back to article Google diversity memo: Web giant repudiates staffer's screed for 'incorrect assumptions about gender'

A Google engineer's 10-page argument for winding back diversity programs inside the ad giant has gone viral and sparked debate about whether Google really is an ideological echo chamber in which it's forbidden to ask whether efforts to promote diversity by denying biology are harming the business. Google execs have repudiated …

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The responses speak volumes

I've been reading the reactions to this on various sites and a number of things seem to stand out:

1/ The responses are almost entirely from men;

2/ They tend to be short on relevant evidence and long on emotion and anecdote, a trait that is nevertheless characterised as female, often in the same post;

3/ For a bunch of Silicon Valley people supposedly intent on disrupting almost everything there seems to be an almost unanimous acceptance that when it comes to gender imbalance there is no way the status quo can be challenged.

It rather reminds me of when my mother (ironically) used to tell me as a child that Apartheid was inevitable because "the" black people had a different way of life.

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Re: The responses speak volumes

Uh Warm, the article is about mandating change to what may be an arbitrary "balance" by brute bureaucracy and censorship. What has your comment got to do with article or comments then ? I also suggest even comments are from mostly white males then this supports male preferences toward things like computers.

Aside from that, the only females I knew working in system admining were hostile to special treatment. Incidently, same attitude was expressed in some of Oz gummints departments specialising in assisting racial minorities. The staff wanted to be selected on competence alone. BTW, perhaps anecdotal evidence is more popular than usual is because no-one trusts experts any more.

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Re: The responses speak volumes

The you go braw, just in case people didn't believe your summary someone's posted a perfect example as a reply!

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Re: The responses speak volumes

The status quo can certainly be challenged, it can and should always be challenged or society will stagnate. The problem some of us have is with the mindless, brute-force method sometimes used. I firmly believe all candidates should be treated equally regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. And, two people doing the same work should be paid the same regardless of etc. The problem is when you are talking about positions that require certain specific skills the hiring process is not the right place to try to enforce quotas; it is far too late. If not enough whatevers are not getting the necessary education/training you will not have enough whatevers applying for the skilled jobs. I took science and engineering in University and white men always outnumbered everyone else in the programs. It has been the same in every continuing education class I have taken since. I also believe that any "group" of people can be successful in any field of endeavor if given the opportunity. Note I did not say any individual within any group; there are differences in individual abilities; but, I don't believe any one group has a exclusive to skills in anything.

Enforcing diversity in the work place without providing equal access to the prerequisite education/training is not going to help anyone. Diversity in and of itself accomplishes nothing; the best qualified people should be the ones hired. Allowing everyone a chance to become qualified is far more important.

The second best engineer I ever knew (No, I don't consider myself the first best, that goes to someone I did not hire) was a female. I hired her not to make up numbers; but, because she was easily the most qualified candidate we had. I am not naïve enough to believe everyone would make the same choice; but, most companies like the idea of prospering and would be more inclined to hire a more diverse work force if the pool of qualified candidates was more diverse.

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Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

In truth, I'm not sure about his title - someone else mentioned it. In any case, this is actually a considered response, in my opinion: "So, about this Googler’s manifesto"

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Devil

Re: Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

That "response" is only "considered" in the "you're of course an idiot, let me tell you why (first off, you're not senior and I am)" sense. No thanks. That bloke is welcome to take his personal opinion disguised as wisdom and pontificate it somewhere else.

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jrd

Re: Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

> In truth, I'm not sure about his title - someone else mentioned it. In any case, this is actually a considered response, in my opinion: "So, about this Googler’s manifesto"

Well, if by "considered response" you mean "I would have him fired immediately and escorted from the building"... I think this response well illustrates the sort of problem the original manifesto was attempting to spotlight.

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Re: Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

While I have sympathy for the memo writer, this significantly opposed response also has valid points.

However, it links to this article, which I think is very wrong. If tolerance were a peace treaty and not a moral precept, there would be nothing wrong with exploiting and discriminating against those who were so powerless they could not fight back.

That kind of negates the whole point of tolerance.

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Day

Re: Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

Well there is some relevance, because he used to work at Google. And the points he makes are interesting, even if chose not to engage with them.

