Why Google Were Right To Sack Sexist Employee

FacebooktwitterpinteresttumblrFacebooktwitterpinteresttumblr

After the debacle of the leaked Google memo on diversity the individual responsible for sharing his somewhat sexist views to the rest of his company has now been dismissed. But the gender debate lingers on in his wake and continues to encourage people to discuss the issue of gender based abilities and predispositions.

In a nutshell our hapless Google employee made the suggestion 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.”

It has been the natural reaction of many to express anger at these words and the view they put forward but it is important to understand why the Google employee was wrong and why Google did the right thing in terminating his employment.

The primary concern I have is that the employee was trying to use a stereotype to promote an argument. Stereotypes are problematic. They are a generalisation which means they are not safe to rely upon as evidence. You could for example tell me that men are stronger than women but if you did I would immediately go and find you ten women who can throw a shot put a decent distance and ten men who can barely lift a coffee cup. The generalisation achieves nothing but to create a false expectation of the sexes which can then be used as a foundation for targeted discrimination.

Gender generalisation may play a part in sociological theory but when taken into the workplace it opens the door to discriminating against anybody who does not conform to the rigidly defined behaviour of gender stereotypes.

When we allow this kind of blinkered thinking to enter the workplace it actually turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fewer women are recruited into a given industry because of a false belief that said industry is a skill set better suited to men therefore fewer women apply. Fewer women undertake the education paths relevant to that industry which leads to the industry slowly becoming more and more male dominated. The erroneous assumption is then made that men enter the field because they are better suited to it – and so the vicious circle continues. The net result is that the industry is disadvantaged because of a much reduced talent pool, albeit an artificially constructed disadvantage which is, ironically, entirely of their own making.

Stereotyping is also dangerous because it reduces individuals to be no more than a product of type. This is essentially why sexism (and racism) are so offensive. It is the implication that an individual is not a unique being but a sum of the parts of what it is to be a woman/man/white person/person of colour etc. It denies the right of a person to be taken on their own merits.

The Google employee based his argument on the biological differences between men and women which is a limited view as it fails to take into account the ‘nurture’ aspects of personal development. Women have been conditioned throughout history to accept a subordinate role to men. This may be anathema to a progressive modern society but we need to remember that it was actually less than 100 years ago when women gained the right to vote in the UK. The weight of oppression still lies heavily on the shoulders of many and it is unsurprising that gender based social expectations still play a part in directing the educational and career aspirations of women. If there are more men than women in technology this cannot be blithely attributed to biology with no consideration for the social environment and the role it has played in shaping attitudes and expectations.

The leaked Google memo was anachronistic in the sense that it only recognised two genders. This polarisation leads to further discrimination – discrimination toward the transgender community, the non binary community and to any individual who does not wish to pigeon hole themselves into a single gender. We live in supposedly enlightened times where gender is (hopefully) becoming acknowledged as more complex than the mere possession of a penis or vagina. The rigid delineation expressed in the Google memo does not acknowledge this evolution of thought and regresses us back to the narrow definitions that no longer serve our society well.

It is important to remember why we hold the principle of diversity as aspirational in a progressive society. Diversity is not about being politically correct. Diversity is needed because it is a rational principle that works best for a society.  It promotes a genuine meritocracy where the best people for the job are hired to do the job. When we start to discriminate based on race, gender, faith etc. we effectively disadvantage ourselves and our own progress as a society. Objecting to diversity could not be a more irrational position to take.
Yes, Google sacked their sexist employee because he was offensively patronising and gained the company much unneeded negative publicity. But they also sacked him because, as any global corporation knows, the best way to grow and succeed is to recruit high calibre candidates. Anybody discouraging a whopping 50% of the potential Google talent pool is effectively wrecking corporate growth and future profits. It is hardly surprising they unceremoniously kicked his backside off the Google premises.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
FacebooktwittertumblrflickrFacebooktwittertumblrflickr

Hate Beyond The “Isms”

FacebooktwitterpinteresttumblrFacebooktwitterpinteresttumblr

Most of the issues that come the way of our anti hate group Resisting Hate can be broken down into one of four key areas – Anti Semitism, Islamophobia, Homophobia and Racism. Hate trends come and go but fighting these key areas forms the basis of the majority of the work that we do.

