Gender diversity and free speech

Not evil, just wrong

Google had better ways of dealing with an outspoken engineer than immediately sacking him

THE talk in Silicon Valley just now is as likely to be about sex as software. Women in tech firms feel badly treated. And they are right: they rarely get the top jobs, they are sometimes paid less than men and many suffer unwanted sexual advances. Most of their male colleagues sympathise; at the same time some feel they cannot express unorthodox opinions on gender. And they are right, too: they can easily fall foul of written and unwritten rules, and face drastic consequences.

在硅谷,性别问题眼下差不多成了和软件一样常见的话题(写作句型)。科技公司的女员工觉得自己的待遇很差。她们是对的:高层中女性很少见,女员工的薪酬有时会比男员工低,很多女员工还会遭到性骚扰(词汇翻译)。大多数男同事都表示同情,但同时也有一些人觉得自己不能就性别问题发表非正统的意见。这些人也没错:他们很容易就会违反各种成文或不成文的规定,并因此面对严重的后果。

The charged atmospherehelps explain why “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, a memo by a young software engineer, James Damore, has caused such a stir. It says that the firm’s efforts to hire more women are biased. After circulating internally, it went viral. On August 7th Mr Damore was fired. To quote Sundar Pichai, Google’s boss, he advanced
“harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”.

气氛如此紧张,也就不难理解(写作句型)为什么年轻的软件工程师詹姆士·达莫尔的备忘录《谷歌的意识形态回音室》会搅起如此大的波澜。备忘录中写道,谷歌积极雇用更多女员工,实为偏见之举。这篇备忘录先是在内部流传,后来迅速向外传播开来。8月7日,达莫尔被解雇。谷歌CEO桑德尔·皮查伊的说法是,达莫尔“在工作场合中宣扬有害的性别成见”

Mr Pichai had good reasons to sack Mr Damore. One is the content of the memo. It says many reasonable-sounding things: that “we all have biases” and that “honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots”. But these are just camouflage before a stonking rhetorical “but”: the argument that innate differences, rather than sexism and discrimination, explain why women fare worse in the technology industry than men. “Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stresstolerance)”, Mr Damore writes, “may contribute…to the lower number of women in high-stress jobs.”

皮查伊有充分的理由炒掉达莫尔。其中之一是备忘录本身的内容。里面说了很多听起来很合理的事情,如“我们谁都会有偏见”,“与意见相左者进行坦诚的讨论,会让我们注意到自己的盲区”。然而,这些只是掩饰(写作句型),接下来话锋便猛地一转(写作句型),来了一个“但是”:女性在科技行业的发展较男性差,原因并不是性别偏见和歧视,而是男女之间与生俱来的差异。他写道,“神经质(焦虑程度更高,抗压能力较低)也许是造成高压力岗位上女性较少的原因。”

Research has indeed shown some smallish group-level differences in personality and interests between the sexes. But drawing a line from this to women’s suitability for tech jobs is puerile. An unbiased eye would light on social factors rather than innate differences as the reason why only a fifth of computer engineers are women. Mr Damore claims women are “more interested in people than things” but, if this were true, they would in fact be better than men at the senior software-engineering jobs that involve managing teams. As for blind spots, although he repeatedly uses the words “discriminate” and “discrimination”, Mr Damore does so only to describe the unfairness to men of trying to hire more women.

确实有研究表明,男女在个性和兴趣方面存在群体层面的差别,但差别并不大。然而,把这一点同女性是否适合从事技术工作联系起来就太幼稚(别老naive)了。未被偏见所蒙蔽的眼睛会发现,是社会因素造成了只有五分之一的计算机工程师是女性,而非先天性的差别。达莫尔声称,女性“对人的兴趣比对东西的兴趣更大”,但如果这种说法是对的,那么女性其实要比男性更能胜任软件工程方面的高级职务,因为这涉及团队管理。至于盲点,虽然达莫尔一再使用“歧视”这个词,但只不过为了表明尝试雇用更多女性对男性造成了不公。

Mr Pichai also has legal arguments on his side. The American constitution protects free speech in public, but within a company’s walls that right is limited by what bosses deem acceptable. After Mr Damore had suggested they are less qualified because of their sex, women at Google could have refused to work with him and taken legal action. Moreover, he may have known that his memo would be seized on in Alt-Right circles (it got top billing on Breitbart and far-right websites).

皮查伊这边还有法律依据作为支撑。美国宪法保护公民在公开场合的言论自由,不过在一家公司内,这项权利是有限度的,言论是否得宜要视老板们的意见而定(写作句型)。达莫尔道出女性的性别决定了她们资质不足的想法后,谷歌的女员工本可拒绝与他共事并采取法律行动。再者,他可能已料到自己的备忘录会被另类右翼圈子抓住大做文章(该备忘录在布赖特巴特新闻网以及极右翼网站上占据最显眼的位置。)

Still, there was a better response to Mr Damore than immediately giving him the sack. Other firms may limit their workers’ speech, but the largest search engine, with a mission to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible”, should hold itself to a higher standard. It should not be suspected of limiting the debate of  thorny subjects.不过,还是有比立马炒掉他更好的应对方式。其他公司也许会限制员工的言论,不过,谷歌既身为世界最大的搜索引擎,且肩负着“整合全球信息,供大众使用,使人人受益”的使命,就应以更高的标准来要求自己。它不应该有限制员工探讨敏感问题的嫌疑。(观点)

Speak up

It would have been better for Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and the boss of Alphabet, its holding company, to write a ringing, detailed rebuttal of Mr Damore’s argument. Google could have stood up for its female  employees while demonstrating the value of free speech. That might have led to the “honest discussion” Mr Damore claimed to want—and avoided the ersatz(代用品) one about his firing. It would have shown that his arguments are not taboo, but mostly foolish and ill-informed. And it would have countered his more defensible claim: that Google, and the Valley, so welcoming of gender diversity, are narrower-minded about unorthodox opinions.

大声说出来

如果谷歌创始人兼谷歌母公司Alphabet的老板拉里·佩奇当时能写一篇雄文(写作句型),详尽驳斥达莫尔的观点,会更好些。谷歌本可以在维护女员工权益的同时证明言论自由的价值。这样也许就可促成达莫尔宣称要进行的“坦诚的讨论”,后来成为讨论主题的也就不会是他被辞退这件事(小词活用)了。如果这样的讨论得以实现,那么就可表明达莫尔的观点并非触犯了禁忌,而是很大程度上既愚蠢又一知半解;这样还可以反驳他那个看似有理的说法:谷歌和硅谷那么欢迎性别多样性,却没有直面非正统意见的胸襟。

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经济学人双语_史桂盛 官网:www.shiguisheng.cn