You’re in second grade, enjoying summer vacation, when a neighbor boy comes out of nowhere and thrusts his fist—hard—into your stomach. For seconds, you gasp for air. He’s no foe. In fact, you would have called him a friend until about three seconds ago. What just happened?
Not all of us have been shell-shocked. But we’ve all had the air knocked out of us at some point. For me, it once happened in the way described above. (The little boy thought he was being funny, although his mother laughed at his joke by grounding him.) Well, last week, Google singlehandedly knocked the air out of all of us.
We’ve been Google-shocked.
Google is the search engine that the majority of us trust and consult daily for information, news and directions. Who could blame us? Google has a track record for surpassing its competitors like Bing and Yahoo! in terms of producing reliable results.
Last Monday, Google fired an engineer named James Damore who was technically great at his very technical job. There was one small problem. Damore’s personal and political opinions differed from those of Google’s left-wing corporate management. Damore said in a YouTube interview shortly after his firing: “Definitely those [at Google] who aren’t on the left feel like they need to stay in the closet and not really reveal themselves.”
Damore was canned shortly after distributing this 10-page memo to Google employees and sharing his belief that Google’s so-called “diversity” policies are “illegal” and unjust. Damore stated that he considers himself to be a “classical liberal” (similar to what we today refer to as “conservative” or “libertarian”) who “strongly value[s] individualism and reason.”
Google may seem “neutral” because it’s a search engine. In truth, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Inc.—Eric Schmidt—endorsed Barack Obama in 2008. His loyalty was rewarded when the Obama administration gave one of Schmidt’s other companies a special $1.6 billion “1705” stimulus loan for the development of Ivanpah, a massive solar thermal project along the California-Nevada border. As if a billionaire like Schmidt needs taxpayer help for anything, let alone a solar thermal experiment.
Google’s current CEO, Sundar Pichai, is the first major tech CEO to have “gender-balanced” his executive team to be comprised of seven men and almost the same number of women (six). So Pichai was particularly peeved with Damore for using his memo to express traditional beliefs on gender roles. Precisely, Pichai was perturbed by Damore’s assertion that the tech “gender gap” is largely due to the fact that “men and women biologically differ in many ways” that “aren’t just socially constructed.”
In defending his decision to fire Damore, Pichai said it was “not OK” for a Google employee to express an opinion that differed from his own, specifically that women “have traits that make them less biologically suited” for working in tech.
Men Are Not Women (just Google it)
Type the word “man” into Google’s search field. As of yesterday, you’ll get 6.91 billion results. Now, type the word “woman” into Google’s search field. You’ll obtain 133% fewer (2.97 billion) results. Now try “men” versus “women” and you’ll still get millions more results for “men” than for “women,” showing that females literally can’t best males in a Google search—even by strengthening their numbers.
By Pichai’s own standards, Google seems to be sexist (and therefore hypocritical) because its search results indicate that it finds men to be 133% more worthy of discussion than women. Who is he to preach on gender parity?
In truth, women are doing very well in the business world. In 2016, the average female CEO made $13.1 million, or roughly 15% more than the average salary for a male CEO ($11.4 million). But Pichai won’t be happy until equal numbers of men and women are CEOs. Even if more women don’t want to be CEOs.
As Damore elucidates in his memo, research shows that men put premiums on “systemizing,” “status” and “competition” whereas women prioritize “empathizing,” “people” and “work-life balance.” Hence, men are eager to do what many women are simply uninterested in doing even if it means forgoing a higher paycheck: working longer, less interactive, more stressful and often more dangerous hours in fields ranging from tech to coal mining.
The Brain Gap
There is one thing which Pichai seems to value more than gender diversity at Google: thought uniformity.
The main problem at Google is a lack of intellectual diversity. No Google employee can confidently express an opinion that differs from Pichai’s without fear of retribution. Until this culture changes, Google will be a dead-end company. Google must constantly innovate, and fearful employees cannot think creatively.
Let’s say Pichai gives an internal presentation at Google. Odds are, everyone in the room will nod vigorously and stammer “Brilliant!”—even if Pichai presents them with the dumbest concept they’ve ever heard. Because Google employees don’t live under rocks and—thanks to Damore–every Google employee now knows that Pichai prefers yes-men.
Sure, Pichai may stack his executive team with equal numbers of yes-men and yes-women, but there’s no use denying that this is a façade. Nobody is getting into Pichai’s inner circle if he or she will push him to think outside the box. Which, unfortunately, is exactly the sort of person a strong, mature and successful CEO wants on his or her team.
Damore cast sunshine on Google’s anemic corporate culture. Now is the time for Silicon Valley innovators to do the opposite of Pichai and embrace intellectual diversity. Don’t forget that a high tolerance for intellectual diversity kept us ahead of our Chinese and Russian enemies. While those countries cracked down on free thought, we let our people innovate.
Google-shocked we are, but we weren’t struck by lightning. While there’s still time, let’s learn from Damore’s courage and stop allowing unscientific political correctness to restrain American progress.