Evolving the diversity and inclusion discussion: eBay Canada

E-Bay Canada’s Chief Diversity Officer Damien Hooper-Campbell (but without their diversity numbers):

I’ll admit – I didn’t grow up with a chief diversity officer “hero” poster on my bedroom wall, and didn’t ask my college guidance counsellor about prerequisites for a CDO job.

It was entirely through my personal and professional life experiences that I decided to do this work.

Today, more and more businesses are realizing that diversity and inclusion (D&I) isn’t just a nice-to-have or a moral necessity: It’s a business imperative. At eBay, it’s the foundation of our business model and critical to our ability to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape. For us, D&I is about making sure that our current and prospective employees and millions of buyers and sellers all have a fair shot at great opportunities. Yet, just like the vast majority of businesses, our D&I journey will be long term and iterative.

Diversity and inclusion are a strategic focus for our company, and we’ve embarked on a multiyear journey that will require the commitment of all of our people around the world. Our strategy ensures global consistency with a local fit.

For example, since joining the company, a large portion of my time has been spent visiting our offices around the world (most recently, Toronto, Madrid, London, Sydney, Shanghai and Seoul) to hear directly from employees about what diversity means and what inclusiveness feels like to them, locally.

The purpose is to offer a common starting place from which all of our people can join the conversation. What D&I means in our Israel office is sure to be different than what it means in our Canadian office. Only by giving our people opportunities to have open conversations about what D&I means to them can we get broader participation from them and, as a result, better outcomes from the programs we launch.

I don’t impose rules or judgments on how employees should think about D&I, but I do guide discussions around three areas of focus:

Our work force

Who we hire and how we hire matters, so we’re embedding D&I into our work force by focusing on our hiring practices and hiring decisions, the processes we undertake to evaluate potential employees and where we go to recruit them. For example, late last year we deliberately moved our university recruiting team to reporting to me.

As a result, we’ve broadened the set of universities, career fairs and external partnerships we recruit from to ensure D&I is an inherent part of our student-recruitment strategies.

We’re also looking at technology-driven hiring solutions to help our global recruiting teams and hiring managers mitigate bias throughout the hiring process. Things such as name-blinding résumés and facilitating structured interviews can be effective process improvements.

At its core, embedding D&I into our work force is about getting access to the best pools of talent out there.

Our workplace

Once we’ve hired great people, we want to keep and develop those great people, so we’re focused on how employees feel within the walls of eBay.

Looking for ways all of our employees – those from both minority and majority communities – can feel more included in the workplace is something we spend a lot of time thinking about and working on.

For example, we started by asking all employees around the world to participate in a survey focused on D&I so we could use the feedback to create better initiatives. We also enhanced our “Communities of Inclusion,” which are employee-led, leader-sponsored groups that promote a culture of belonging at eBay.

Our communities focus on age, disability status, ethnicity, gender, religion, military status, parental status, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. With chapters all over the world, these communities provide a safe space for employees to discuss topics and participate in activities. Most important, all of our employees are welcome to join them, regardless of how they self-identify.

Our marketplace

Diversity and inclusion at eBay extends to the customers and communities we serve.

We’re being more deliberate to ensure the diverse perspectives and needs of our current customers and communities are taken into consideration. This includes, for example, designing products or creating services for niche or underserved markets, or creating our first-ever multicultural marketing lead and seller diversity program manager roles to help us include a broader set of buyers and sellers in our marketing and business initiatives.

We’re also focused on figuring out how to be inclusive of the customer groups we aspire to serve in the future.

Taking a comprehensive, global and human approach, we’ve greatly evolved the way we talk about and approach D&I at our company. That said, we haven’t cracked the code on this yet.

It’s important to realize that there are no quick fixes here.

Diversity and inclusion challenges are complex, involve a number of factors and cannot be solved overnight. But if you start with real, honest and nonjudgmental conversations with your employees about what D&I means to them, you’ll help to reposition your D&I journey from being seen as a challenge to being embraced as an invaluable opportunity to make your people, business and customers stronger.

Source: Evolving the diversity and inclusion discussion – The Globe and Mail


Emmys: How to Get Away With the Bare Minimum of Diversity

Sharp commentary:

Sunday morning, hours before this year’s Emmys ceremony, Being Mary Jane actress Gabrielle Union tweeted: “I’ve been doing TV since 1995. This will be my 1st time going to the Emmys & I’m presenting an award! 22 yrs later. #OvernightSuccess.”

