The #GoogleMemo and a guy’s feelings of vulnerability

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I know Mr Damore may speak for some, but not all. I know his “thinking” angers many, but not all. I know he is just one person, but so are we all. AND that is what I’m thinking is at the bottom of it all.

First of all, I want to share some of the strongest responses I’ve found to the #googlememo and then an insight that started to form last week.

It sounded like the same old, same old stuff when I first heard about it and I’ve heard enough of this kind of stuff since entering the corporate world in 1986 so I didn’t need more but my insight came in the midst of reviewing the responses to it in light of my own recent experiences so clearly I was wrong – there was and is more to learn.

First of all, I listen weekly to Vox’s “The Weeds” podcast so I happened upon this interesting conversation that made me sit up and take notice – it’s worth a listen if you want to explore what the hype is all about.

Then I happened to have a drink with a couple of old friends from University – one I hadn’t seen in 5 years, another in 19, and of course you fall immediately into the kind of conversations you have in University – more on what this conjured up later.

Then this riveting post was in one of the “Vox Sentences” (a recap of stories that comes out in a Vox newsletter to which I subscribe): “I’m a woman in computer science. Let me ladysplain the Google memo to you” by Cynthia Lee from Stanford   A very thoughtful response to the #googlememo.

Then I decided to check out some of the stories related to #googlememo on twitter – because, for whatever reason, I was ready for a bit of heart ache. Well amidst the many hateful and reactive messages I found this heartfelt and very thoughtful post “Memos Can Hurt” from Mary Ann Mierau.    This post added another dimension to the perspective shared by the Stanford professor.

I needed to transition back to my work but I came upon a lovely, very humorous post from a Chicago Tribune writer Rex Huppke “Google bro’s diversity memo shows biological failings of white dudes” . After making a quick call to my 87 year old mother to share some of the laughs – because of course she has stories about how she has been silenced and minimized in the workplace or when serving on charitable boards since the 60’s that would make you howl with laughter before the shock took over – I realized I needed to share these memos and my “take away” from the drink with friends on Wednesday in a post.

So, a bit of background. I’ve been thinking about how to use my side gig “the RRTs (Rotman Roundtables) to @evawCAN (eradicate violence against women and girls in Canada)” to change the gender conversation in the workplace AND broader community. I’m getting ready to rev it up again in the fall and I really want our conversations to appeal to more men (we invite men to come for a 2 hour conversation looking for the smallest thing they are willing to do to make a difference in how the genders collaborate). As part of this I’ve been reflecting on some of the interesting things men have revealed and explored so far and how vulnerable I realize they feel. I hadn’t shared this with my friends on Wednesday but at one point one of them – he’s a professor of Sociology in Alberta – said something like, and I am paraphrasing, “You know, while as a white man I hear, and I know in my head, I have privilege….I still feel inside myself like a human being who is as vulnerable as everyone else so, it’s hard to know what to do with that when it comes as an accusation.” I immediately knew what he meant, given the #RRT conversations and my own experience with acknowledging my white privilege as a feminist. I think I may be able to develop some insight into the  James Damore’s of this world now.

James Damore is likely feeling vulnerable so he needs to strongly assert his dominance and his superiority over others AND his mind is clouded; he can’t see his limited thinking so he lashes out. (We know from brain research that when threatened human beings don’t think clearly or see options.) It’s #Google that is responsible for the culture that isn’t hearing and dealing with these feelings Damore and others have, AND #Google is allowing it to threaten their culture and now the #Google brand. The first question I asked myself when hearing about this memo was “Why would any woman or self-respecting man want to work in a place where women are deemed by any co-workers as inferior simply because they are women”; now I’m asking myself “What is #google doing to create a culture of acceptance and inclusion that will help men like James Damore to integrate more fully without the need to strike out from his fear or feelings of vulnerability?”

Recently I watched an HBO special on Warren Buffett who at one point reflected on how any country, economy or company could achieve its potential when automatically relegating 50% of the talent to the bench. We’ve got big human issues to solve right now around the world, we can’t afford to limit and diminish any members of our human tribe.


Maybe we all need to learn how to put a hand out to seek understanding rather than going into our protective stances of judgment and belittlement!

Imagine all genders respecting each other and working together to make a better world.




  • August 14, 2017, 6:03 pm  Reply

    Well Said Rox. Not how i would have responded, but that’s why I read it.Of all the ideas we may agree on, the missing link could come from extending the “male white privilege” discussion to Damore himself. Damore (a straighten white male in power) for expressing an opinion. His privilege was pretty unhelpful to either being taken seriously, or even being engaged so he could be “straightened out”.

    • August 14, 2017, 6:35 pm

      Interesting Robert, from my vantage point Damore was taken very seriously. More people including colleagues at Google and some women in tech responded in very supportive, sympathetic ways too; but you have to admit his poorly written manifesto got far more attention than he expected – how does the public show a guy we take him seriously more clearly than that?

      And being fired for hurting the brand – one that is said to be fighting a labour case with the US government because of their alleged discriminatory labour practices – for raising issues that are unhelpful, if not destructive to the brand, means Google took the #googlememo and actions very seriously too. Having said that, I’m for freedom of speech and he has the right to say anything he wishes and he exercised that right. He failed to consider that with rights, come consequences – I know I have paid dearly sometimes for advocating for people but it was my choice to speak up.

      Please don’t misunderstand my recognition of the significance of personal/individual feelings Damore and other white men feel with their responsibility to exercise their unique privilege with awareness and humility INSTEAD of by always putting their dukes up! Frankly we all need to put our fists down more often and, as I say in the post, hold out a hand to better understand.

  • September 15, 2017, 7:42 pm  Reply

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