Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
We're all for celebrating major strides in gender diversity and equality in the workplace, but we also can't deny that much work remains. The tech industry, in particular, still has a rocky track record when it comes to addressing gender inequality, a fact most recently highlighted in one anonymous male Google engineer's now viral anti-diversity manifesto.
Sparking outrage across the web and prompting a response from Danielle Brown, Google's vice president of diversity, integrity, and governance, the misguided 10-page memo accused the tech giant of forcing its ideological biases upon its employees and claimed that biological differences that are "universal across human cultures" were to blame for Silicon Valley's gender gap, notes Quartz.
The only problem with this claim? It's flat-out wrong, according to Quartz, which unearthed a 2009 study conducted by economists at Chicago and Maryland Universities. In observing the Khasi people in northeastern India and the Maasai people in Africa, the researchers discovered that in cultures where women have control over their community's wealth, they can actually be more competitive than men.
Noting that women have few rights in the Maasai's patriarchal society compared to the Khasi, where women inherit property and status and men are expected to work for their wives and her family, the study conducted an experiment in which women and men were asked to throw a tennis ball into a basket 10 times. If they decided to compete, the participants were offered the choice between a single payment of approximately 40 U.S. cents or the chance to earn three times as much if they beat their competition.
Authors Uri Gneezy, Kenneth Leonard, and John List found that among the Maasai, only half of the men and a quarter of the women opted to compete. However, the results were completely opposite for the Khasi women and men: 54% of the women participated as opposed to 39% of the men.
While the researchers note that other factors including genetics could also be at play and that there are limitations to comparing only two cultures, they conclude that "it is not universally true that the average female in every society avoids competition more often than the average male in that society because we have discovered at least one setting in which this is not true."
Thanks to this story for confirming what we already know: that women are not genetically or biologically inferior to men and that regardless of our differences, they're in no way an excuse for sexism in the office—or anywhere else.
What are your thoughts on the study's findings and the Google anti-diversity manifesto?