to a secular worldview, these kinds of ideological agendas take on the religious significance, the other thing we need to note is that they are extremely anecdotal and selective. That was made very clear in yesterday’s international edition of USA Today. The front-page had a story about the controversy at Google. But inside the very same newspaper on the very same day was an article by Jon Swartz making very clear that Silicon Valley is guilty of a very different kind of lack of diversity, and that is a persistent prejudice against older workers. Swartz writes,
“Age is the silent career killer in the tech industry. While companies openly wrestle with the lack of racial and gender diversity, regularly releasing workforce demographics, they refuse to disclose the average age of their staffers and offer little in the way of internal support for older workers.”
These controversies at Google make very clear that much of Silicon Valley is opposed to ideological diversity even though they say they are committed to diversity as an ultimate goal. It is also clear from this USA Today story that these companies have to acknowledge maybe perhaps even in their refusal to submit data that they’re not so interested in diversity when it comes to the question of the age of their employees. In this sense, we come to understand that the religion of diversity, like so many others in this secular society, begins with a genuine insight and a genuine moral directive. Just consider the analogy to the issue that is summarized in the word tolerance. But tolerance and diversity just to take two words when stripped of any adequate moral context simply become ideological tools to be used in terms of what can only be described as repression, the lack of diversity in the name of diversity, the lack of tolerance in the name of tolerance.
London Mayor intervenes to ensure survival of LGBT bar, make sure it is ‘sufficiently gay’
And sometimes we note in our third story of the day, this becomes absolutely absurd. Yesterday’s edition of the Guardian, a liberal London newspaper, reported this,
“Gay bars in London are closing down at such an ‘alarming’ rate that the redevelopment of the Joiners Arms, an east London pub that counted Alexander McQueen, Rufus Wainwright and Wolfgang Tillmans among its regulars, will only get the go-ahead if it includes an LGBT club venue – and the mayor’s office will send an inspector to make sure it is gay enough.”
I read that exactly as the lead paragraph in the article in the article in the Guardian is written. Rupert Neate reporting for the Guardian goes on to write Tower Hamlets council – that’s the district council there in London – has told the developers that their plans for offices and nine luxury apartments will only get the go-ahead if the scheme includes a pub that will — and remember this is in the words of a government agency,
“remain a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-focused venue for a minimum of 12 years”.
The Guardian then says it is believed to be the first time that sexual orientation of a venue has been included as a condition of planning and zoning approval. Later in the article the Guardian tells us that over the last decade London has lost by its count 58% of its LGBT venues as,
“as their prime locations are snapped up by developers for regeneration and clubgoers abandon nights out for” other options.
Well those other options tell us something about the gay bars and those venues in London and in other major Metropolitan areas. They thrived at a times when most LGBT people were not to use the language of the day out of the closet. Now that they are out of the closet, they no longer need to frequent these particular venues. And what’s really interesting is that it’s not limited to London but found in cities like New York City and San Francisco. There’s the argument that the loss of these LGBT venues will actually be the loss of a culture that must be preserved. In this case, the culture was openly and unapologetically pornographic. One of the persons associated with this particular venue said it always felt particularly illegal.
“It encouraged a reckless attitude from its patrons which was really exciting.”
Later in the article, this venue was described as bacchanalian. And now I will simply say that much of the article is not repeatable on The Briefing. Here you see a third evidence that this religion of diversity has not only gone to seed it’s gone to irrationality. Here you have a government agency in London telling developers that they must continue a venue in terms of LGBT identity and that a government officer will make the decision as to whether or not the venue is,
That’s now evidently a function of the government, a government committed to this new religion.