Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Diversity, sexism, and the need for open discussion

Many issues are too complex to have a perfect solution, but there is almost no case where you get towards a better one if you penalise people for expressing a view about them which you think is wrong.

Even if that view really is wrong, the resentment you create if you make martyrs of those who express it - and the risk to honest debate if people keep their heads down on consequence - does more harm than good.

It appears to be just as well for one of the regular posters on the comments threads of this blog that he works for Sellafield rather than Google, since one employee writing a memo expressing what were labelled as "anti-diversity" views at the latter organisation on issues like the gender pay gap appeared to have caused quite a furore at Google.

Personally I do think that racial and gender inequality exist, as does the gender pay gap (though it is also estimated in Britain that it is as low as it has ever been and is reducing) and that we ought to find positive and constructive ways of reducing them. Nor do I agree with every word in the controversial memo, far from it.

However I take the author at his word when he wrote

"I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group "

In a healthy organisation or society people who in a polite and constructive way express even highly controversial views should absolutely not be penalised for it.

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