August 20, 2017
After a few people asked me what I thought about the Google memo, I realized that I didn’t know. I hadn’t wanted to give it any thought at all. I decided to put my mind to the question, and maybe even to the meta question of why I hadn’t wanted to look at the question.
What I saw there was annoyance, hurt, embarrassment. Annoyance that I even had to contemplate this kind of justification for the unequal environment in the tech field. Hurt that it was worth so much air time on social media, news sites, radio, podcasts, etc. I really wanted to be in a world where issuing a memo like that would be treated like a memo saying the earth is indeed flat. Embarrassment that a part of me still believes what he’s saying.
Because yes there is a part of me that feels abnormal. I have loved math, science, computer programming from the moment they entered my awareness. I don’t want kids. I don’t want to be married. What does that make me? A kind of genetic anomaly? Early on, I decided to let the question hang and just continue. It would periodically hit me in the face like a glass ceiling. Then I would think about the weird situation I was in, pick myself up and keep going. This has been the method and, well, so far so good. I honestly thought things were getting better and maybe they are, but this person at Google decided to say, not only that women are not as well suited to engineering, but that the women that are, are somehow the abnormal ones. It was like a double blow, throwing both groups under the bus. It felt like a step backward and brought an unwelcome realization that we still need to talk about this.
I am in Vancouver and yesterday there was a planned anti-immigration and anti-muslim protest. I attended the counter-protest, what I call the gathering of hearts, which took up so much space that there was no room for the hatred. I felt it was my civic duty to show up, to have my presence added to all who value the strength and generosity of this place. When I heard Tina Fey end her brilliant sheet caking skit by saying we should ignore the white supremacists, I understood what she was saying. She wants that world where their view is so marginal that it can be just a blip in an otherwise generous and welcoming society. She wants the same world I want. Can’t we just be and make stuff? Why do I need to pause and say hatred has no place? Part of me absolutely resents it. But a much bigger part knows that the reality I want requires my unrelenting gaze at the truth. And the truth is we’re not there yet. So I show up. I think about the memo. I look at my own biases. And above all, I keep on making stuff.