The actress’ first credited appearance was in an episode of Saved by the Bell: The New Classand while that might not be the type of show that garners you an Emmys invite, it’s surprising that in 22 years as a successful actress Union hasn’t even been at the ceremony. But then again, she’s a black woman in Hollywood, so it’s not really surprising, is it?

This moment for Union comes two years after Viola Davis gave her a shoutout in her historic win as the first black woman to win a best actress in a drama Emmy. Awarded a statue for her role in How to Get Away With Murder, Davis who traded in roles like the one in The Help where she played a maid, Davis put her community to task for its lack of inclusion. “In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line,” Davis said, quoting Harriet Tubman. She followed the quote by saying: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black. And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union: Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy. Thank you.”

Two years after the first best actress in a drama Emmy was awarded to a black woman shouldn’t be the year you pat yourself on the back. Especially not when Lena Waithe on Sunday was the first black woman to win an Emmy for best writing in a comedy. Or a night when Donald Glover was the first black male to win for comedy directing. Or a night where Riz Ahmed was the first male actor of Asian descent to win an acting Emmy. When we’re still in a business of firsts, you can keep your congratulations and you can keep your jokes about diversity, too. Sunday’s host, Stephen Colbert, followed in the footsteps of many white awards-show hosts who love making jokes about diversity to a room where there’s less black people in it than Williamsburg.

Because for an industry that loves to pretend it’s inclusive and diverse whenever awards season rolls around (like when Moonlight won an Oscar this year), it’s the bare minimum of diversity. The shows that these diverse nominees are awarded at are usually full of white people. The hosts are usually white—there hasn’t been a non-white Emmys host since Bryant Gumbel (don’t ask) in 1997. And the diversity usually extends to white women and black men. It’s true, women probably wouldn’t win any damn awards if they didn’t have separate acting categories, but the women that are nominated in these categories are usually white. When Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Laura Dern make pleas for more television starring women, it’s a lovely sentiment until you remember that the only black woman in Big Little Lies was Zoe Kravitz and there’s been three or four ensemble actress television shows starring white women since Charlie’s Angels. When Sex and the City was popular on HBO, we got a ton of knockoffs. Meanwhile, HBO has another female-led hit on its hands with Insecure, but there’ve been no influx of television series starring black women and HBO would rather greenlight bullshit like Confederate.

Meanwhile, out of all the black people who’ve won Emmys, the overwhelming majority are black men. Hollywood is a white world and it’s a man’s world. It usually benefits white men, white women, and then black men. There will plenty of more shows like Big Little Lies on the air, but will there be more like Being Mary Jane? Jane the Virgin? Fresh Off the Boat? Master of None? Asian-American actors are barely on television at all, and when they are, they usually portray terrorists in shows like 24 and Homeland.

True diversity in Hollywood means that it will have to step beyond the parameters of the usual suspects and start telling stories that look like the rest of America. I mean, it was absolutely shocking seeing some of the pairings chosen to give out awards—Gina Rodriguez and Shemar Moore, Riz Ahmed and Issa Rae, B.D. Wong and Matt Bomer (two openly gay men and one of them Asian?! You didn’t even see that on Looking)—and then realizing that you never see that kind of diversity on TV. Hell, these awards were on CBS and it was the most diverse thing you’ll ever see on this white as hell network.

Take this for instance: RuPaul and Tituss Burgess were included in two of Colbert’s comedic bits and they stole the show. Moonlight won an Oscar this year, but how long until we see a queer person of color hosting one of these damn things? No, Hollywood won’t know what real diversity is until people of color stop being bit parts or window dressing (like Superior Donuts’ Jermaine Fowler as the emcee) to make their awards shows look more “hip.”

Getting back to Gabrielle Union: Being Mary Jane has been on the air since 2013 and was created by Mara Brock Akil, a black woman and TV veteran. Union’s work has yet to be recognized by her peers. Will it ever be? Or do we only notice women of color like Viola Davis when they star in television shows on a white network like ABC, in a show written by a white man?

Source: Emmys: How to Get Away With the Bare Minimum of Diversity

TIFF 2017: At film festival, the truth is out there – if you know where to look – The Globe and Mail


This year’s Toronto International Film Festival is filthy with films boasting socially progressive bona fides. Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, tackles chauvinism in the sports arena. Kings, with Halle Berry and Daniel Craig, looks at racism through the prism of the Rodney King riots. The same-sex romance Call Me by Your Name aims to be this year’s Brokeback Mountain. Hollywood, don’t you know, is all about speaking truth to power.

