One Tech Moms Thoughts On the Google Manifestbro

Hi all! Did you miss me? Chief Mom Officer was on hiatus for a bit there while I attended a technical conference in Florida. Between talking to my family, the conference, and work, I just flat out ran out of time. Then there were some travel nightmares that lead to me needing an excessive amount of sleep the last few days. But now I’m back, and raring to go with a post about the Google Manifestbro by he-who-must-not-be-named. I shall code-name him Voldemort from this point forth so I don’t contribute to his 15 minutes of fame.

What does this have to do with personal finance, you might ask? It’s simple – the more you can earn, the faster you can achieve financial freedom. There are many high-earning careers, and the highest earning usually involve medicine, technology, and finance. These fields are dominated by men, with women making up a very small percentage of the fields. Check out this Business Insider list of the 25 top paying careers for more (or the original list on Glassdoor).

Eleven of the 25 highest paying careers in 2017 are in technology:

  • 6 – Enterprise Architect
  • 8 – Application Development Manager
  • 11 – Software Engineering Manager
  • 12 – IT Architect
  • 13 – Software Architect
  • 15 – Solutions Architect
  • 16 – Data Architect
  • 18 – IT Program Manager (CMO is here!!! Woot woot)
  • 19 – UX Manager
  • 20 – Systems Architect
  • 22 – Scrummaster

According to Women and Information Technology, only 26 percent of professional computing occupations are held by women. This means that about 3/4 of the field is men. I can personally attest to this, as many of the meetings I go to have only men attending, or at a minimum the majority of folks are men. Most of my team is composed of men. Also, my entire reporting chain – straight up to the CEO – are all men. Now they’re perfectly nice men, and I like working with them, but I certainly also notice the gender disparity. And the disparity doesn’t end there – women in tech are also paid less then men.

You may have noticed that many of the men in the FIRE movement are part of high – paying careers on that list, including many in technology. So why don’t we see more women in tech? Well, someone at Google had a theory.

Wait, What Happened At Google?

In case you didn’t see the news, there was an engineer at Google who decided to write a 10 page long manifesto (and post it to the companies internal intranet) with some critiques about the companies diversity efforts. Now, we all know that the best way to affect thoughtful change at a large corporation is to write a very long critical memo and post it to the companies internal internet site.

Oh wait, no. That’s actually the best way to get fired.

But Voldemort didn’t stop at a thoughtful critique about how he and other folks who might have a more conservative mindset didn’t feel welcome at a more liberal company. No, he decided to write about how women were biologically unsuited for the field of technology, and Google’s diversity efforts (specifically, their efforts to recruit more women) were going to hurt the company. Because, of course, since women were biologically inferior when it comes to technology, recruiting more of them would be harmful. A direct quote:

“I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women may differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t have equal representation of women in tech and leadership,”

Protip – It’s not really a good idea to post these kinds of things in your companies website.

You can read more about his pseudo-scientific discussions, and rebuttals, in this Wired article.

Interestingly, after this “brilliant” guy got fired and started his media tour complaining about how he was unfairly maligned for trying to start a conversation about diversity, there was more than one person who backed him up. It seems that not only are there people out there who agree with this point of view, but they also feel that women should really just stay quiet when someone wants to discuss their biological inferiority for certain careers. And those people like to post on Twitter, which you should apparently not read if you’re a woman in tech who doesn’t want to be made angry while you’re at a conference. There are apparently lots of people who felt that this firing was unfair, that Voldemort had a point, and that Google should have let him discuss that in the company without firing him.

P.S. Shout out to Jez Humble  for addressing this subject at the Agile 2017 conference

We’ve Heard This Before

The argument about women being biologically inferior to men, and that preventing women from accomplishing as much, has very old origins. For instance, did you know that if a woman runs a marathon, her uterus might fall out? Katherine Switzer, also known as K Switzer and the first woman to run the Boston marathon, heard that from her high school basketball coach. As a doctor once said:  “violent movements of the body can cause a shift in the position and a loosening of the uterus as well as prolapse and bleeding, with resulting sterility, thus defeating a woman’s true purpose in life, i.e., the bringing forth of strong children.” Too bad for us, I guess.

Or did you know that Darwin thought women were biologically inferior to men? To quote from the article. in summary, Darwin concludes that men attain,

. . . a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can women—whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands. If two lists were made of the most eminent men and women in poetry, painting, sculpture, music (inclusive of both composition and performance), history, science, and philosophy, with half-a-dozen names under each subject, the two lists would not bear comparison. We may also infer, from the law of the deviation from averages, so well illustrated by Mr. Galton, in his work on “Hereditary Genius” that . . . the average of mental power in man must be above that of women (Darwin, 1896:564).

