Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A reflection on Women & Technology: James Damore's Google Manifiasco


It seems yet another Facebook post got the better of me (but not bested me), and my comments have manifestoed and manifestered into fodder for a blog post of sorts.

Wow! When I read Google engineer James Damore's Google manifesto argued that biological differences make women less apt to perform in the tech industry, I saw red. Biology has nothing to do with a lack of women in technology. Why it's a hot issue is because Danmore's so-called 'manifesto" advances patently incorrect assumptions about harmful gender stereotypes. 

I have several relatives who are/were forefront in the field of technology. A cousin, key mathematician on the Manhattan Project, an aunt who did programming for IBM back in the early 1960s, cousins who work/ed for Apple, Pixar, Dropbox, etc. I happen to fix (or rebuild) the computers, and problem-solve all the software issues in our household, and for family and friends too. Not my male partner.

So, I'm quite sure competent women in the technology field are not an anomaly, nor the only reason why they're in the industry is solely because of equality, or affirmative action, as Damore suggests in his ten-page Alt-rightish manifesto. Alas it's couched with a request to open up dialogue—after taking potshots at women in general. The reason for the low numbers of women in the technology workplace is about discrimination at the grassroots level.

And for the record, among the first to create a computer program, to create a compiler, and create object-oriented programming were women. (See my list below).

BTW, I'm taking some flack over on Facebook from a few men for daring to counter their perceived male enclave, and swim with their sharktank mentality. One asshat had the audacity to ask me to stop posting on my own FB thread, thinking that I couldn't possibly a) have read said manifesto, and b) didn't understand or comprehend what it said.

I object to Danmore's use of absurd clichéd gendered stereotypes to support his argument that enough women aren't in the technology field.Biology is not the reason why there are fewer women in the technology field. Discrimination is. 

KQED News, SF Gate, and Tech Insider paraphrased, but did not publish the memo, which you can read on Gizmodo, along with prefaces and an interesting epigram. What was more enlightening was a post from Yonatan Zunger, former senior Google employee: 
"So it seems that someone has seen fit to publish an internal manifesto about gender and our “ideological echo chamber.” I think it’s important that we make a couple of points clear.
(1) Despite speaking very authoritatively, the author does not appear to understand gender.
(2) Perhaps more interestingly, the author does not appear to understand engineering.
(3) And most seriously, the author does not appear to understand the consequences of what he wrote, either for others or himself.

It’s true that women are socialized to be better at paying attention to people’s emotional needs and so on — this is something that makes them better engineers, not worse ones. ...
And this is addressed specifically to the author of this manifesto.

What you just did was incredibly stupid and harmful. You just put out a manifesto inside the company arguing that some large fraction of your colleagues are at root not good enough to do their jobs, and that they’re only being kept in their jobs because of some political ideas.  Read the entire rebuttal at Medium.
ADDENDUM
(With much thanks to BizTech Insider's excellent article: Mothers of Technology: 10 Women Who Invented and Innovated in Tech)

Among the first to create a computer program, to create a compiler, and create object-oriented programming were women (in no particular order):
  • Ada Lovelace invented the world’s first computer algorithm. Lovelace was hired by Charles Babbage in 1843, to document his never-to-be-realized “computer,” the Analytical Engine, intended to count Bernoulli numbers. 
"Many persons who are not conversant with mathematical studies imagine that because the business of [Babbage’s Analytical Engine] is to give its results in numerical notation, the nature of its processes must consequently be arithmetical and numerical, rather than algebraical and analytical. This is an error. The engine can arrange and combine its numerical quantities exactly as if they were letters or any other general symbols; and in fact it might bring out its results in algebraical notation, were provisions made accordingly,” —Ada Lovelace
  • Dr. Erna Hoover invented a telephony switching computer program that kept phone lines functioning under stressful loads. Her 1971 patent for telephony technology was one of the first software patents ever issued. She developed on her idea while in the hospital after the birth of her second daughter. 
  • Common Business-Oriented Language, based on the FLOW-MATIC language, was invented by Grandma COBOL, Grace Hopper. Hopper was the first person to create a compiler for a programming language and one of the first programmers of the Mark I computer in 1949. The programmers of the ENIAC computer, were six women mathematicians; Marlyn Meltzer, Betty Holberton, Kathleen Antonelli, Ruth Teitelbaum, Jean Bartik, and Frances Spence. Adele Goldstine was one of the teachers and trainers of the six original programmers of the ENIAC computer in 1944. Hopper also popularized the term "debugging" from a moth fowling up the works. 
  • Adele Goldberg was one of seven programmers that developed Smalltalk in the 1970s, one of the first object-oriented programming languages, and the base of today's current graphic user interface. Smalltalk was utilized by Apple to launch Lisa in 1983, and Macintosh in 1984. Windows 1.0 was launched in 1985. 
  • IT trailblazer Barbara Liskov of MIT, inventied CLU, a programming language that was the foundation for object-oriented programming; Argus, a programming language, an extension of CLU, that supports distributed programs; and Thor, an object-oriented database system. Which led to the imvention of Mac OS X, Objective-C, Visual Basic.NET and Java. 
  • Another object-oriented language, Simula 67, was created by Kristen Nygaard and Ole-Johan Dahl of the Norwegian Computing Center in Oslo. 
  • In 1985 Radia Perlman developed Ethernet technology. Her Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) made it possible to build massive networks by creating an innovative mesh network of layer-2 bridges—by disabling the links not part of that tree. This had a significant impact on network switches, thus making Perlman the Mother of the Internet. She has done extensive and innovative research, in the field of encryption and networking. 
  • Mary Lou Jepsen co-founded and served as chief technology officer of MicroDisplay in 1995, and created the small display screen. She also headed the display division at Intel, until she co-founded One Laptop Per Child. She invented the X O, the lowest-power, and lowest cost green notebooks ever made. She is the the founder of Pixel Qi. 
  • Meg Whitman is President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. 
  • Then there's Marissa Mayer, Google’s first female engineer. Mayer, who stepped down as President and CEO of Yahoo! when it was sold to Verizon, was Google’s first female engineer. She led product management and engineering for Google Maps, Local Search, Google Earth, Street View and Latitude. Her user interface designs and product vision placed Google at the forefront as the leading web, mobile, and search engine company. 
“The number one most important thing we can do to increase the number of women in tech is to show a multiplicity of different role models," Mayer said in article for The Huffington Post. “The stereotype of that very complete and rigid picture of what being a computer scientist means really hurts people's understanding and ability to identify with the role and say, ‘Yes, this is something I can be in and want to be in.’”

Yeah, please mansplain to me again Mr. Danmore, or is it Mr. Want (I am entitled to) Damn More, why women don't belong in technology because of "biological differences." You got your 15 minutes of fame. The Alt-right is rolling out the Breitbart carpet.



SEE ALSO:
Women in Computing
Mothers of Technology: 10 Women Who Invented and Innovated in Tech
Google Fires Engineer Who Wrote Memo Questioning Women in Tech
Contra Grant On Exaggerated Differences

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