TIFF itself is even positioning itself as more socially “woke” than usual, with its Share Her Journey campaign aimed at remedying the unbelievable gender imbalance in the industry (last year, only 7 per cent of the top 250 films were directed by women).

Yet year after year, it’s the less-glitzy documentary program that exhibits true social awareness. It makes sense; with smaller budgets, lowered aesthetic expectations, and a cinematic form built on real-time urgency, documentaries are better positioned to act as a mirror to the current culture.

It was a notion I kept returning to this past weekend, as TIFF lurched from one glitzy, questionable star vehicle to the next – where were the incendiary films that could unite audiences to stand up and cheer? Where were the movies that might actually make a difference in this heightened political climate? As ever, the doc lineup provided the answer, with one of the most culturally conscious selection of films in recent TIFF memory.

Even putting aside its achievement in near-gender parity – 41 per cent of 2017’s doc programming is directed by women, versus the festival’s total programming of 33 per cent – this year’s offerings are impressive, even intimidating, in their progressiveness.

There are films on iconic figures in the black community (Boom for Real, about Jean-Michel Basquiat; Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami; The Gospel According to Andre, focusing on fashion icon Andre Leon Talley; Sammy Davis Jr.: I Gotta Be Me; and Sighted Eyes / Feeling Heart, which chronicles the life of playwright Lorraine Hansberry); movies examining LGBT issues (Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood); and the expected, though no less appreciated, docs pivoting on here-and-now politics, including The China Hustle, Cocaine Prison, Silas and The Final Year.

On paper, that list might read like a compacted semester on the most liberal campus imaginable. Yet the films are more dynamic than didactic. It is a testament to the programming prowess of TIFF’s longtime documentary expert, Thom Powers – especially when the rest of the festival is crowded with temptations of glossier, more escapist fare.

“Sometimes these things come together as a coincidence,” says Powers, who has been programming docs for TIFF for the past twelve years, and has also worked with the IFC Center in New York, the DOC NYC festival and the Miami International Film Festival. “The Grace Jones film, I’ve been following that for ten years. And then there happened to be a cluster of films, like the Jean-Michel film and the Andre film.”

Although he prefers not to trumpet certain connective themes in his doc selection, Powers admits that this year offers a notable cluster of films that cannot escape the current political climate. “The films come in waves, and outsiders may not see the connections like I do, but there is a notable cluster of films in the program about figures of resistance,” he says. “They come from very different countries and very different filmmakers, but each of the central characters in something like Silas, they impressed me for their courage and eloquence in standing up to larger forces.”

“Right now, in North America, we see people hold up signs of ‘resist’ and rally around this idea of resistance,” he continues. “I think these figures, and these films, have a lot to teach us.”

On the issue of gender parity, Powers admits the doc medium simply makes it easier for female filmmakers to make headway in a notoriously hostile and sexist industry.

“There’s no question there, with budget being a very big factor,” he says. “It takes a lot less money and fewer gatekeepers for women to get started on a documentary project. Or any director, because you don’t have to wait for someone to give yourself permission. You can just get it going with less resources to begin with.”

Source: TIFF 2017: At film festival, the truth is out there – if you know where to look – The Globe and Mail

In Silicon Valley, data trumps opinion — even with gender parity – Recode

Jewelle Bickford, Ellen Kullman and Sandra Beach Lin of Paradigm for Parity make the diversity case:

In Silicon Valley — and in corporate America generally — data trumps opinion, making gender diversity a no-brainer. As the controversy at Google illustrates, turning diversity goals into positive business realities is hard — but it isn’t as hard as one would think, even in Silicon Valley. As with any initiative that improves the bottom line, paying lip service to diversity isn’t enough. You need a plan.

Despite the fact that the tech industry remains overwhelmingly male, Silicon Valley is actually uniquely suited to transform rhetoric into results. For instance, Silicon Valley companies understand that happy employees deliver better business results — and are willing to make the necessary investments. These companies have free food prepared by nutritionists and famous chefs, wellness centers offering employee massages, and even employee housing. Why not add free child care to the nearly endless menu of benefits? When women have support from employers in the form of affordable child care, they are more likely to stay in the workforce and progress to senior leadership roles.