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Day

Re: Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

It is a considered response. He explains in great detail his thinking about the memo. And remember, he is an ex-Google employee, so his thinking has some relevance here.

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Re: Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

That was a very weak response, here's another response explaining why:

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/450214/google-memo-about-allegedly-devastating-response

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Day

Re: Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

That REALLY is not an explanation why it is a "weak response". The author of the piece you quoted states that he doesn't want to talk about what makes a good SW engineer and then goes on to contradict Zunger's definition of what makes a good SW engineer.

Have you read the original manifesto? Even if you agree with what the person is saying, the manifesto is really a terrible way of expressing that. There is really no way you can defend it, because it is a truly appalling piece of writing.

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Old Fashioned values

What ever happened to employing the best person for the job? Don't understand why companies are pressured into having a diverse workforce when it could potentially lead to substandard employees

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Old Fashioned values

"What ever happened to employing the best person for the job?"

That is very difficult to determine - especially if a cultural bias has already cultivated apparent under-achievement in a person.

Sometimes the applied criterion for "the best person for the job" is that they fit a mould of conformity that the company already has established in its staff. Ideal for doing the company doing the same thing time after time - but it tends to a certain narrow mediocrity.

A young friend fell at the first hurdle of a job application for a large IT company. It required a web form to be filled in with grades for examinations going back to his teens. His overall academic "score" was reduced by some under-achievement early on - although his university degree was good.

There was however no tick box for his achievement in being selected for a privileged Microsoft award for his outstanding performance as an undergraduate.

A renowned smaller IT company snapped him up - at a much higher salary than the big company was offering graduates.

The larger company later realised their loss - but they didn't change their recruitment method. Another young friend fell at the second hurdle - when the telephone interview was marred by the outsourced interviewer's difficult to understand accent. Again he was delighted to then land a very well paid job with one of the top accountancy companies in London.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Old Fashioned values

"What ever happened to employing the best person for the job?"

Because more often than not "best person for the job" really means "someone that looks and sounds like me" which isn't very good for hiring the person who is actually the best fit for the job.

If you read through the 10 page rant that's exactly what this chap is arguing for. He's not just arguing against the promotion of equality and diversity, he is actively arguing that women and people from other cultures are biologically guaranteed to be worse at him at the job he does. Which is, frankly, prejudicial bullshit with no evidence behind it.

If he's not fired there will be a large number of googlers heading for the exit. It's one thing to bash overbearing HR-driven diversity campaigns, quite another to belittle anyone with a vagina or brownish skin.

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Re: Old Fashioned values

"What ever happened to employing the best person for the job?"

Define "best" and then we can talk.

Yes, I know, for a technical position our notion of best really ought to be dominated by the ability to perform the principal tasks. However, if your company has more than one employee then being able to work in a team to create something greater than the sum of its parts is also important. We've all known (and read on this site about) co-workers whose social skills or personal habits outweighed their technical abilities and so they just weren't the best person for the job. (For example, being the personification of social poison appears to be a requirement for "The Apprentice" and I'm frankly astonished that Milord Sugar doesn't just fire the whole bloody lot of them at the end of the first show.) For most candidates, with average social skills, this isn't an issue, but it provides wiggle-room for Prejudice to sneak in and decide that so-and-so "is great but lacks synergy".

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Re: Old Fashioned values

I haven't read the manifesto but anyone that bothers to write a manifesto is probably crazy.

I think it safe to assume it suggests diverse backgrounds and opinions are more important than race (all of these things skew from social construct).

I don't know if firing is the right action to take when you disagree with opinions you find distasteful, although it's probably fine to say to the employee that their words are not in alignment with the culture.

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Re: Old Fashioned values

Be nice if you included the biggest group in the ruins of the West that have been scrapped. Older males specifically. The mostly female HR types really like to employ people like them, young and mostly shallow IMHO.

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Bigger problem

You have to be some kind of arsehole to work for a disgustingly shitty slimy scumbag company like google.

Not much diversity in a company entirely staffed by arseholes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bigger problem

"Not much diversity in a company entirely staffed by arseholes."

