Thursday, August 17, 2017

The World is Not for Me

I wanted to address diversity after the Google memo controversy but that shouldn't come from an old white man. I asked my daughter Molly, a college student trying to set her course, to give her thoughts.

The world is not for me. It never has been, and it never will be. This truth is bleak, but unavoidable. The world does not belong to women.

The possibilities for my life are not endless. The achievements in my sight are not mine to take. If I want them, I have to fight harder, prove more about myself, please people more, defy more first impressions. I’ll have to be smarter, stronger, more patient and more assertive. Every expectation of me has a mirror opposite, fracturing my success into a thing of paradoxes. I know this, and I’ve always known it, to some extent. As I get older, the more I learn and the more I educate myself, the more words I have to describe it.

So you’ll forgive me for not being surprised that sexism exists, especially in such male-dominated fields as technology and computing. You’ll forgive me for calling it out by name, and trying to point it out to those I care about. You’ll forgive me for being scared of tech jobs, so built by and for white men and controlled by them that the likelihood of a woman making a difference is almost none. And you’ll forgive me for trying to speak my mind and demand what I deserve, instead of living up to the natural state of my more “agreeable” gender.

I know this disparity is temporary. I know these fields could not have come nearly as far as they have come without the contributions of many extraordinary women who worked hard to push us into the future. I know that other fields that once believed women were simply incapable of participating are now thriving in the leadership of the very women who defied those odds. And I know, with all of my being, that the world moves forward, whether or not individuals choose to accept it.

I’m so fortunate to live the life I do, and to have the opportunities I have. This is not lost on me. But neither is the understanding that this world was not built for me, and still won’t have been built for me even when the tech world is ruled by the intelligent women who should already be in charge of it. The existence of people who believe genders to be inherently different will always exist, always perpetuate the system that attaches lead weights to my limbs, padlocks to my mouth.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll give up. It’s what women do, because it’s what we have to do, every day of our lives: we defy the odds. We overcome. The future includes us in it, as it always has, and it’s because of the women who didn’t give up. And I’ll be proud to say I was one of them.


  1. I'm a woman in tech and this is pathetic. Please grow up.

    1. I think one should not be too harsh when judging someone who is used to feedback from literature teachers instead of trolls like us...

    2. I think that offending anonymously is much more pathetic.

    3. Anonymous: not only is your behavior rude beyond belief, if you have a point to make -- that is a disagreement with the content -- I can tell you that you haven't made it. The only points you've made are that you have an unpleasant personality and are incapable of expressing disagreement by providing an actual argument.

      While this writing is more of a personal essay than an argument, parts of it speak to me. To focus on one, as a father of daughters I have seen that girls are regularly (and often I think systematically) underestimated in academics starting at a young age, particularly in STEM subjects. It has been an eye-opening experience.

    4. Ok I apologize for this post, it was rude as others have said. Feel free to remove if you wish.

  2. "The existence of people who believe genders to be inherently different will always exist"

    Yes, these people are called scientists, and there is ample evidence for differences between the sexes, including differences in behaviour and preferences. It is called sexual dimorphism and is present across the animal kingdom.

  3. I don't concur with the Google memo, but it would have been more productive to write a post delineating the parts with which you disagree. A post where you highlight the logical fallacies in that memo would be a much better use of everyone's time than this self-righteous narrative.

  4. I thought the post was a heartfelt reflection on Molly's experiences. It was an essay, not a rebuttal of the Google memo. To judge it as the latter is to miss the point.

    Like Michael, I am the father of girls who--so far--love science, math and engineering, and whose interest in those subjects is at best a surprise to others (and at worst a source of derision). I can hope that they will have a different impression of the field from Molly's when they hit college in the next decade, but I am not optimistic.

  5. I echo Adam -- Anonymous 5:21 missed the point. There's plenty of other places they can go for a rebuttal of the memo. I admit I found the Economist's take a good start.

    As an aside, can we stop referring to it as the "Google memo". Google as a company seems to not want to be associated with it. I've been trying to call it the Damore memo.

  6. The world is not for us. It's for those who play with us just like a game. We are pawns and others of controls!

  7. I think the perception itself that tech is not a nice place for women is counterproductive. Let me name a few women leaders in tech: CEO of Yahoo, Facebook, CFO of Google, head of YouTube, head of Google's cloud (tens of thousands of engineers report to her), and I can go on.

    I think people who are not really working at tech do not understand how far we have come. There is a disparity and we need more to do but dismissing how far we have come is counterproductive. The internal company data I have seen shows that women are actually paid higher salaries to their peers on average in some big tech companies. Women with technical background are present at all levels from CEO to VP to directors to senior engineers to junior engineers and those in leadership positions have got there over a tech career that span over a decade. So while admitting that there are still problems let's not act as if tech is hostile to women or that the only reason there is not equal representation is sexism. The are personal preferences, there are pipeline problems, there are cultural perspectives that prevent women from chosing tech, there are structural issue that hinder the women's sense of belonging to tech, ... and these contribute way more to problems than closet sexists who are in absolute minority at least in big companies like Google.

  8. "...even when the tech world is ruled by the intelligent women who should already be in charge of it"?

    This seems like an odd sentiment. I feel like it likely does not reflect precisely what you intended for it to convey. At least I hope.

  9. congrats on your 15 yr blog anniversary. 6M hits is outstanding, you guys have earned it. its great your daughter(s) are willing to blog, and theyre just as eloquent as their dad. or maybe more so. wink.
    more on the google diversity firestorm, lots of links, some reaction etc