Additionally, engineering is actually a field that is particularly well-suited for women. Engineers often function independently and they are able to do their jobs successfully in or out of the office. The flexibility that engineers get is exactly the type of flexibility that allows women to rise up and reach the highest levels of corporate America — and reach them more frequently.

When we started the Paradigm for Paritycoalition in 2016, we recognized the need for undeniable, measurable results and for clear, implementable steps to get there. While many organizations support gender equality and call for enhanced diversity in the workplace, the Paradigm for Parity coalition is unique in that it outlines a specific set of concurrent actions a company can take to achieve gender parity across all levels of corporate leadership by 2030, including measuring targets and maintaining accountability by providing regular progress reports. Today, we represent 56 member companies with approximately five million employees in every corner of the U.S. and around the world.

Quantitative evidence shows us why diversity is imperative: You can’t have economic growth unless everyone is included. We must work with clearly defined quantitative targets, like those outlined by the Paradigm for Parity coalition, to make diversity in business a statistical reality. In more ways than one, Silicon Valley has succeeded in making the world a better place, and we are confident it can succeed in making it a more equal one too.

Source: In Silicon Valley, data trumps opinion — even with gender parity – Recode

The uproar about the anti-diversity memo may turn out to have been a good thing for Google – Recode

Good business perspective on diversity and tech by Steve Herrod, a managing director at General Catalyst:

The outpouring of emotional responses to a now-fired Google engineer’s internal memo about diversity and hiring practices can be painful to read. But contrary to what you might think, this controversy may turn out to have been a good thing for Google — and for every engineering team. I’m glad it’s calling out the myth that only coding prowess matters, and that backchannel gripes about diversity in tech are now out in the open.

I helped grow VMware’s stellar engineering team from 30 to more than 3,000, and I’m now an investor in the next generation of startups. Scaling a team is a complex, nuanced process. It requires diligence, perseverance and open discussion of ideas.

Today’s engineering teams are nothing like the old stereotype — a bunch ofloner nerd boys who grew up playing video games and tinkering with code by themselves in their parents’ basements. To build successful products, you need a diverse group of personalities: People with strong customer empathy, others who can innovate on user experience, still others with the “brown thumb” for finding bugs before they ship, and those who take pride in fixing those bugs for good. And the personalities you need to hire will change as you grow to 10, then 100, then 1,000 engineers.

No engineer works in solitude today — even a code ninja is part of a team. That’s why you also need people who can keep track of product priorities and schedules, who can make difficult trade-offs, and who have the people skills to keep team members focused on the goals and deadlines that matter. Technical teams also need people who can interface with marketing, sales, operations, human resources, customers and everyone else so that the company, as it grows bigger, stays headed in the right direction. “Soft skills” are just as critical as coding chops.

For a company to scale successfully, its engineers not only must be the best hires, they need to be given paths to develop the aforementioned skills and to grow according to their abilities and interests. And it’s up to technical management to incentivize that development and to establish the best ways to measure that growth.

You need to make moving the company forward a requirement for individual advance. You might set growth milestones for engineers to reach, including some that get them away from their screens and into more extroverted, public roles — publishing papers, giving presentations at conferences and mentoring new team members.

At VMware, we gave cash bonuses for having a paper accepted to present at a top-tier conference, just as we did for patent filing. The pure technical achievement was given the same weight as being able to clearly define and present those technical ideas to a qualified and questioning audience. We also made mentorship an explicit qualification for promotions up the technical ladder. Individual contributors are important, but those who can effectively share knowledge and help shape the skills of more junior technical staff are just as critical.

As a manager, you must send a strong signal that communication and organizational skills are equally as important as technical skills, especially as the team grows too big to all know one another. Needless to say, you must set a strong example for this balance as well. VMware created a parallel management career track alongside the technical track, and made clear there was no stigma in switching from one to the other and even back again.

Why do communication skills matter so much? Diversity of ideas is what leads to innovation. Software companies in particular — built on new abstract concepts — take pride in encouraging employees to speak their minds, even when their co-workers resent it. “Everything is up for question and debate,” Google’s SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, asserted not long ago. Free-speech culture and its blowups — familiar to everyone on open source software projects — are the foundation of great software companies.