Among Google employees (and former employees) that spring to mind are Rob Pike, Ken Thompson (developers of Go) and Guido van Rossum (Python). There are plenty of others who do good work. Perhaps you need to calm down.

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Re: Bigger problem

"Among Google employees (and former employees) that spring to mind"

If you work for a company with zero respect for the personal privacy of basically the whole world you are an arsehole.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bigger problem

"If you work for a company with zero respect for the personal privacy of basically the whole world you are an arsehole."

"Zero" respect sounds unlikely. Yes, their business model relies on snooping people's online habits, so as a company they have less respect for privacy than many of us would like. Nobody is forcing you to use their services however. I'm guessing you don't use any Android devices.

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Re: Bigger problem

And now I read on the BBC the author has being fired - guess he just wasn't a big enough arsehole to fit in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bigger problem

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to avoid being spied on by Google via Google Analytics, Google API hosting, Google Fonts, GMail users, and, as you pointed out, those who have been assimilated by the Android Borg collective, even if you actively try to avoid Google spyware yourself…

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MJI
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Just employ most suitable candidates

And stop following quotas.

If 6 legged martians are most suitable so be it.

Gender, age and race should have no bearing on the jib, but skills should.

Also why should an able candidate be disqualified due to their gender or skin colour?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just employ most suitable candidates

more likely that they're disqualified due to ageism. I've heard "they seem a bit old", "they've been doing this a long time, why haven't they moved up" far more than I've heard "don't want a xyz" infact I've never heard people not wanting someone based on gender/ethnicity much the other way around, most people I've seen will bend over backwards to hire a female candidate.

Ironically the last time they tried name and gender blind cv's the number of women interviewed plummeted... Why? Because then they're not the one of only 3 CV's that are female versus the 47 that are male.

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Vic

Re: Just employ most suitable candidates

more likely that they're disqualified due to ageism

I had an agent ring me up about a candidate once - he was trying to make sure that the bloke's age wouldn't be a problem. He had quite a few years on me...

Of course, it wasn't a problem to me. The problem was that, at interview, the bloke was simply crap, and would resort to anecdotes about how computing used to be whenever I asked him a difficult question. I let him do that for a full hour before pointing out that I'd been doing the job rather longer than he had...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

People enraged by person having different opinions. Demand person suffers for having wrong thoughts.

These people make me sick. Go have a debate, state some facts, embark in a discussion. Nah whine about it, post it on the interenet and try get someone fired. Cowards.

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Anonymous Coward

Various posts suggest the document’s author may find his credentials don't let him into the building on Monday morning. Others say that if the author can make his way to his desk, plenty of other Googlers will head the other way in protest.

I truly hope this doesn't happen. If it does, it kind of underscores his point.

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Reality

The issue here is one of fighting nature. Now, before I start, I believe that any job should be filled by the best qualified candidate, whether male, female, black, white etc.etc. There should be no selection occurring due to bias rather than ability.

However, the idea that men and women have the same desires and therefore aptitudes towards different jobs (and the skills required) is clearly biological nonsense. Men and women are driven by two different hormones. These have physical effects on the body, but they also have psychological effects as well. In some cases, societal bias simply emphasises this, in some cases, it is entirely artificial. However, if you look at numerous university studies, even amongst the very young, the outlook of boys and girls is very different. This is amazingly apparent in schools. Boys have a tendency to fight and normally punch each other a few times and next day are best mates again. Girls tend to be far more psychological in their fighting, with cliques etc. that go on for years. The old, "I can't be your friend because you're friends with her" lark. This is by no means universal, but definitely splits between the sexes.

Even more apparent are physical differences, which can make a difference in certain jobs. If the job is physical, you're more likely to pick a man (statistically) because on average, men are stronger. That's not to say a stong women should be denied the job, just that the split won't be even and is never likely to be. A good example of this is jobs where different physical requirements have been set for men and women. Why? Here's the physical standard. You pass, you're in, you fail, you're out. But no, we have to have more women, so the standard is lowered for women. Why not lower the standard for wimpy men as well? Why only women?

