Tech Diversity Programs Are Conservative

melissa mcewen
4 min readJan 11, 2018

James Damore was fooled

This morning I read the James Damore lawsuit against Google. It’s the second employee lawsuit I read recently against Google. The first one being the Kelly Ellis one.* They are in some ways opposite lawsuits: Damore is suing Google for discrimination against men and Ellis is suing Google for discrimination against women. Read together, they paint a picture of a company where diversity is celebrated, but women faced pay inequality and discrimination.

Damore worries that the diversity programs and initiatives represent discrimination against men and conservatives. But the thing is, there is probably nothing more conservative than diversity programs. Much of the ideology behind them comes from economists who were hardly leftists. Who believed that markets would become more efficient if we removed barriers to entry to different groups of people. That this would lead to economic growth. That discrimination is a waste of “human capital.” This is what I learned when I got my economics degree, in a very conservative department.

Diversity programs in tech are a bit cruder. They often rely on the idea that issues like sexism can be solved just by having equal number of men and women in high-status occupations like tech. And by celebrating different identities with special events and programs.

To me this is ridiculous. Maybe the number of women in tech is symptom of the industry’s sexism. But even if that’s true, why would adding more women solve that problem?

I once worked in a tech company that had a lot of women. They even won awards for diversity. But the numbers concealed a darker truth. The reality is the women there were harassed and paid less than men who did the same (or lesser jobs). It’s a story I’ve heard repeated numerous times: young idealistic woman excited to join tech company with lots of women and then realizes the place is toxically sexist. On some level I’ve wondered if the diversity programs and stats are just covers for this kind of behavior.

Or to provide a way for companies to benefit by hiring women, both enjoying cheaper labor by paying them less and using them to tout their “diversity” efforts. It’s telling how many “women in tech” events are sponsored by companies in the midst of paygap…