Cynthia Lee is a lecturer in the computer science department at Stanford. She founded peerinstruction4cs.org to support educators in flipping their computer science classrooms using peer instruction. She has a PhD in high-performance computing.
In my view, Cynthia Lee is an authority in the field delved into by James Damore, First because she is a Woman, obviously, Second because she is in the Industry and third because she lectures people of both sexes that would go on to be players in the industry and any of her product could either be holding the same view as James Damore or be at the receiving end of the impact of the view.
In an article VOX for , she presented an analysis of what she thinks about the Ex-google engineer memo, why it is not a random memo, but a calculated one aimed at building a case for the institutionalisation of limit on women in the Tech industry and perhaps in the wider employment space.
Cynthia broke her analysis of the memo down into 5 key areas: Women’s experience in Tech, The concept of “divide and conquer”, the author’s use of wrong scientific argument in the context of women in Tech and at Google in particular, the use of race and the author’s lip service to diversity.
ON THE EXPERIENCE OF SCEPTICISM:
According to Cynthia, there is an endless scepticism and questioning of the legitimacy of female tech by male colleagues, which inevitably result in fatigue and exhaustion. The need to make your colleague look beyond your gender as a limiting factor to your ability to perform a specific task. The experience of women in Tech is that the jury is permanently out, as you need to continually prove that you belong to an industry you are already an expert and able to perform at the same level as the male colleagues, without your shortcomings been linked to your gender.
THE USE OF WRONG SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE:
Cynthia surmised James Damore either deliberately or naively used wrong evidence to advance a case in google. Google employs less than 1% of applicants, and according to James Damore himself in his original memo, Google recruit the best minds from the best institution, therefore, the female cohort that makes up Google’s member of staffs are not of average intelligence, and so using a scientific evidence derived from the studies that used “average women” is not representative of an average female Google employee, the group he referred to in his memo. It would have been more comparable if the evidence provided by James Damore were derived from the studies that used women of higher intelligence, the types of Google employees.
INCLUSION OF RACE IN HIS MEMO:
According to Cynthia, the inclusion of Race and its use alongside gender and the lack of scientific evidence is particularly disturbing. An article written to spark a scientific debate on biological differences between men and women but somehow include a race issue, but did not provide empirical evidence on race has more to it than an invite to an open debate.
In James Damore original memo, he suggests there is the harm in Google’s biases in order to achieve a more equal gender and race representation by creating discriminatory practices that favour certain gender or race, which can effectively lower the bar for diversity candidate.
To my mind, what James is saying in this is that the entry bar is lowered for certain race, who would not have got in otherwise. This is, in fact, a suggestion of one race as being superior intellectually than other.
It is striking to me that the manifesto author repeatedly lists race alongside gender when listing programs and preferences he thinks should be done away with, but, unlike gender, he never purports to have any scientific backing for this. The omission is telling. Would defenders of the memo still be comfortable if the author had casually summarized race and IQ studies to argue that purported biological differences — not discrimination or unequal access to education — explained Google’s shortage of African-American programmers?. Cynthia Lee
ON THE DANGER OF JAMES DAMORE’S MEMO:
Cynthia believes James Damore was not simply listing various items of scientific news at random, for the reader’s information only. He was building a case for ending specific, real programs that affect very real people. If his proposals were adopted, it wouldn’t be some abstract concept of “average” that doesn’t get a scholarship, it would be an actual individual woman. It would be an actual female Googler who doesn’t get to attend the Grace Hopper Conference, which provides many women with their first experience of being in a majority-women tech conference space.
In conclusion, Cynthia thinks James Damore recommendation range from impotent, hopelessly vague and outright hostile.
Impotent because making tech and leadership stressful is not a target, the definition of stressful may vary and how this is going to be achieved was not clear. He in effect suggesting the current standard or leadership requirement is or will be too stressful for women?
Hopelessly vague because of his suggestion to allow those “exhibiting cooperative behaviour to thrive” and his submission of de-emphasizing empathy is considered as outright hostile by the well learned Stanford lecturer.
So, there you have it, a summary of a well-articulated response to James Damore. The debate is on and the jury is out.