You might have heard about the controversial memo by a Google engineer about diversity that started to make its rounds a few days ago. I won’t summarize it here, as any summary I’ve seen failed to get the author’s points accurately across (no surprise considering the length of the text).
Unlike others, I considered his text as a sincere attempt by a thinking individual to point towards something which he personally perceives as a systemic problem inside Google and the tech industry in general. So when I saw the “quality” and style of the negative reactions, I was… well, not impressed, to put it nicely. In fact, it made me even feel solidarity with the author.
Fortunately, the writer and social scientist Adam Grant today published a compact rebuttal of the memo’s core conclusions, which sets things right. Grant avoids expressions of hot-headed outrage, moral preaching, name calling and denial of scientific facts, while he at the same time presents the available scientific evidence from meta analyses and studies that clearly indicate that the memo’s author most probably overestimates the larger effects of biological/neurological gender differences on girl’s/women’s professional choices in regards to the IT industry. That is to say, he is not wrong about the general scientific foundation that he builds his argumentation on (as it seems to be consensus among researchers in the natural sciences community), but his conclusions are overblown.
In other words, the role of cultural biases is with some large likelihood much more significant, which is why striving for diversity, working to change cultural stereotypes and encouraging more girls/women to become IT professionals/programmers remains a smart and right thing to do.
Personally though, I don’t think at all that the author of the memo should be fired, as some have demanded.