But this also requires a culture of mutual respect. The loudest complaints on both sides of the ongoing showdown share common themes: My co-workers don’t respect me. My co-workers don’t take me seriously. My co-workers enjoy saying things they know make me feel unwelcome. The challenge for leaders is to maintain openness and respect in parallel as three engineers become 30, then 300, then 3,000.

A successful team is diverse, driven, communicative, vocal … and often argumentative. Imagine a world where everyone shuts up and does their job as assigned. Where you get ahead by not rocking the boat. Where you learn to nod in agreement with the common wisdom. Where there’s never a workplace spat and “disrupt” is a slogan rather than a verb. Those are the companies that have been run off the Internet, one after another, over the past two decades.

If you want to build the next Google, you’ll need to create a company that fosters this kind of open dialogue — including complaints about the dialogue that results. The larger your company gets, the more it will matter. You’ll need to hire a broad range of people and guide them to grow together — even when they fight.

At some point, we’ll be glad everyone has stopped holding back their feelings about diversity conflicts in tech. Remember when Yahoo’s Peanut Butter Manifesto was considered a scandal? Finally we’re talking about the real issues.

Source: The uproar about the anti-diversity memo may turn out to have been a good thing for Google – Recode

To the James Damores of the world: Focus on your own flaws: Marie Henein

Great column by Henein on the Google/Damore controversy. Witty and pointed:

As debate rages about whether it was fair to fire Google employee James Damore for the now-infamous Google manifesto that explored women’s so-called limitations, I can’t help but think, why can’t everyone just leave my gender alone? Once again, we are being filleted, dissected, and discussed as though we barely exist. Yet another round of public debate began about how our under-representation in various fields and in leadership roles has nothing to do with hundreds of years of inequality but rather is attributable to insurmountable biological limitations. Writers in article after article actually went out of their way to justify Mr. Damore’s view of women. Was this seriously still happening?

A recent column explained that our biological differences, among other things, makes female lawyers better negotiators but worse litigators. Just as I was about to switch jobs, the author kindly pointed out that I was an outlier. I didn’t know whether to be flattered that I am some sort of unicorn, concerned that I am considered more male in my disposition (a comment I have been the recipient of since elementary school) or disappointed that I now had to break it to countless talented female litigators that they should probably give it up and limit themselves to negotiation or more gentle, womanly professions. I look forward to more enlightenment on what our biology allows us to do. Given that technology, science, leadership roles, or any jobs requiring assertiveness are clearly out, we better hurry up as scores of young girls are being grossly misled into thinking they can actually do what they wish.

Mr. Damore, in the course of his unscientific stream of consciousness, unequivocally makes the following point: “The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.” (Note: the italics are mine; the asinine quote is his.) He then goes on to mansplain – which was nice given the female biological aversion to ideas – that it is highly unlikely we are going to resolve the problem ourselves. He points out that females do not succeed because they are more inclined toward feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women in general, he argues, have a stronger interest in people rather than things; our extroversion is expressed as gregariousness instead of assertiveness; we are agreeable, neurotic, and have a low stress tolerance. I get it. We feel more and think less. We are an emotional, under-thinking, overstressed gender. But it’s not all bad news: we have a hell of a lot of empathy and mushy feelings.

Golly gee, if only I could overcome my natural biological disposition toward feelings rather than ideas, maybe I could understand Mr. Damore’s point. Or just maybe his biological disposition skews toward feelings rather than well-articulated, grounded, scientific ideas. Who knows? Maybe I can find a man to explain it all to me.

Look, if you want to debate the pros and cons of diversity policies, knock yourself out. If you want to dispute a company that extends certain benefits or opportunities differentially, go right ahead. There are ways to meaningfully challenge an employer’s policies. But a manifesto explaining to a substantial portion of your colleagues that they are underperforming because they were made that way – that has very little to do with meaningful discussion.

Let me be clear, you can say whatever you wish. I am a staunch believer in freedom of speech and the expression of opinions, even offensive ones. Fragility of mind when faced with opposing thought and shouting people down does not in any way advance our pressing democratic goals. And there is no crime in being stupid, but if you are an employee you are fireable. Mr. Damore should have thought of that, but perhaps his biological male assertiveness got in the way.

