Jobs for the boys..?

admin, 30th August 2017

Ah, the Google Memo: how one employee’s views escalated into an infamous, international news topic.

In case you were under a rock last week, here’s the sitch… Google employee James Damore published a 10-page memo explaining that girls are less biologically suited to computing roles thanks to the science of human nature (say what?).

James reckons that evolution’s held us girls back from engineering jobs and, that “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,”.


Damore’s words blew the diversity dialogue wide open – and the timing was kinda ironic given that Google has just appointed its vice president for diversity and inclusion Danielle Brown (who has since criticised its content).

A much-debated point in the memo was that Google is a victim of its own liberal reputation; that the business would love to admit the prowess of males in engineering roles but can’t because of its ‘left-bias’.

In businesses in 2017, is that really something to be debated? Operating any contemporary business should fundamentally be inclusive and open to any capable employee, regardless of gender, race or creed.

But even beyond the basic, obvious ethical reasons above, it’s not like companies can even afford to be picky;  there’s a skills shortage in every area of digital that means all solid candidates should be considered.

But statistics in the US continue to show that this isn’t the case and that women are being overlooked and not represented on the tech stage; in the US for example, just 28% of girls are computer science graduates*.

And it looks like we’re going backwards; women in computing roles peaked in 1991 in the US, and the number’s been in steady decline since – with women across the pond making up just 25% of the computing workforce*. And let’s not even get started on the remuneration; US women’s’ salaries are on average 29% lower than their male counterparts* – and Google itself remains in a battle with the US Department of Labor over this for its own gender paygap**.

But in firing Damore just a couple of days after his memo was leaked, Google has taken a stand and shown that it genuinely does see offence and that its diversity claims have some weight, but the facts at Google and at most other major corporations in the Western world remain; women are underrepresented and underpaid.

Looking at our own market in the UK, just 20% of girls choose to study computer science at GCSE level and just 16% at degree level; a study by Microsoft found that at the age of 15, girls’ interest in tech wanes****.

Conversely, stats from the Eastern hemisphere paint a different picture. While women there are still underrepresented they still do more in tech than the Western world; 41% of the scientific research community in Russia are women^ – much higher than the 29% average worldwide. In the Middle East and North Africa, 23% of internet entrepreneurs are female – double the worldwide average of 10%^^. And this against a cultural and societal backdrop that’s broadly perceived as patriarchal.

Even so, the numbers still have to change. As strategic talent advisors, it’s our job to help businesses bring more Sandbergs, Wojcickis and Whitmans to the fore.

It’s our job to help them look beyond the delineations that come with gender, race and ethnicity – and instead focus on expanding a company’s talent by simply attracting great people.


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Mountain View, CA, USA - April 14, 2013: Google bikes for employee transportation inside Googleplex.
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