What We Should Learn from the Google Manifesto
Although the Google Manifesto can easily make any woman spitting mad, I suspect that, sadly, the author, James Damore, represents a not-so-tiny group of like-minded professionals in this country. And this group may be why diversity programs aren’t having the success that they should. Despite its factual inaccuracies, we can learn from the manifesto how to create diversity programs that can persuade even people like Damore. Here are some thoughts on things we need to emphasize more in our programs:
As Adam Grant states in his response to the manifesto, “when it comes to abilities, attitudes and actions, sex differences are few and small”. Grant also notes that where differences exist, they are created by cultural attitudes and stereotypes. That message isn’t widely understood by Damore and professionals like him. Let’s add some science to diversity training sessions to educate employees on the real differences and similarities between men and women. Yes, our brains differ (women have a relatively larger hippocampus and the men have a relatively larger amygdala). But variances in the brain make neither gender less capable of professional success and leadership.
Damore feels moral imperatives are being pushed on him. He feels threatened by a culture that judges him because he doesn’t agree with their rationale for diversity. Damore sees any advantage for women as a failure for men. If women advance, there are only so many slots available, right? Unfortunately, we will never be able to convince Damore, or people like him, that diversity programs are good for him if we appeal to his morality. So let’s educate professionals that diversity is better for them personally. Training should focus on research that proves that an employee’s company, division, team, and the professional personally can benefit from increased employee retention, innovation, employee engagement, and profitability, as a result of a more diverse workforce.
Lastly, Damore, and likely others from his demographic, feel the sting of special programs for women. He is missing the point that the training is designed to level the playing field, but nonetheless, he is not on board. Most progressive companies offer leadership training to professionals of both genders and women-specific training to a selected group of promotable women. They may offer women-specific negotiating training as research will show that women need to adopt a different style than men to be effective negotiators. A McKinsey study also shows that male leaders don’t rank as highly as women leaders in people development, participative decision making and other leadership skills. So why don’t we offer training to each gender specifically to address issues each might have? Frankly, even women would benefit by a little more participative decision making and people development prowess on the part of their male managers.
I would like to think Damore was alone in his thinking but the Google Manifesto has received surprising support in the Twittersphere and other avenues of social media. Only by responding to this group’s insecurities and misinformed views through changes in our diversity programs, will we make real progress toward parity in corporate leadership.