Good to know, Darwin, that the average of mental power in man must be above that of women. I’m sure there were no societal reasons in the 1800’s that led to women not being able to match the achievements of the great men of the time. Like, oh, say, the entire way society saw women, their role in the home, and the fact that women weren’t really allowed to work. I’m sure those didn’t play a role… (protip – yes they did).

In 1908 there was a US Supreme Court decision that upheld Oregon state restrictions on the working hours of women as justified by the special state interest in protecting women’s health. From the ruling:

That woman’s physical structure and the performance of maternal functions place her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence is obvious. This is especially true when the burdens of motherhood are upon her. Even when they are not, by abundant testimony of the medical fraternity continuance for a long time on her feet at work, repeating this from day to day, tends to injurious effects upon the body, and as healthy mothers are essential to vigorous offspring, the physical well-being of woman becomes an object of public interest and care in order to preserve the strength and vigor of the race.” 208 U.S. at 412.

It seems that people used to be very worried about protecting women from producing non-vigorous offspring.

Since women are biologically disadvantaged in working in technology, you might be surprised to know that that some of the first founders – creators – and inventors of technology were women.

  • Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, wrote what is recognized as the first computer program
  • Grace Hopper, a computer scientist and US Navy Admiral, invented one of the first compilers. Her work led directly to the creation of COBOL
  • The ENIAC Programmers, were six women (human computers) who programmed the very first all-electronic, programmable computer before programming languages were invented

Ada lovelaceGrace hopperENIAC

Interestingly, women used to be more highly represented in computer science, before starting to fall off in the 1980’s. Why? Because of the invention of the personal computer and video games – and the perception that those were a man’s territory. Here’s an interesting graph from the linked NPR article:

Women in computer science

It’s interesting that there are people who think there’s a biological, and not  societal or sociological, reason for the drop off. I’d love to meet the scientist that can tell me what kind of evolution caused that. I’m no scientist but I didn’t think evolution worked that fast.

My Journey Through Tech – One Moms Story

I can personally attest to the fact that when I was growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, tech was seen as a boy/man thing to do. It was my brother who was encouraged to use and program our computer, and our TI 99/4A – not me.  And it was my brother who built computers.

I had a bit more advantage than many women my age. We had a computer at home in the 80’s, back when that was pretty uncommon. And we had access to the early wild wild west of the internet with AOL for DOS. I was also really into science fiction and astronomy, including some of the more complex math involved in astronomical calculations. Yes, I was an odd teenager.


I miss our good old TI-99/4A with its Hunt the Wumpus and Car Wars games. Anyone else ever play those? If not, check out the awesome graphics and sophisticated gameplay here:

Since it was my brother who was always considered the technology person, I had never really considered a career in IT. Despite being good at school, and very good at math, it just wasn’t something that I ever thought of. So I majored in Accounting, which seemed like a good idea (good at math, interested in finance).

If you had interviewed 17 year old me and asked if I would consider a career in technology, I likely would have laughed at you. It just wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. And yet here I am, having spent my entire career in IT – fifteen years now.

Why did I think that? It’s really hard to say. I thought the field of technology was all about programming – and I didn’t really feel that I knew how to program. Sure, I could do a few things in TI-BASIC and in DOS but nothing really extensive. Looking back, I can see that combined with my interest in math would have been more than enough for a computer science major. My brother was the one who would take apart and assemble computers for fun.  Also, my father actively discouraged any sort of scientific career option, telling me it wasn’t practical. He also told me the same thing years later when I went for my MBA with a concentration in technology and international business. As an adult I can pretty easily shake off that kind of discouragement, but when you’re 17 it’s much harder.

So I’m exceptionally glad that I ended up in IT at a Fortune 150 company – and loved it. I loved the detailed analysis, solving business problems with technology, figuring out how to make a system that does one thing today do something else, how to replace one system with another one. Even the emerging fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things interest me.  Technology is so much more than just programming and building computers, like I thought when I was younger. Managing projects, dealing with vendors, securing infrastructure, testing, analysis, managing teams – they’re all key parts of running a successful technology organization.

So What Do I Think?

So what do I think about Voldemort’s rant? I think it’s frankly ridiculous, and pretty stupid of him to think he could do something like that without repercussions to his career. If you’re interested in the science and study of gender differences, and what parts are biological vs. societal, you should stop working at Google and go be a sociologist or scientist.

