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Published: Aug 07, 2017 5 min read
Tripplaar Kristoffer/Sipa—AP

Over the weekend, a memo written by an anonymous Google employee -- asserting that women fall behind at Google for biological reasons -- went viral. A female tech industry veteran responds.

Dear Google Guy Who Is Getting Scorched for Writing Things about Gender Diversity that People Like Me Kind of Hate,

I say sometimes that I really miss having a smart opposition party. Liberals need thoughtful conservatives; the dipshits currently running conservativism have everybody flailing. So along you come, and you seem pretty thoughtful, so it doesn't seem right for me to heap a bunch of my righteousness on to your Dudebro absurdity.

No, no, no. That's not fair. What you say is not absurd. You see, it's easy to get kind of a hair trigger when my first-ever ship gift was, no lie, a teddy bear. It's not your fault I got a stuffed animal with a bow on it as thanks for 15 months of 70-hour weeks. That is my history; it is not yours. You are trying, and it seems right to engage with you.

Because YES, young man, (I’m guessing you're a youngish, right-wing, men’s-rights type. That’s fine -- takes all kinds and men should indeed have rights) -- anyway, YES, whippersnapper, you're right that a gender gap does not always imply sexism. There are many reasons, well researched, for that gap. I myself am gapped, and am 100% certain that some not all of that is due to choices I made knowingly. (I have agency! I am glad! I would make those same choices again, and need no protection from myself!)

But I am choosing to take you at your word when you say you agree that sexism exists. (Some people think you are questioning that, but your sentences smell sincere to me.)

While I don't think you and I would much enjoy hanging out, and while I think you have some learning to do, what you have written is not baseless. And I have things to learn, too. I appreciate that you spoke as respectfully as you could. I think it's truly shitty that you, honest questioner with whom I disagree on some stuff, can’t write your honest questions and thoughts about diversity without getting yelled at.

It is not cool, some of the things people are saying. Shouting that they'll quit if you aren't fired seems pretty silly to me. Disagreement should not be a fireable offense.

The fact that so many are calling for your head makes me pretty sad. The orthodoxies of diversity that I see all around me are almost always stated in absolute terms, to the extent that sincere curiosity and questions can get a person a really horrible label (sexist, racist, jerk). I also believe that, in the end, the way feminist orthodoxies get expressed (and I am a pretty orthodox feminist, don't get me wrong) runs deeply counter to the effort of inclusion. People feel silenced, and so they close off. Instead of bringing questioners along, we shame and alienate them. Surely we on the left can see that this is not a productive approach.

I am a Woman in Tech, and conversations like the one you tried to have are exactly the conversations I want. The ones in which we don’t spout orthodoxy, but instead create an atmosphere where people like you (because tech is chock full of you) and people like me (because you need to hear why I am often uncomfortable) can ask our questions safely.

And when our opinions differ we can tell each other, calmly, why.

And we can talk.

I'm interested enough in this conversation that I invite anyone, man or woman, particularly in tech, to reach out to me if you'd like to have a no-questions-barred, insistently respectful, conversation on the topic of diversity in tech.

Thanks for sharing, Li'l Dudebro. I'm curious whether you're as open as you say you are. (I'm curious whether I am, too.)

Margot Page has been working in the tech industry for more than 20 years. She is working on a book about her experience.