I’m sure you’ve read many articles about the firing of James Damore at Google and have formed your own opinions about whether he was right or wrong and whether or not he should have been fired.
Since we teach about global culture and appreciation for global diversity, we want to focus this blog post on our perspective. Yes, there are differences between men and women, but current brain and sociological research indicate that they occur at the ends of the bell curve and may not even be that significant. Additionally, research points out that environment plays an enormous role.
The challenge is that while some of Damore’s statements are accurate, his research and background information were limited only to arguments that supported his position.
From our broader perspective, when we teach about cultural differences, we point out the behavioral generalities of national cultures and are quick to caution the great risk of stereotyping based on gross generalities, because ultimately, all people are different.
What we do teach, which is applicable to the Damore-Google situation, is that while there are observable differences, we need to learn to treat people in ways that maximize their ability to contribute, which is the value of diversity.
Diversity is a strength to an organization because it enables problems to be studied from various angles and enables the best possible solutions to be developed through the variety of perspectives. The best performing teams are diverse teams, but at the same time the worst performing teams are also diverse. The difference is how they manage that diversity and how inclusive and respectful their process is.
We consulted with our “gender diversity gurus,” The Heim Group LLC, who shared the following thoughts:
“In this fiasco, much of what James Damore wrote in his Google statement about gender differences is correct. We need to be careful that we don't stereotype people by saying "all" men and "all" women are a particular way. But, we can generalize. This is what research does [remember there's a wide bell curve of results as well].
[Damore’s] statements became a problem when he assumed that the strengths that men bring to the party are the critical strengths needed in the tech world. When in fact, we know from research, a team will be stronger if it has a broader array of skills.
The benefit of the work we do with organizations is to help the entire culture to better understand and appreciate the differences that gender cultures bring to the party. At the end of the day, it's not about better/worse here, it's about differences and we need them to thrive.”
What we teach is understanding differences and having the ability to adjust your behaviors to capitalize on people’s uniqueness, and is the core of a global mindset and the underpinning of contemporary collaboration.
For example, to help global team members collaborate more effectively, we encourage teams to develop “Guidelines for Respectful Interaction” that are designed to recognize that some people communicate directly and bluntly, valuing short, terse messages, while others need context and rely on body language/tone of voice to communicate the entirety of the message. High performing, diverse teams find ways to collaborate, allowing these diametrically different communication styles to integrate into a constructive process.
There are many other examples of how national cultural diversity and gender diversity overcome hurdles to produce the results that all global endeavors seek to attain. To be able to achieve anything of significance in a society dependent upon intellectual collaboration, we need to understand how we are all people are different from each other—not better or worse—and learn to appreciate those differences as strengths.