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Responses to James Damore's Google "Manifesto"

I don’t have anything to say about James Damore’s so-called “manifesto” that these two fine writers haven’t already said.

Former Google engineering executive Yonatan Zunger wrote a pretty great piece on what it means to be an engineer, and why Damore’s naivety about it undermines his claims about why there might be fewer women in tech:

Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I’m very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to. Solitary work is something that only happens at the most junior levels, and even then it’s only possible because someone senior to you — most likely your manager — has been putting in long hours to build up the social structures in your group that let you focus on code.

It’s not surprising that Damore’s writing feels compelling to a great many men at Google, as it has a deceptively non-confrontational, quasi-rational tone. Cynthia Lee, a lecturer in Computer Science at Stanford, wrote a good explanation on why there has been so much backlash in response to the memo despite its seemingly agreeable surface nature:

To be a woman in tech is to know the thrill of participating in one of the most transformative revolutions humankind has known, to experience the crystalline satisfaction of finding an elegant solution to an algorithmic challenge, to want to throw the monitor out the window in frustration with a bug and, later, to do a happy dance in a chair while finally fixing it. To be a woman in tech is also to always and forever be faced with skepticism that I do and feel all those things authentically enough to truly belong. There is always a jury, and it’s always still out.

When men in tech listen to the experiences of women in tech, they can come to understand how this manifesto was throwing a match into dry brush in fire season.