Don’t Say This At Google: Men and Women Are Different

James Damore attended Google’s diversity training about alleged bias and inequality in the company. The training included the message that any disparities between men and women in the workplace are based on discrimination. Following the training in July 2017, the senior software engineer wrote a lengthy memo, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” which he sent to other Google employees.

In the memo, Damore suggested the sexes were biologically and psychologically different. His analysis of these issues was measured and cautious. Shortly after posting the memo on internal discussion pages, the memo was leaked to the media. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Damore’s memo was “offensive and not OK,” and he crossed a line by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes.” A few days later, Google fired Damore.

Created Different

Damore writes there are real differences, on average, between men and women. He explains that we know “these differences aren’t just socially constructed” because, among other reasons, male and female differences are “universal across human cultures” and “often have clear biological causes.”  

Let’s look at Damore’s claim through a couple of lenses. First, there is the lens of Scripture. The Bible is not a science textbook; it’s much greater: Scripture contains God’s Word to mankind, including transcendent truths about what it means to be human.

Genesis clearly describes how God created humanity in His image, male and female. Both Jesus (Matthew 19:3-9) and Paul (Ephesians 5:25-33) point to the creation account as the basis for marriage. Differences between the sexes are a recurrent theme in Scripture, with marriage between a husband and wife being the supreme picture of God’s relationship with mankind. 

Reason and Experience

Second, let’s look at what Damore writes through the lens of reason. On the one hand, Google and other groups argue for diversity. They want different types of people working for their company, including women and men.

On the other hand, they are offended when Damore takes these differences seriously. He argues that women and men really are different, and as a result of these distinctions, they might have differing work interests, personality traits and approaches to relationships.

Do you see the problem Google has?

The company claims to want male-female diversity in employment, but doesn’t want to acknowledge male-female differences. What kind of diversity would Google have if men and women are identical?

Experience also tells us about male-female differences. Let’s look at one example: children and Legos. For years, Lego toys were bought for and played with by boys. NPR reports, “[I]n 2011, 90 percent of Lego's consumers were boys.” Lego launched various product lines for girls, but they were unsuccessful. So, the company conducted research and discovered that girls and boys play differently. As Fortune magazine notes,

“It took years of research to find out that girls enjoyed building just as much as boys and really just differed in what they wanted to build, along with the colors in which they favored their sets.”

Lego sales shot up when they introduced “Lego Friends” with female characters, stories and building sets that include hospitals, shopping malls, and houses. Toy manufacturers learned they are more successful when they cater to the different interests of boys and girls.

Science: ‘Every Cell Has a Sex’

If men and women are different from each other, we would expect those differences to show up in physiological dissimilarities. And they do; far beyond the obvious reproductive differences. We explore some of these in Male and Female: Biology Matters, but here are a few more biological distinctions.

Because men’s and women’s bodies differ greatly, they compete apart in sports. Heather Zeiger points to some of the differences between male and female athletes, such as:

  • Men have more testosterone;
  • Men tend to have larger heart and lungs, resulting in greater oxygen uptake;
  • Men tend to have a higher concentration of hemoglobin in their blood;
  • Men tend to have more fast-twitch muscles than women; and,
  • Women and men have dissimilar hip structures, so they differ in how their bodies move.

Because of these, at various athletic levels a biological male will typically have significant advantages over a biological female.

Current studies show these differences go deep. For years, science research often focused on males, then generalized the results to include women. In 1985, National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated, “[A]part from reproductive issues, little was known about the unique needs of the female patient.”  Five years later, a review of 50 NIH research proposals found that half included only men.

Then, in 2001, the Institute of Medicine produced a report, “Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?”

Their conclusion?

“Sex matters. Sex, that is, being male or female, is an important basic human variable that should be considered when designing and analyzing studies in all areas and at all levels of biomedical and health-related research.”

“Every cell has a sex,” the report continues, and these sex differences affect human health, perceptions, behaviors and life span.  

Despite the call for more health studies to include women, as late as 2014, one survey of research on medical devices showed only 14 percent of the studies included women. Finally, “the National Institutes of Health implemented a policy that requires all researchers applying for funding to consider sex as a variable in their proposed research.”

Highlighting how “every cell has a sex” affects us, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science “uncovered thousands of human genes that are expressed — copied out to make proteins — differently in the two sexes.” The scientists investigated 20,000 protein-coding genes, sorting them by sex: “They eventually identified around 6,500 genes with activity that was biased toward one sex or the other in at least one tissue.”

Among other differences, they found genes were expressed differently in men’s and women’s skin, hair, hearts, livers, and fat cells. Indeed, every cell has a sex.

Social Research

Perhaps the area where Damore received the most anger was when he pointed to research showing women and men may have real personality and behavioral differences and interests. It makes sense that biological differences would lead to these.

Damore says women tend to be more interested in people and relationships than men, and less interested in things. They look for more balance between work and life and are more cooperative than men. Damore is correct, as a variety of studies confirm men and women are different. In “The Science Says The Google Guy Was Right About Sex Differences,” our Focus on the Family colleague, Glenn Stanton, unpacks some of this research and affirms Damore’s analysis.

Male-female differences are important because they underlie Christian beliefs about marriage, sexuality and relationships. Yet, Christian views are being suppressed, as we’ll see in the next article, “Silencing Discussion About Male-Female Differences.”

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