So, it's completely unreasonable to expect the number of women and men in jobs to split roughly equal (as with the population). Some jobs, that might be the case, but most will have a split one way or the other. Artificially fighting this is trying to fight nature. Men and women are different and due to that, will have different traits and strengths on average. Rather than see the differences as a bad thing, we need to embrace them and positively use them to advantage. Trying to make everyone the same is fighting against nature.

In all the above, I'm talking about averages and statistics. The best person for the job should be employed at all times, with the emphasis on qualifications. However, we shouldn't expect it to split evenly.

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Re: Reality

"This is amazingly apparent in schools. Boys have a tendency to fight and normally punch each other a few times and next day are best mates again. Girls tend to be far more psychological in their fighting, with cliques etc. that go on for years."

That's true enough for kids, but my impression is that actually both sexes spend the next decade becoming more like each other again. At least part of the problem, then, is that important (ie, door-closing) life choices are being made at an age when the children are at the "most divergent" (or most stereotypical, if you prefer) part of their development. Not sure what the answer is...

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Antisocial media

any social media outlet of which you're a member

How about El Reg? I sincerely hope that, as the antithesis of social media they won't be Doing a CNN[1] on it..

[1] From the Marillion song "Man of a thousand faces"[2]:

"Look at my life and it looks like CNN

You see something once

You know it's gonna come around again"

[2] Also provided my Usenet tagline for quite a while: "I speak to machines with the voice of humanity"

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Unwise

It was unwise for him to identify himself as a Google employee, and, indeed, to identify himself, on his comments.

Political correctness is a real problem. But since inequality is also a real problem, a certain amount of "reverse discrimination" is a legitimate response to that problem. It isn't as if we have all that many less blunt instruments available.

At one point, in response to a story about black engineers being underrepresented at Intel, I noted that it isn't surprising that black people don't have the right educational qualifications in the same proportion as whites: and that it's harder for a firm in the consumer sector to achieve balance when the qualified black candidates are being snapped up by defense contractors, who absolutely have to achieve racial balance to sell to the government.

Women face certain disadvantages too: not all women, but the stereotypes wouldn't get started if they didn't correspond to the situations of a large number of women. So the fact that there are exceptional women who are fully qualified for STEM jobs won't mean there will be enough of them for every company to achieve full equal representation for them.

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Talking about role models

I appreciate the mantra that balanced and inclusive workplace voicing all different opinions somehow is better, but I struggle to find woman role models in leadership positions that have not ended up a complete heartless psychotic disasters. Mayer, May, Thatcher?

Can somebody name the "good" role models at the top of the game?

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Childcatcher

Re: Talking about role models

The Queen of Sheba sought out Solomon for his wisdom. But we're told now that the Bible is just a compilation of fairy tales suited for weak minded children. 'Real' women today are born knowing it all because their 'gender' is superior.

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Re: Talking about role models

Good female role model. Hmm,

Spelling probably wrong, but two spring to mind. Last Dowager Empress of China, Cixxii and Liz Mk1. Liz Mk1 was very economic rationalist so maybe not such a good example. The female pharoh maybe but insufficient information on her performance as a manager available. Any Egyptologists among us ?

As for current businesses, Yeah, um, um. However I have noted over the decades that many husbands and wives have very successful businesses as a team where wife is effective manager, husband more the blue collar skilled worker. Is much of this discussion a reflection on the a reflection on the obscene individualism rampant in western cultures, especially MerkinLand ?

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Re: Talking about role models

Merkel seems OK. And there's always Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga :)

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Re: Talking about role models

There is a serious shortage of role models, good or otherwise, and the already short list is then skewed towards those who are capable of rising to the top at the expense of male opponents. So even if there were none (which depends on your politics) I wouldn't say that the absence proves anything.

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Hmm

"A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone."

I would agree with that except for the misinterpretation of diverse. For some reason there seems to be an assumption of improvements based on genitalia or skin colour. What about a fair representation of hair or eye colour. And dont forget height while we stick to the genetics theme.

We can also continue with diversity away from genetics and into perception and belief such as transgenderism and religion. I can imagine the requirement now for a percentage of catholic attack helicopters in the workplace. Of course none of this has anything to do with the job but it will lead to "better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone."

Ha

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Diversity

Looking around my west-coast startup.

