In a new video blog for "The Factual Feminist," American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers says some things the women who have stolen the feminist movement won't want to hear: Yes, there are biological differences between men and women that impact the "gender gap" — and, no, punishing those who try to discuss those differences doesn't help the cause.
Sommers, author of several highly regarded books, including Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys, begins by explaining that in response to Google's firing of James Damore, she initially planned to pen "an incendiary piece about how Silicon Valley is becoming a safe-space, trigger-warning culture," filled with references to "thought police and "gender warriors." But she decided that yet another culture war piece wasn't the way to go, opting instead for a "new approach." The result, however, still includes some unwelcome realities for the women who "stole feminism."
Sommers first provides some context to Google's fascistic firing of Damore:
First, a few facts: At Google, men hold 80 percent of tech jobs and 75 percent of leadership positions. But the disparity isn't unique to Google. At U.S. colleges last year, men earned 82 percent of computer science degrees and 80 percent of engineering degrees. Why are there so few women?
In his now-notorious memo, software engineer James Damore offered an explanation. But his answer included a lengthy discussion about how innate, biological sex differences may explain the gender gap in tech. His employer deemed him guilty of "advancing gender stereotypes" and he was fired.
Sommers notes that any discussion of the topic of inherent sex differences has to be handled with care, not because those who bristle are all "anti-science," but because, as she is well aware, there's a "long history of bogus claims about women's essential nature."
"I agree," she says, "that biological differences between the sexes likely are part of the reason we see fewer women than men in the ranks of Silicon Valley's tech workers." She points out that men tend to score higher on spatial reasoning tests — and explains how this may give them an edge in computer science. Furthermore, she points to a large body of research showing that, in general "women are more interested in people compared with men, who are more interested in things. To the extent that tech occupations are concerned more with things than people, men would on average be more attracted to them."
Sommers follows up the quote by underscoring that Eagly "warns pundits on both sides of the nature/nurture debate against rushing to conclusions: The precise connections between biology and life choices are murky and not well understood."
Sommers agrees, and adds that "even if biology is partly responsible for the gender gap in tech, that does not rule out other explanations." The two aren't mutually exclusive: of course you can have both biological and cultural/systemic reasons that explain the gender gap.
After describing female software engineer Chloe Condon's experiences in the field as a positive model for how to handle some of the inevitable challenges of being a female in a male-dominated field ("with humor and forgiveness"), Sommers concludes by asserting that the Left's "thought police" response, as modeled by Google, is only making the worthwhile debate about gender differences that much more difficult:
I promised no culture war rhetoric. But I can't help but say this: The proper response to Damore's memo is not for Google to double down on its implicit bias or microaggression training.
Listen to sane scholars like Alice Eagly, and bring in people like Chloe Condon. To quell the battle of the sexes, the goal should be a friendly atmosphere, where people can speak freely and even joke around with one another. By firing James Damore, Google has made that goal even harder to achieve.
Transcript via Sommers' article version of the video on The Washington Examiner.