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Ducks in a Row: Yonatan Zunger’s Response To Google Manifesto

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017


I’m assuming you’ve read the anti-diversity manifesto, or articles about it, from the Google engineer decrying his company’s diversity efforts and harking back to the ancient reasoning that women are biologically incapable of being good coders, cops and firemen, among other incapables.

(It’s always sad to see this level of scientific ignorance in a technical person. Of course, it’s not easier in a (supposedly) educated politician.)

There are dozens of responses, but Yonatan Zunger’s is the best I’ve seen (hat tip to KG for sending it).

Zunger is a 14 year Google veteran, who left last week to join a startup. He not only refutes it, but analyzes why the damage goes well beyond the obvious. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth the few minutes it will take to read.

Ayori Selassie’s is shorter and I’ve reproduced it in full below.

The penis doesn’t write code, the brain does.

Women also have a brain therefore they write code too.

There, I fixed your #GoogleManifesto.

The one thing in the manifesto I do agree with is that freedom of speech should mean that anyone can speak their mind without fear of shaming or harassment.

However, the tactics he describes that are commonly used in liberal bastions on those espousing right and alt-right attitudes are exactly the same tactics used on progressives and liberals in conservative strongholds.

It boils down to the age-old us / them attitude.

Join me tomorrow for a look at the skills that will power your career now and in the future — and have nothing to do with STEM.

Image credit: Yahoo

Gender Equity is Moving Backwards

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015


Following up on yesterday’s post about women and inequality, Adam Grant linked to a previous post about his own unwitting blindness.

In that post were some stats that should make everyone, including those who think things are improving, wake up to reality and understand just how far we are from anything actually changing.

Today, U.S. corporate boards have more men named John, Robert, William, or James than women in total. Recent coverage by Claire Cain Miller has brought more chilling data to light: in math, when graded anonymously, girls outperform boys, but when teachers know their names, boys do better. [emphasis mine] And when students rate their favorite professors, they describe men as “geniuses” and women as “nice.” This is sad and unacceptable. We may be in the 21st century, but we’re still a very long way from gender parity.

In study after study, on everything from candidate resumes to professor’s evaluations to student preference, where the only difference in identical credentials is the sex, as disclosed by the name, young and old, male and female, rated the women inferior to the men.

Look at the above statement (in bold), what chance is there that anything will change when kids are already subject to the same attitudes?

Women are overtly and covertly denigrated and sisterhood is a farce.

It’s been said change would come as older generations aged out and bosses were replaced by younger ones who grew up in a more diverse, tolerant and inclusive world.

I started hearing that 50 years ago and am still waiting.

In fact, we are moving backwards; the world was far more woman-friendly in the 80s and 90s, than it is now.

So don’t hold your breath; there is a quantum difference between political correctness and authenticity.

Flickr image credit: Anthony Easton

Ducks in a Row: Politically Correct is a False Positive

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015


I sent an article about the “frat house” (AKA, sexist) culture prevalent in ZocDoc’s sales department to “Kevin”, a good friend who works in sales.

While agreeing about problematic sales cultures, he had a different take on culture in general.

His viewpoint, from someone who has been there/done that, may not be socially acceptable and could probably get him in trouble if posted on social media, but I can share it here — anonymously

Whether you’re a nigger or a bitch, this is the shit you have to deal with. I prefer environments where it’s obvious what the culture is, like this, than politically correct cultures where bigotry is the norm but you never onto why you won’t get the bonus, promotion or accolade with superior performance. Screw political correctness!

I believe it’s important to know where you stand, because then you can make informed choices. Give me this culture anytime – when I enter, I will know what the rules are. If I stay, it’s to accomplish a particular personal goal. When I leave (if not immediately), I will know why I stayed, left, and what I gained. I’m richer, they are poorer.

There is no such thing as “politically correct”. The term itself is an oxymoron that implies consensus building, popular sentiment or sinister machinations. Politics is about popularity — we never let others know where we stand or what we stand for in order to win a popularity contest. It is giving in to the tyranny of the mob, not daring to have unpopular opinions or stances, because one will not be popular.

Being a black man, I prefer a racist that’s honest about who he is and what he is. I prefer working for such a person because I know what to expect. I presume it would be the same for you as a woman regarding sexists. These days no one is a racist, we just have “unconscious biases” that prevent us from taking unpopular positions and that ensure that the powerful can continue to exclude the less powerful. 

Politically correct environments rob me of information, choice, and the ability to navigate astutely to attain my objectives.

I agree with Kevin, even in those instances where bias has its basis in neuroscience, it’s better to know.

Flickr image credit: Zaskoda

Ducks in a Row: Google and Bias

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014


Just as people are hard wired to respond to attractiveness they harbor other biases.

And just as the bias for attractiveness is anthropological, not biological, so are other biases.

Biases are fueled by assumptions, which are rarely logical—or conscious.

Google, along with most of tech, is rife with biases—both pro and con.

The idea of unconscious bias came to the attention of Google HR boss Laszlo Bock via a story in the New York Times about the biases among American university science professors regarding the difference in competency between female and male students (the women were ranked as less competent).

Unconscious bias, the sometimes useful tendency to make snap judgments (that subway car is empty for a reason), guides us into unexamined bigotry (she’s a woman, not a leader). 

Google being Google they approached the situation using a combination of education—not just for executives and managers, but for everybody

plus four specific steps to identify and deal with unconscious bias;

  • Gather facts.
  • Create a structure for making decisions.
  • Be mindful of subtle cues.
  • Foster awareness. Hold yourself — and your colleagues — accountable.

