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Actually, I Was Biologically Designed To Be An Engineer

I am genetically predisposed to be better at math and other computational sciences.

08/10/2017 11:40 EDT | Updated 08/16/2017 10:16 EDT
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This past weekend, the “anti-diversity” manifesto from a Google software engineer leaked. Naturally, it’s prompted a storm of angry responses from the feminist movement in Silicon Valley. I have a lot of thoughts about the manifesto but I would like to address just two for the sake of time.

TLDR to the author of the manifesto: I respectfully disagree with some of your points — but I also agree with others.

Point 0: I was biologically designed to be an engineer.

Contrary to your belief that the lack of women in tech is due to biology, I was actually biologically designed to be an engineer. My father has a PhD in mathematics. My mother was an accountant (and simultaneously the best stay-at-home mom, ever). Her sister also has a PhD in mathematics — as does her husband. And my other aunt and uncle both have PhD’s in Computer Science.

I’m not listing my family’s credentials because I think they validate mine — but if you are going to argue that the “distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes,” I’d like to point out that I am genetically predisposed to be better at math and other computational sciences than the average person.

And it turns out that no matter how hard I tried not to be a mathematician (sorry, dad), I still ended up doing computer science, with a speciality in embedded systems. In fact, my career is at the crossroads of two of the most male-dominated fields: software engineering and electrical engineering. I’ve written code that runs on the Tesla Model X and I’m still the youngest engineer at my startup, where I write firmware for in-ear computers. If I wasn’t biologically built to do this, then who is?

Now, you could easily argue that I am statistically not the norm. And you would be right. So here’s a brief lesson in statistics:

I won’t get into the multitude of studies that show that some of the assumptions you make about women are false, but let’s assume for the sake of this argument that those claims about the “average” woman are correct. Statistically speaking, you are describing about 68 percent of that demographic. That leaves 32 percent that are different from that stereotype. So even on some planet far, far away where your assumptions are correct, you would still be alienating 32 percent of the population. For someone who touts classical liberalism as your ideological framework, your logic doesn’t seem to be rooted in reason.

Point 1: We are on the same page.

I agree with one of the main tenets of your manifesto. Google should create an environment where you feel safe to openly discuss these opinions and beliefs. It’s the only way you can grow intellectually. If you feel like you’re stuck in an ideological echo chamber, then you should absolutely call that out. As a child of immigrants raised in the deep south, I empathize with you on this point.

Also , as a soft objectivist, I agree that the smallest minority on earth is the individual. If individualism is one of your core values, then you of all people should be a champion for people like me who are being actively discriminated against for being just that — individuals. Not women. Not feminists. Not anything that’s part of a tribe. Individuals. See, we are on the same page here — you just don’t know it yet.

So here’s what I’m proposing: let’s get coffee and riff on Ludwig von Mises or software design or transhumanism. I don’t want to talk about diversity. I want to show you what diversity looks like. This is a formal invite for an open dialogue — not just for the author of the manifesto — but for anyone who feels like the conversation around diversity and inclusion is a one-way street that has you at the losing end of it. I’m serious. Let’s get coffee.

Addendum: A special note to Google.

Google’s People Operations work is world-renowned. I look to Google as an example for how to build an innovative, inclusive culture. However, this manifesto sheds light on the fact that Google could do more when it comes to creating an open dialogue with people who come from different ideological backgrounds.

I fundamentally disagree with this former Google exec, who claims that he would never assign someone, especially a woman, to work with the author of the manifesto, and then goes on to say he would fire him for expressing these opinions. I think that kind of mentality is the root of the problem. Ostracizing people for expressing their opinions creates isolation — the opposite of inclusion. I believe the solution to the problem actually lies within the burning fires of ideological conflict.

One of the things that we’ve found to be successful at my startup is an “Article Club.” Every week, a group of us at work, including our CEO, discuss a recent article. We’ve discussed everything from how brain machine interfaces will lead to the singularity to the ethics of antitrust policies surrounding digital privacy. Naturally, no one ever agrees in those types of discussions, but I leave every meeting with a new framework that shapes the way I analyze the world around me.

People at my company come from different backgrounds and sometimes we butt heads. But that’s not only ok ay— it’s necessary. We build a complex hardware product that fits four processors on a PCB that’s the size of a dime.

There are a lot of ways to design a product like that and most of them are wrong. If we didn’t have the kind of culture that encouraged people to speak their minds, we wouldn’t have been able to build this product. I take the same approach to diversity challenges as I do to engineering challenges: both necessitate respectful discourse. I genuinely hope Google can find a solution that encourages that type of culture.

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