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Dear Googler Who Implied Women Are Unsuited For Tech

On August 02, 2017

Important note: The author's intent was to examine how the memo made women in the tech world feel, as well as to argue the author's opinion that the Google memo sent an implicit message about women and gender differences that is harmful. However, the author was vague about this intent, and failed to use language that made it clear that the author understands this to be the implication, rather than the literal wording, of his memo. The author did not intend to attack the author of the memo in any way, nor to imply that he doesn't want women in tech. We regret that the author's message and intent were not made clearer and we apologize for failing to use precise language in an opinion piece. 

Last week, a Google employee released a memo critiquing the organization's diversity initiatives. In it, the Google employee made some claims that this author feels implied women don't succeed or work in tech because they aren't innately designed for it. This letter is a response to his memo. This letter is an opinion piece.

Friend,

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know what your faith tradition is, or if you even have one. But I think we could all use a little grace for the messes we make. Maybe you don’t want that grace. Maybe you don’t think you need it. Maybe you really believe that you spoke words of kindness and truth in your memo.

Maybe you think it’s everyone else’s fault for being overly sensitive. You claimed you were trying to help Google become more female-friendlyby capitalizing on women's natural differences from men. You expressed concern about Google's ideological echo chamber. I don’t know you, but it seems like you genuinely care about these issues. But the problem is, whether intentionally or not, you've pronounced the women around you unsuitable for the work they love.

I'm going to choose to believe that you think your comments could actually lead your industry to do better at recruiting and retaining women. I’m going to assume you aren’t a malicious person, and that you weren’t intentionally trying to hurt your female coworkers or limit their opportunities. And I’m also going to assume that you really believe these things about men and women, and their innate gifts for and capacity to succeed in the tech world. 

But it hurts that you think these things are true. It hurts because I’m a woman, and I know there isn’t anything about my female brain that makes me innately unsuited for success or leadership in the tech industry. But it mostly hurts because your female coworkers now likely feel even less welcome than they did before—in an industry that already struggles to include women. 

You said a lot of things about my sisters and I, friend. Some were just silly, in my opinion. Some were pretty incendiary. You implied that women are innately unsuited for leadership in the tech industry. You said efforts to empower and include women in the tech industry—an industry that has struggled with sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and a “tech bro” culture—are “unfair, divisive, and bad for business.” You claimed women are more prone to neuroticism and anxiety. You argued that we’re more sensitive to stress than men. You said we’re less driven—by nature. 

I could cite scientific and sociological studies to prove these unsupported, blanket claims wrong. I could expound on what scientists have discovered about gender differences in the brain—namely, that humans vary person to person much more than they vary man to woman. I could point you to studies where women displayed more traits found to be valuable in leaders than men.

I could also talk about how research shows that gender parity is practical and good for business, and that’s it’s been linked to financial success. I could link news stories and profiles of brilliant, resilient, groundbreaking women coders and women tech leaders.

But I’m sure you’ve heard about these studies and you probably know some of these women. Maybe you’ve talked to them in the breakroom. Maybe you think they’re the few exceptions to what you’ve ruled women just aren’t good at. Maybe you have a few studies of your own to toss my way.

I’m not going to dwell on proving you wrong with stats and studies, because I don’t have to. I’ll just say this: you don’t know me. You don’t know them. You don’t know us. And it’s really too bad. Many people find that it’s easier to sort men and women into sweeping categories than it is to get to know us as individuals. 

Arguing that women are as a group more sensitive or more prone to anxiety than men makes it easier to justify leaving us out. It likely wasn't your intent, but even though you don’t know me or my sisters, you just made it even harder for us to be who we really are.

It’s already near-impossible to set aside the masks and the labels, to show ourselves to each other, and to the world. The world conditions girls to hide our brains and our abilities, our complexities and our flaws—all the things that don’t fit your categories.

Many of us can recall a time we felt we had to ask—quietly, hesitantly, uncertainly—is it okay that we’re gifted for this? That we enjoy this? That we’re interested in this?

So, friend, while I’m sad that you believe these things about me, and about my sisters, I’m not here to change your mind. I’m here to say there’s grace for when we hurt people and for when we make a mess of things. And I'm also here to say, to the brilliant and resilient girls and women out there who feel discouraged or a little less welcome today, I say:

Tinker with your engines. Preach your sermons. Rock your red lipstick. Write your code. Set your curious mind to theology. Sport your kicks and football jerseys. Wear your flowery dresses. Go to law school. Pen books and prayers and poetry. Study viruses. Lead nations. Collect bugs. Get your hands dirty. Skin your knees. Found businesses and organizations. Plant churches. Raise your families. Trade stocks. Farm your fields. Perform surgeries. Do what God has called and gifted you for.

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