I am not sure if James Damore is naively foolish or extremely courageous to have penned down the thoughts he did in the now infamous #GoogleManifesto. I guess it would depend on which side of the fence you are sitting on.
After reading through the entire Manifesto that was originally published by Motherboard, I must say he does hit the nail on the head on a couple of points. Don’t stop reading this yet :) !
He talks about how “The male gender role is currently inflexible”, I personally have thought of this as one of the core reasons why attaining equality is such an uphill battle. While stereotypical thinking about women is much discussed in organizations, not enough is said about the stereotyping of roles and attributes to men that lends itself to propagating gender inequality.
In the very beginning he says, “Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance”, I couldn’t agree more with the statement!
But that’s where any agreement with the manifesto for me ends. His opinions are highly regressive. His ideas on “the average woman” are the very stereotypes that people are striving to break every day. These are the very biases that organizations in their bid to move towards a more egalitarian environment are working so hard to change. Combine that with the poor choice of words: “neuroticism” to describe women, and yes, you end up wondering, what was this guy thinking!
However, this is not about what Damore expressed and how he expressed himself.
The real question is should Google have fired Damore? Is curtailing a person’s freedom of expression the answer to changing mindsets and breaking through biases?
The point that struck me in the Manifesto is that Damore seems to be feeling the effects of reverse discrimination. He talks about, what he feels, are Googles “discriminatory practices”
“Programs, mentoring and classes only for people with a certain gender or race”.
“A high priority queue and special treatment for diversity candidates”.
He is unfortunately not the minority in thinking this way. Like it or not, a lot of employees struggle with this, particularly in organizations where such practices have been implemented to get the diversity ratio to more acceptable figures. He has voiced what a lot of people feel but are reluctant to express in public, fearing backlash and judgment. Google in firing Damore has ensured that other employees who feel the same way will not come forward to express themselves, but who will continue to fester resentment towards what they feel are unfair practices, which in turn works completely against the very cause of diversity.
Was this a missed opportunity? Google could have gained so much more understanding, by opening this up for an honest discussion, and could have worked with Damore to change his mindset and others who share his thoughts. Shutting down politically incorrect opinions by doling out punishment is just shoving the issue in a closet, it’s nowhere close to the growth mindset that is needed to really impact change.