James Damore’s 3,300-word manifesto about men and women in the tech workplace deserved to be ignored for what it was: the product of an immature mind. But since Google and the rest of Silicon Valley are in the midst of a culture war, Damore’s tirade about Google’s “flawed left-wing ideology” has earned him national attention, alternately as a pariah and alt-right hero.
Damore, 28, an engineer with the tech giant, was fired when the memo went public, sparking debate about Google’s commitment to free speech rights. He characterized women as being more neurotic than men and the company of being hostile to conservative views.
Damore lobbed his message like a grenade into a Silicon Valley culture roiling from sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits and surveys showing a widening ideological gulf among conservatives, liberals and libertarians. Damore’s 10-page screed contained nothing that hadn’t been said before … back in the 1950s.
The core of his baseless arguments is that men in general may be biologically better suited to coding than women. His perspective is that women usually are more interested in people than things, are gregarious rather than assertive and prone to neuroticism.
No question he’s entitled to his views, no matter how offensive. But Damore is not entitled to lambaste Google without consequences. Like all U.S. companies, Google has wide latitude to restrict employees’ conduct. First Amendment protections against government censorship do not apply in private workplaces.
Tech industry watchers say Damore’s memo went “viral internally” at Google before being leaked online. It’s also worth noting that women held most coding jobs in the early days of the industry. Men’s dominance came as the value of top-notch programming increased and the positions attained glamour and higher pay.
The memo circulated for days before Google said it violated the company’s code of conduct. Google correctly fired Damore, making it clear the reason was because his views — that women are inherently inferior to men and that inclusion initiatives are a waste of time — did not conform to the company’s principles of equal employment and anti-discrimination.
Damore set out to expose a culture that he contends silences conservative opinions and rewards political correctness. Instead, he drew attention to a company “founded under the principles of freedom of expression, diversity, inclusiveness and science-based thinking.”
He got his share of sympathizers, many from the alt-right community known for vile views on race and gender. Damore has become their cause célèbre in a political campaign against liberal thinkers in Silicon Valley.
Women are now the sole or primary breadwinners in about 40 percent of U.S. households. They have struggled hard for generations to earn social and workplace equity. If that’s too progressive, perhaps Damore and his ilk should design a time-travel app and return to their bygone era.