Google’s efforts are driven by competitiveness, as opposed to political correctness.

“If we have an employee base that reflects our user base, we are going to better understand the needs of people all over the world,” said Brian Welle, the researcher in charge of Google’s diversity training workshops. “Having people with a different worldview and different ways of solving problems gives you the raw materials to be more innovative and to be able to solve problems that nobody has asked before.”

Flickr credit: Don Graham | YouTube credit: Life at Google

Expand Your Mind: the Bad of Social Media

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

In spite of Monday’s post I’m still ambivalent about social media and I’m not just thinking about Facebook, Twitter and their ilk, but also blogs and other commentary.

Part of my ambivalence is from the anonymity available. Mark Suster defends it and I understand the necessity in places where dissent is dangerous.

But what works and is necessary in dissent is destructive when embraced by local gossips.

One thing social media guarantees is that at one time or another politically correct attitudes will fall prey to actual attitudes and reality can be pretty ugly.

Bloggers have long argued that they deserve the same protections as journalists, but in most cases I disagree. While there are a few exceptions, most bloggers have neither the interest, ability nor resources to do in-depth research of a subject; what we produce is commentary and opinion pieces, so I am glad when a truly destructive blogger is sued and loses.

Of course, a primary reason for my dislike of social media is that it brings out so much human unthinking, me-focused stupidity. Seriously. If you thought distracted driving—email, texting, talking etc.—was bad try distracted doctoring!

And while Facebook and Google initiate efforts to become forces of good, not all twenty-somethings-and-up feel the need. (I have company:)

Crowdsourcing is a new wrinkle in the social world and one that I find positively uplifting. Join me next Saturday for a look at it.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: Ads and Advertising

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I hope you have a spare 20 or so minutes today to have some fun.

A while back I saw a set of ads at Business Insider and today I want to share them with you.

They aren’t just politically incorrect, they are downright offensive.

Most date to the Sixties, a few are older; some of you may even remember one or two from your childhood, I know I do.

What I found so interesting was that many of the attitudes underlying the ads haven’t really changed, although they are covert these days, instead of overt.

Here are three from the series; I hope you will take time to look at the other 23.

In addition, there are other series. While most advertising sucks, ads can be entertaining and very funny; truly great ads will stop traffic and others hook people on their concept. And then there are the people who got filthy rich off of truly ridiculous ideas.


Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

Reasonable accommodation or political correctness

Friday, August 29th, 2008

accessibility.jpgYesterday CandidProf wrote about what he’s expected to do as “reasonable accommodation” for his students with disabilities.

Many of these struck me as totally UNreasonable. For example, the additional 18 hours a week for just one student is ridiculous—even more so because the work is expected to be done gratis in addition to a normal professor’s workload. No corporation could get away with that.

And CandidProf’s situation applies in the majority of universities, colleges and even high schools across the US.

I realize that in many lofty universities, such as Stanford and Harvard, there are rock star professors who teach only a few classes and spend their time and reputations acquiring grant money to fund research, which, in turn, attracts more alumni donations and an ever larger endowment fund. And although much of that research is valuable and needed, that’s not the issue here.

The issue is the choices being forced on our educators in the name of politically correct and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—but not on the educational facility.

Our educational system is continually being dumbed down in the name of “fairness,” initiatives such as “no child left behind” and laws like the ADA, with compliance tied to ever scarcer funding.

All mandated by the Powers That Be—mandated but never paid for. So the actual cost is pushed down from Federal to State to local to individuals, with, as usual, those who care, who haven’t been burned/burned out by the system, footing the bill through unpaid hours of work.

The more I read CandidProf’s posts the more depressed I become. I wonder how long he, and others like him, will choose to continue teaching, continue being put in the position of doing more and more for which they weren’t trained, aren’t paid for,  and never dreamed would be required.

What is “reasonable” when it comes to education? And how reasonable is it when that accommodation can have a ripple effect? Do you want an accountant doing your taxes who achieved professional status through a series of accommodations? How about your lawyer or doctor. Would you want your house wired by an electrician whose training was eased over because he had difficulty reading schematics?

How fair is it to the students who do all the work to achieve the same status as the disabled student who was “accommodated?”

Is it even fair to the disabled student? How fair is it to take that student’s money, tell them that they are qualified only to have the world and the law tell them that they aren’t?

Finally, before you tear into what I’ve said—

There are teachers in my family. My niece taught English and history in middle school for several years. Burned out from the constant battles with parents demanding better grades for their children and children talking about suicide as their only choice she returned to school for a MS in Library Science. As a librarian, she can focus on nurturing a love of reading. Her husband teaches college-level economics to high school honor students and runs afoul of the same problems as CandidProf.

As to myself, I have an 85db hearing loss—the typical hearing aid is designed for losses below 65 db—specifically in the consonant range of the human voice. Normal noise, coupled with today’s ultra-fast speech patterns, has eliminated my ability to do much out in the world. It has been years since I’ve attended a function and actually taken an intelligent role in the conversations; and forget podcasts and videos (unless they’re closed captioned). Even in a quiet conference (or living) room I can’t understand the back-and-forth talk between people. That’s why I switched my consulting to coaching via phone, instant messaging and email.

I can tell you first hand that it’s enormously difficult for people to modify their speech patterns and the majority don’t want the bother, which I can understand having been on their side in communicating with my mother.

What truly amazes me is that in spite of all this there are still people who want to teach.

What do you feel is “reasonable accommodation” in an educational situation? And how should it be paid for?

Your comments—priceless

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