We are 10% each Brit, Isreali, Russian, Indian. 30% Asian immigrant, 30% Asian 1st generation native. We have a single WASP native. Pretty much the mix of the local tech community.

Yeah for us, diversity awards all round. Except we don't have any African-Americans, or hispanics - we should be 25% black/hispanic. We have exactly equal numbers of Jews and Muslims but there are 100x as many Muslims in the world as Jews - so we are obviously racist.

We are almost 50:50 male female. But the average salary for the men is >50% higher than the women. That's because the founders, CEO, CTO, CFO and engineers are men. The sales marketing and QA and office staff are all women - so we are obviously sexist.

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Re: Diversity

The biggest institutional challenge for all this diversity?

I have to order the friday afternoon pizza. For the vegan, veggie, halal, not-necessarily kosher or halal but no pork, no pineapple - factions. It's worse than negotiating a middle eastern peace conference.

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Day

Frankly, the manifesto-writer should be censured (note that is a 'u', not a 'o') for writing absolute nonsense. It reads like something a pre-undergraduate student would try to argue. For one thing, this is absolutely preposterous:

<blockquote>

We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration. Unfortunately, there may be limits to how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get female students into coding might be doing this).

</blockquote>

This person has clearly never actually given any thought to this subject matter.

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Childcatcher

An Engineer's Logic

......expressing the reality of the consequences of years of political correctness upon THE organization. It's almost mathematical in expression isn't it? A=A. Google's 'new' math says that's incorrect. We've suffered unbalanced equations for generations now and I have every confidence that reality will find nature's equilibrium.

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Commentards never cease to Amaze Me!

And here I expected the Howler Monkeys to reinforce the band of Flying Monkeys today.

I'm stunned that the SJW ideologue's have pulled a fantastic reversal of themselves and all without injury. I mean, how can people twist themselves into pretzel shapes, and not be damaged. Well, it must be that not many, ACTUALLY read the ten page memo. After all, that take's concentrating, comprehension and other feats of mental prowess, for which many severely lack. Normally, if I were in a good mood, I'd give the benefit of the doubt to them, but, I've witnessed their cruelty too many times before. So, perhaps, those in the know,.....know just how puzzled I am at today's comments. Hmmmm?

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Equality ...

Oscar Wilde said, "It is no more just to treat unequals equally than it is to treat equals unequally."

The fact is that people do generally not *want* to be treated equally, because we are diverse and have different likes and dislikes - some due to culture & upbringing, some innate. For many, attending a premier football match would be a reward. For me, it would be a punishment. The same is true of a night at the opera.

And some of those innate preferences are in fact linked to gender. The set of likes, dislikes and aptitudes are statistically different between men and women, and like Wilde said, it would be unfair to treat people who *are* different as if they were *not* different.

The fact that there are fewer women who study or apply for jobs in the tech industry may simply be due to an innate bias that predisposes a greater percentage of those with a Y chromosome and/or high testosterone toward technical matters than those without a Y chromosome and/or high testosterone. Pressuring people into taking a subject or job that they do not particularly like would be just as wrong as denying some people who do have such a liking and aptitude the opportunity to pursue it.

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Facepalm

A simple scientific question

If I could ask the manifesto author one question, it would be, "How does your biological hypothesis account for the era when programming was a majority-female occupation?"

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Re: A simple scientific question

Was that back when the industry (and I use it loosely here) needed people to change the tape reels, and fetch coffee?

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Re: A simple scientific question

Petrea, probably because, as you expect, it was seen as low status, boring and not as important as wearing a suit. Mind you, being able to code well in hex/machine code was always impressive to me. One could also point out much of the wiring done in the Apollo space craft was done by women because they handled the monotony better than males and were more meticulous as a result. ( quoting something I read in Scientific Merkin decades ago) We should all remember Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. The essential question still remains, why was she one of the few exceptions ?

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Equality of Opportunity, not outcome.

It's sure seems like everyone forgets that all of our EEOC rules and laws are about equality of opportunity. I agree with that, but the expectation of equality of outcome, i.e. the supposed pay disparity between workers cannot be guaranteed, unless you want to live in a Marxist economy where everyone is equally poor and oppressed.

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