So I have a proposal for the James Damores of the world: why don’t you focus on your own biological inadequacies, and stop thinking about ours. After all, you know them best. He and his compatriots can feel free to write as many manifestos explaining male deficiencies, of which my feeling, female self – with aggressive male undertones – is convinced there are many. This exercise would consume both time and thousands of pages, but please, please leave my gender alone. We do not need you to explain what you perceive to be our limitations, thank you very much. We do not need to be told that we will fail and not lead because we are “more compassionate” or our brains are wired differently. We’ve got this. Focus on yourself. If only Mr. Damore had spent 8 of his 10 pages setting out the flaws in his personality, he probably would still have a job. The only inferiority that Mr. Damore definitively demonstrated is his own.

Finally, a word of advice: Girls, do not bother to read the manifesto. It isn’t worth your time. Read about Marie Curie instead who said: “We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”

She was a scientist, by the way. Mr. Damore didn’t mention her.

Source: To the James Damores of the world: Focus on your own flaws – The Globe and Mail

How Tech Companies Lose Women During the Hiring Process – The New York Times

Some good suggestions on how to walk the talk on diversity in the recruitment process:

When my company is approached to help diversify some of America’s most gender-unbalanced tech teams, here’s how it usually goes in the introductory meeting: A well-meaning executive boasts that his company has been financially supporting a number of nonprofit coding organizations that aim to train female engineers. He tells us he’ll have a booth at the Grace Hopper conference, the largest annual gathering of women in tech. He complains about how hard it is to “move the needle” on diversity numbers, especially when a staff is in the thousands.

But what the executives don’t give as much thought to are some of the simplest determinants of how successful a company will be in hiring diverse candidates. Will women have any input in the hiring process? Will the interview panels be diverse? Will current female employees be available to speak to candidates about their experiences? Many times, the answer to each of these questions is no, and the resistance to make simple changes in these areas is striking.

My colleagues and I often see companies work to make themselves appealing to candidates by emphasizing perks like Ping-Pong tables, retreats and policies that let employees bring their dogs to work. Those things can be appealing to candidates of any gender. But one size doesn’t fit all: We have to tell these companies to talk just as proudly about their parental-leave policies, child-care programs and breast-pumping rooms. At the very least, they need to communicate that their workplaces have cultures where women are valued. They need to show they’re not places where attitudes like that of the now-infamous Google engineer who wrote a memo questioning women’s fitness for tech jobs dominate.

At first, the executives balk at my suggestions and even wonder if explicitly talking about the place of women is sexist. But I remind them that when it comes to gender, they have to play catch-up, after long histories of eroding trust by grilling women about how they’ll be able to do the job with children at home and years of negative stories in the press with tales of how women are mistreated at tech companies. Candidates rightfully want assurances about whether the companies have improved — or whether they even care. Treating everyone the same won’t accomplish that.

Silicon Valley companies are in love with themselves and don’t understand why the love isn’t always returned by the few women to whom they extend employment offers. That’s why they’re so proud of so-called boomerangs — candidates who have left a company for reasons that may or may not be related to how it treats women and, after advancing their careers elsewhere, return. Executives hope these employees will add to their diversity numbers and provide evidence that the company has evolved. But even potential boomerangs are looking for hiring-process hints that they’ll be able to thrive. They want to know, what policies have changed for us? Is the environment more inclusive? Can I have a family without compromising my career? When tech firms in Silicon Valley and beyond decide to proactively answer those questions as part of their regular processes, they have a chance to successfully recruit and hire more women.

I’m often asked which companies are getting diversity and inclusion right in Silicon Valley and across the country. Most aren’t. But some are seeing small successes. Last year, we worked with a company that set a goal that women would make up 50 percent of the engineers on one of its teams. They did it by holding a webinar led by female employees, with 100 female candidates who asked questions about how the organization was changing to become more inclusive to women. They asked recruiters to follow up with the candidates to offer fuller responses and address other concerns. The company realized it needed to take extra time to convince women that it truly valued them.

It worked. The women hired through that effort are all still at the company. Now we’re working with it to bring in even more female engineers. When the next round of candidates show up for interviews, this is one place in tech that will have a story about an inclusive culture that it’s proud to tell.

We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo. – Recode

Of all the commentary written about Google’s firing of James Damore, this long read and assessment of the science and evidence appears to me the most comprehensive and convincing one given the range of studies cited.

Most of the op-ed type commentaries – Jon Kay’s The Google Manifesto contained truths that we can’t say, Debra Soh’s No, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science, David Brooks’ somewhat hysterical Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O. – tend to be overly simplistic and selective in their presentation of the issues involved.

