Me on @BBCWorld news talking about the #Googlememo, #womenintech and #whitemaleprivilege

I was interviewed by Aaron Heslehurst for his Talking Business show on BBC World News channel yesterday about the memo “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” written and shared internally by a Google engineer.

“The author argues that women are underrepresented in tech not because they face bias and discrimination in the workplace, but because of inherent psychological differences between men and women. “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” he writes, going on to argue that Google’s educational programs for young women may be misguided.”

My main points:

  1. He has no idea what he’s talking about, he’s not a woman in tech and is displaying a classic case of #whitemaleprivilege
  2. “For those used to privilege, equality looks like oppression”
  3. It’s wonderful that we can now discuss these issues openly, it’s the first big step towards an equal society that cares about everyone not just the privileged few
  4. It’s great that the media now think of this as an issue, just a few years ago that wouldn’t have been the case, I’ve been in the #womenintech space for 25+ years and even though the change happening is ridiculously slow I’m delighted to see it finally start speeding up
  5. Mainstream media are becoming supportive of equality and feminism
  6. Many people in our society are backward looking and change averse like this engineer (and his country’s president), for us on this planet to have a successful future we need to work together to ensure that EVERYONE has equal opportunity
  7. Our society is misogynist, which is bad for women and men
  8. Engineering and software engineering are about cooperation and people skills as much if not more so than coding. It’s been shown time and again that one of the main reasons IT projects fail is because of the lack of communication in one way or another.
  9. Ada Lovelace invented the very idea of software (did her brain have “biological differences”?) and we have many amazing women in tech pioneers e.g. the incredible Dame Stephanie Shirley who set up F International 300+ women coding from home in the 1960s. They wrote the Concorde black box flight recorder software for example.
  10. We need quotas short term to redress the balance, to create a level playing field.
  11. It’s not about men vs women but about being enlightened and forward thinking rather than change averse and backward thinking white male privilege.
  12. It’s social conditioning, we know that behaviours that are seen as assertive in men can be seen as bossy in women
  13. It not about men vs women its about those that want to create the best products and services and see that change needs to happen for that to be the outcome and those that are change averse and have the privilege of being in the majority.
  14. I’ve been hearing this shit since I got into tech in 1989, it’s time for CHANGE!

2 comments

  1. I’d read about Dr Sue Black and admired her achievements. She is obviously massively intelligent and capable.

    This is the first time I’ve seen her in the flesh.

    Must say I’m a bit disappointed at all the massive generalisations. #WhiteMalePrivilege for example.You’ve ended up sounding like the flip side of the people you condemn.

    This man, from what I’ve seen, said that women and men have biological differences. They may be motivated differently, he said. I’m not sure he even said that women can’t code. I was hopeless at coding, and I had testosterone. ish. I’ve only got a couple of molecules left now – I use one for cycling and one for the computer.

    Thing is, that could be wrong. I can’t tell you how men think, and I am one. Or try to be. All I know about men is my own mind, which is a survey sample of one. God knows what other men think.

    having established I only know the thoughts of a miniscule sub-set of the men in my street, I can’t speak for all men. And I’m probably more similar to them than I am to most females.

    I’m not in a gang called the Patriarchy. I don’t have a plan to keep women down. (Why would i? I want more women to work in coding as I was hopeless at it, and if they are good, it’s brilliant for our economy. Which helps keep me in work.)

    Also, I would rather hope that Dr Sue Black would be a friendly soul. But this #WhiteMalePrivilege stuff makes me a bit wary. Let’s not hashtag each other please.

    So there is no way I would ever imagine I can know what it’s like to be a woman in IT.

    Having said that, if GoogleMemo man passed an opinion that is wrong, surely the best way to deal with that is to debate the issue.

    Not assemble a torch bearing mob and demand that he’s drummed out of a job on trumped up charges that people aren’t physically safe because of his typed words. Just because a mob demanded he be sacked for saying something they didn’t like, you shouldn’t drive a coach and horses through his employment rights. The Labour movements fought for years to give people equal rights at work.

    The ‘feeling unsafe at work’ argument doesn’t hold either. If he was in some fiendish gang of oppressive bullies, as people allege, surely this elitist group would never have allowed him to get sacked, in fact, he was booted out with no due process, no appeals, no tribunal, not even allowed to explain his side of the argument.

    If you can’t tolerate other people’s opinions, and feel unsafe, how do you walk into Sainsburys or Tesco? There must be at least a dozen people who think differently from you, just lining up at the checkout. Do you think they should all be rounded up and sent to the Gulags?

    1. Thanks for your comments.

      I agree with much of what you say, I don’t think he should have been sacked, I said in my blogpost:

      “It’s wonderful that we can now discuss these issues openly, it’s the first big step towards an equal society that cares about everyone not just the privileged few”

      I’m saying that he is displaying #whitemaleprivilege, he seems to feel that he us being oppressed “For those used to privilege, equality looks like oppression”.

      I don’t think he should have been drummed out of his job either, we need to talk about these issues and try to understand each others points of view.

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