I also think the discussion about how to address creating greater diversity in the workplace is a nuanced one. And I’m not talking just about gender here – age, race, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, and religion are also common sources of discrimination. I’m not going to discuss the best way to encourage diversity in the workplace because frankly I’m not an expert on the topic. I’ll just say that I’ve worked with people from every one of the protected groups – and people from all over the world. I think we as a society should strive to always be improving, not limiting, the diversity of our workplaces. I think about all the amazing talent and opportunities we as a society have missed out on over the years due to societal pressures, differences in opportunities provided to certain groups, and backwards thinking and just feel sad. How much more could we have accomplished if everyone had been supported to their fullest potential? We’ll never know.

I Want To Hear From You!

Do you work in a “non-traditional” field – and did you experience any challenges when you were first getting into it? Have you played (or coded) Hunt the Wumpus or programmed in TI-BASIC? Do you remember AOL for DOS or does that just make me old? What did you think of those games?  Let me know in the comments!

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8 thoughts on “One Tech Moms Thoughts On the Google Manifestbro”

  1. This is a great post, CMO! I just listened to a very interesting discussion on NPR about Affirmative Action and diversity in collages. It definitely is an argument with many opinions. I’ve always been in favor of more, not less, diversity in the workplace. Voldemort really steams my jeans… his comments remind me of Larry Summers’s at Harvard about women being biologically inferior in math and sciences. How’d that work out for you again? 🙂 Reading a fascinating book right now about new tech + money, and learning about things like the blockchain, of which I knew nothing about. The future of tech is enormous and amazing. I have programmed in BASIC, long ago, and actually loved it. That was the end of my programming until my son came along and he’s learning the basics of programming with, One Great Hour of Code, etc. Thanks for pushing a bit more through the glass ceiling for all of us!

    1. Well I am certainly old enough to remember AOL and Dos. These gender arguments have been around for decades. Males and females are obviously different. Societal expectations are different. Women have come a long way. I really believe as a female you can do anything you want. Some women are great at math and should be encouraged to be engineers and computer scientists. I live in a high tech town so I see plenty of female engineers. Women are now well represented in medical and law school. There is a current thread running on the WCI forum on pay differences between male and female docs. This is mainly but not totally because of speciality selection.

      1. Doing the research for this article I found it interesting just how many women were human “computers” back when that was a profession and not a machine. It seemed like a great field for women good at math back before calculators and machine computers took over the work.

    2. Ha, I remember when Larry Summers said that! I had completely forgotten about it. Block chain is a fascinating subject-I know a lot of companies are looking into how they can leverage it in non-financial ways.

      1. Can you believe I actually met Larry Summers? Mr. ThreeYear used to work for Harvard…. interesting. Yes, blockchain has crazy cool implications! Apparently it has the potential to eliminate “middlemen” financial services companies (the “trust industry”) since it can allow people to verify everything online…who bought the house, who bought the car and when, when the stocks were traded, etc…

  2. I read that NPR article and it really hit home for me. My 2 younger brothers got way more tech than I did, despite the fact that I had a real interest in computers. I remember when I was in Grad School in the early 1990s (PhD program). My dad bought one brother a PC so he could do his papers on it. I did not get one. (I guess Dad didn’t think about the fact that his baby girl was having to go to the computer lab on campus until 2-3 am to write papers.)

    In fairness, neither brother went into tech, though the youngest can still download a virus onto a machine faster than you can say “laptop.”

    I do think it’s interesting that the percentages for women in tech (and STEM in general) are somewhat higher in Europe and in China. And in China, there are more women in venture capital as well.

    My daughter, who’s seven, is getting a computer this year and is applying for her school’s coding club. I don’t know that she’ll go into tech (she seems oriented toward film and art) but it won’t be due to lack of parent-provided resources.

    1. Interestingly my brother also didn’t end up going into technology. He’s an electrical engineer instead. Which of course my parents also think of as more of a “real” career than IT program management.

  3. The first woman to run the Boston Marathon was allowed in because they assumed from her name she was a guy. She was not of course and the race director found out and “caught” her on the course and attempted to physically haul her off the race course. Her boyfriend was a rather impressive weight lifter and he was running with her or watching and he air launched the race director into the crowd and she finished the race. Later they all became friends. As a runner it was one of my favorite marathon stories, and believe me, I’ve been smoked badly in every one of my 15 marathons by many much faster female runners, including my wife who is a year older and can still outrun me without even breathing hard. I’m a pretty good runner and I’m perfectly fine with that! Today a recruiter called me to try to get me to leave early retirement for a very impressive job. I told her I wasn’t interested but did give her the names of six people that might be qualified for this seven figure a year paycheck. Of the six names I gave her only one was a woman, the others were men. That is a sad statistic but it does represent where Fortune 500 senior management is. At least my daughter has two engineering degrees!

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