I am also less than convinced by free speech arguments, perhaps reflecting my time in government where it was clear that any public comment should not undermine, or appear to undermine, the government. While the rules may not be so ironclad in other organizations, employees in all organizations need to be mindful of the impact of their public commentary on the overall reputation, image and policies of their employer.

For the account of the Google board deliberations, see How CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision to fire James Damore was just as hard as Google’s all-hands meeting today will be which highlights the superficialiity of Brook’s piece in particular:

James Damore, 28, questioned the company’s diversity policies and claimed that scientific data backed up his assertions. Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote that Damore’s 3,300-word manifesto crossed the line by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” in the workplace. Pichai noted that “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

Damore argued that many men in the company agreed with his sentiments. That’s not surprising, since the idea that women just can’t hack it in math and science has been around for a very long time. It has been argued that women’s lack of a “math gene,” their brain structures, and their inherent psychological traits put most of them out of the game.

Some critics sided with Damore. For example, columnist Ross Douthat of The New York Times found his scientific arguments intriguing.

But are they? What are the real facts? We have been researching issues of gender and STEM (science, technology engineering and math) for more than 25 years. We can say flatly that there is no evidence that women’s biology makes them incapable of performing at the highest levels in any STEM fields.

Many reputable scientific authorities have weighed in on this question, including a major paper in the journal Science debunking the idea that the brains of males and females are so different that they should be educated in single-sex classrooms. The paper was written by eight prominent neuroscientists, headed by professor Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College, past president of the American Psychological Association. They argue that “There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.”

They add, “Neuroscientists have found few sex differences in children’s brains beyond the larger volume of boys’ brains and the earlier completion of girls’ brain growth, neither of which is known to relate to learning.”

Several major books have debunked the idea of important brain differences between the sexes. Lise Eliot, associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, did an exhaustive review of the scientific literature on human brains from birth to adolescence. She concluded, in her book, “Pink Brain, Blue Brain,” that there is “surprisingly little solid evidence of sex differences in children’s brains.”

Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist and professor at Barnard College, also rejects the notion that there are pink and blue brains, and that the differing organization of female and male brains is the key to behavior. In her book “Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences,” she says that this narrative misunderstands the complexities of biology and the dynamic nature of brain development.

And happily, the widely held belief that boys are naturally better than girls at math and science is unraveling among serious scientists. Evidence is mounting that girls are every bit as competent as boys in these areas. Psychology professor Janet Hyde of the University of Wisconsin–Madison has strong U. S. data showing no meaningful differences in math performance among more than seven million boys and girls in grades 2 through 12.

Also, several large-scale international testing programs find girls closing the gender gap in math, and in some cases outscoring the boys. Clearly, this huge improvement over a fairly short time period argues against biological explanations.

Much of the data that Damore provides in his memo is suspect, outdated or has other problems.

In his July memo, titled, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber: How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion,” Damore wrote that women on average have more “openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas.” And he stated that women are more inclined to have an interest in “people rather than things, relative to men.”

Damore cites the work of Simon Baron-Cohen, who argues in his widely reviewed book “The Essential Difference” that boys are biologically programmed to focus on objects, predisposing them to math and understanding systems, while girls are programmed to focus on people and feelings. The British psychologist claims that the male brain is the “systematizing brain” while the female brain is the “empathizing” brain.

This idea was based on a study of day-old babies, which found that the boys looked at mobiles longer and the girls looked at faces longer. Male brains, Baron-Cohen says, are ideally suited for leadership and power. They are hardwired for mastery of hunting and tracking, trading, achieving and maintaining power, gaining expertise, tolerating solitude, using aggression and taking on leadership roles.

The female brain, on he other hand, is specialized for making friends, mothering, gossip and “reading” a partner. Girls and women are so focused on others, he says, that they have little interest in figuring out how the world works.

But Baron-Cohen’s study had major problems. It was an “outlier” study. No one else has replicated these findings, including Baron-Cohen himself. It is so flawed as to be almost meaningless. Why?

The experiment lacked crucial controls against experimenter bias, and was badly designed. Female and male infants were propped up in a parent’s lap and shown, side by side, an active person or an inanimate object. Since newborns can’t hold their heads up independently, their visual preferences could well have been determined by the way their parents held them.

