White men, studies have shown, do not like diversity policies. White men feel threatened by attempts to nurture diverse and inclusive workforces, so companies create special diversity-education seminars tailored to the unique, valid needs of white men, gently coaxing them from their knee-jerk hostilities. White men, as it happens, are also the only people who don’t suffer negative consequences in the workplace for promoting diversity.
But one guy at Google took his objections to programs and policies built to advance women and people of color a few steps further than a run-of-the-mill diversity skeptic: He circulated a 10-page manifesto to fellow Google employees explaining why diversity efforts are discriminatory to men and why women are biologically unsuited to tech careers and leadership roles. Motherboard reported the existence of the document on Saturday morning; Gizmodo published the whole thing later that afternoon.
The memo makes it plain that the author has spent far more free time researching biological sex differences than any healthy adult male should. Women have inborn tendencies toward neuroticism, he writes, which may explain why women report higher levels of anxiety at Google, and they have “a harder time … speaking up and leading.” The document reeks of misplaced frustration, of a man who started with a scapegoat and a stereotype, then sought out legitimate-sounding “evidence” to prove himself right. He diminishes the mental and emotional impact of microaggressions, then complains that Google employees suffer from a lack of “psychological safety” because they’re scared to air their doubts about diversity programs.
No respectable reader will trust the gender critiques of a man who is so incensed by company efforts to advance women in tech roles that he sinks hours of his own time into explaining why lady brains cannot execute the technical, high-pressure roles occupied by men at Google. But there is a sizable built-in audience for this kind of lament for the days when men were men and women just didn’t want to do man jobs. That audience is the men’s rights movement.
The document’s arguments owe a great deal to men’s rights activists, who have maintained for years that programs devised to advance women are hurting men, the real victims. “The same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths,” the Google author writes in his manifesto. MRAs tirelessly employ this factoid in documentaries and Reddit threads to argue that men shoulder the world’s toughest burdens while women reap the rewards. The “death and injury gap” is a handy distraction tool, a foil MRAs like to present when the gender wage gap comes up in discussion, as if one gender disparity cancels out the other.
The Google guy also complains about “exclusory programs” that allow women and people of underrepresented racial groups to share skills and experiences. These constitute “discriminatory practices,” he writes, and leave “swaths of men without support.” Women-only networking groups have been some of the most visible targets of lawsuits from MRAs, who claim that such organizations are engaging in “reverse sexism.” One attorney, the secretary of an MRA haven called the National Coalition for Men, has won hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements after filing sex-discrimination suits against companies that do things like give away free baseball hats on Mother’s Day and let women into bars without paying cover on ladies’ night. He also recently got a settlement from a group called Chic CEO, a small business founded to help women become entrepreneurs, which held a women-only networking night in California. “Imagine the uproar by women business owners and entrepreneurs, feminists, and other equal rights advocates if a business consulting company in partnership with a business networking firm brazenly touted a no-women-allowed business networking event,” the attorney’s complaint argued, stating that “struggling single dads” and male “disabled combat veterans” deserve the same networking opportunities as women.
Of course, there’s a big difference between a struggling single dad (or the other “swaths of men” who earn the Google guy’s sympathy) and a struggling single mom: When the dad faces obstacles to success in his field, it won’t be because his bosses think men are too neurotic to hold leadership positions or his co-workers think men are biologically inferior at software development. Men don’t need gender-specific support in the tech industry because the industry—and, therefore, almost every general-interest industry support group—is already dominated by men. To agree with the MRAs and the Google anti-diversity man, you must believe that the world would be better off without programs to support women and other demographic groups that have been historically excluded from positions of corporate power. To believe that, you must start with the premise that human beings function without unwarranted biases, and thus gender gaps are almost entirely attributable to natural differences between men and women.
That is exactly what MRAs and the Google man believe. In his memo, the Google employee invokes evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology to explain why women don’t want or can’t get promotions into tech leadership positions. MRAs have manipulated the same fields of science to excuse rape as inbred behavior and argue that men are naturally wired to cheat on their girlfriends or dote on them in exchange for sex acts. “The movement’s use of evolutionary psychology convinced my rational mind that everything I read was a scientific fact suppressed by feminists,” one former MRA told the New Statesman earlier this year. Facile stereotypes and smears sound a lot less offensive when there’s an –ology word in the same sentence.
MRAs are undesirable company, for sure, but the Google guy’s memo aligns him with an even more despicable crowd: white supremacists. In the Google document, the author tosses in criticisms of programs that support people of “a certain race” and dismissals of calls for racial diversity. If programs designed to support women are bogus because women are naturally inclined to shun stressful jobs and analytical work, what’s wrong with programs designed to support people of color? The author doesn’t attempt to explain whatever evolutionary arguments undergird his opposition to racial diversity efforts, probably because there is a much smaller (though quite enthusiastic) audience for that kind of bunk. Blanket claims about why women aren’t born to lead are bound to go further, especially in an industry that rewards single-minded, self-promoting men.