However it is easy to lose sight of the fact that in our post Brexit, post Donald Trump world, religion, race and sexuality are not the only sticks being used to beat members of our society with. We are starting to see condemnation and abuse directed at a wide range of people who do not fit the emerging conservative stereotype relating to what is fast becoming considered “normal”.

I came across this personally the other week when it was suggested by a far right detractor that the fact I practise Paganism would lessen the credibility for our group because it is a “crackpot, made up, New Age practice”. Leaving aside the fact that Paganism in some form or another predates all the world religions it was a comment that surprised me as it suggested my ability to discern and tackle hate was somehow impeded by the fact that I believe in and work with elements that differ to those of the predominant faiths in the country. The criticism was clear – my belief set is different so I must be wrong, stupid or mentally impaired.

Discrimination against lifestyle choices is causing a lot of trouble for people who wish to actualise their individuality. Only last week in America  a top Trump health care appointee wrote about a supposed link between tattoos and drug addiction. Also in America this week, amidst much student outcry, a school decided to “slut shame” its female students by issuing a flier as to what nature of prom garment would and would not be considered admissible attire for the school prom night.  These examples are clearly legitimising the concept that it is ok to judge people by their appearance. All those years of telling our children to look at the book not the cover appear to have been wasted as it is apparently now perfectly acceptable to make a snap shot judgement of a person based solely on their physical appearance.

Physical appearance, especially in the form of body/fat shaming, is one of the most problematic growing forms of hate on the internet with a concern that it may be a contributing factor in both young men and women developing eating disorders.  Social media sites have made it easy to comment anonymously on the appearance of others and I have personally seen images with (literally) hundreds of derogatory comments all aiming to undermine the confidence and self-esteem of the individual posting their picture.

Sexism too is on the increase. The pussy grabbing US President has established a new low in the attitude to women in society. It is now common place to see memes on Twitter promoting a return to “old fashioned values” when the woman ran the home, raised the children and played no part in the workplace. These regressive attitudes are in danger of undoing the equality that women have fought for and, if we are not careful, will lead us back to a world where women are objectified and seen as inferior to their male counterparts.

The left wing have come in for a particularly rough ride recently (and I definitely speak from experience on this one). Progressives, Liberals and “Lefties” have been attacked with venom on every social media platform. It is perhaps for those they see as the greatest threat to their conservative dystopia that the far right reserve the greater part of their vitriol. Our group receive hate mail on a daily basis simply for speaking out about defying hate. The death threats some of the Antifascist groups receive are unprintable.

Many social prejudices are against a choice made by an individual but I have recently observed two hate trends that particularly churn my stomach, all the more repellent for the fact they are discriminating against something over which the individual has no control.

The first is Trans hatred. The Independent reported in 2016 that Trans related crime has increased by 170%. This may well be attributable to the obsession the media has with who uses what bathroom but is more likely due to the ignorant belief that people undergo gender reassignment surgery as a lifestyle preference.  Education explaining that gender surgery takes place to correct an individual’s body to match their true gender would combat a lot of this hate but, as is too often the way with ignorance, it is the wrong facts getting posted time and time again on the internet.

I am equally appalled at the upsurge in violence and abuse toward homeless people. Few things scream scumbag more than the people who find it funny to abuse others simply for a downturn in their personal circumstances. Seeing regular reports of homeless people tormented is sickening and a sad indictment on humanity in 2017.

The resurgence of hate may look like we have a bleak future but it is not all bad news.  Hate crime laws have been changing for some years now to keep up with the imaginative new ways human beings keep finding to discriminate against each other. In 2013 it became a hate crime to discriminate against individuals identifying with different musical sub cultures (including goths after the horrific murder of Sophie Lancaster)  and this month in North Yorkshire misogyny has been reclassified as a hate crime. There are also calls for acts of abuse against the homeless to be reclassified as hate crime and prosecutions for people committing acts of violence toward people with disabilities are up 40% which the CPS confirm is indicative of the fact that hate toward those with disabilities “will not be ignored.”

As our laws evolve to reflect the general public disgust with those who discriminate against and abuse others they will act as a deterrence for haters which will protect further abuses taking place. But the best way to eradicate hate is to educate our next generation. Parents and Teachers – your role in this will be invaluable. Teach our children that kindness, not hate, must form the backbone of the world we want to live in.

 

 

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK
FacebooktwittertumblrflickrFacebooktwittertumblrflickr