Source: We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo. – Recode

Tech leaders must stop treating humanity like computer code: Navneet Alang

Good commentary on the broader issues related to the tech industry culture:

The science in question, such as it is, is something better left to experts to debate. But there are nonetheless reasonable questions laypeople can ask. Among them: Even if one were to take the extreme position that genetics neatly determines behaviour, how might the ancient arrangement of nucleic acids so neatly line up with results in a field barely 50 years old – particularly since, early on when it was considered a menial task, computer programming was a field dominated by women?

More to the point, to argue that engineering or coding are simply mechanical or an abstract set of mathematics or logic misses the aim of the field. Software is made for people, to help them accomplish tasks, connect with one another, or filter through massive amounts of information in intelligent ways.

Those goals require a complex set of skills that cannot be reduced to mere coding, but require an understanding of sociology, psychology and no small amount of empathy. Putting aside the dubious assertion that we are hard-wired by gender to favour one of these skills over the other, to argue that engineering or coding should be left to those with the most abstract skill is akin to saying structural engineers should design buildings or that mechanical engineers should market cars. The creation of code and software is ultimately holistic, relying on a broad range of traits that cannot and should not be reduced to one dimension – particularly tired, gendered stereotypes.

But despite this obvious fact, the manifesto does ring true in one way: It represents the tech world’s too-common, incredibly reductive view of humanity that tries to think of humans are just like computer code itself, a complex, but predetermined series of input and output.

This view itself leads to a blind faith in a hyper-rational world dictated by metrics, competitive bro culture and faux notions of meritocracy. It’s reflected in so much in the tech world: in Facebook’s belated concerns about privacy, or their impact on political polarization; in Twitter’s arguably too-late focus on abuse and harassment, in part brought on by prioritizing resources for advertising over the standards team; or Uber’s unending troubles with sexual harassment, driver exploitation or its constant flouting of the law. In each, it was unwillingness to think about the complexity of human reaction in favour of an algorithmic or mechanistic understanding that caused the problem.

It’s a deeply naive view, one that runs roughshod over humanity when a handful of companies on the U.S. West Coast are given enormous power. In trying to create something new, they have simply repeated the past, carrying along beliefs in neutral meritocracy, the capacity of humans to power through all problems with brawn and that we are predestined to be who we are.

That is not the truth of what it means to be alive and we cannot let the tech world insist that it is. If you want a manifesto to line up behind, let it be that.

Source: Tech leaders must stop treating humanity like computer code – The Globe and Mail

ICYMI: Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours. – The New York Times


Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records.

At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League – Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown – more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent.

38 colleges had more students from the top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent

1. Washington University in St. Louis 21.7 6.1
2. Colorado College 24.2 10.5
3. Washington and Lee University 19.1 8.4
4. Colby College 20.4 11.1
5. Trinity College (Conn.) 26.2 14.3
6. Bucknell University 20.4 12.2
7. Colgate University 22.6 13.6
8. Kenyon College 19.8 12.2
9. Middlebury College 22.8 14.2
10. Tufts University 18.6 11.8
These estimates are for the 1991 cohort (approximately the class of 2013). Rankings are shown for colleges with at least 200 students in this cohort, sorted here by the ratio between the two income groups.

Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college – universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings (you can find more on our definition of “elite” at the bottom).

In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all.

Where today’s 25-year-olds went to college, grouped by their parents’ income

About four in 10 students from the top 0.1 percent attend an Ivy League or elite university, roughly equivalent to the share of students from poor families who attend any two- or four-year college.

Colleges often promote their role in helping poorer students rise in life, and their commitments to affordability. But some elite colleges have focused more on being affordable to low-income families than on expanding access. “Free tuition only helps if you can get in,” said Danny Yagan, an assistant professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study.

The study – by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner and Mr. Yagan – provides the most comprehensive look at how well or how poorly colleges have built an economically diverse student body. The researchers tracked about 30 million students born between 1980 and 1991, linking anonymized tax returns to attendance records from nearly every college in the country.

We’re offering detailed information on each of more than 2,000 American colleges on separate pages. See how your college compares – by clicking any college name like Harvard, U.C.L.A., Penn State, Texas A&M or Northern Virginia Community College – or search for schools that interest you.

At elite colleges, the share of students from the bottom 40 percent has remained mostly flat for a decade. Access to top colleges has not changed much, at least when measured in quintiles. (The poor have gotten poorer over that time, and the very rich have gotten richer.)