We all remember the Googlegate Incident back in August right? Awful. And Damore rightly got sacked. But what's the aftermath of his sexist memo for the women at Google, working in Tech all over the world and those thinking of studying STEM subjects? In light of the current allegations against Harvey Weinstein, treatment of women in the workplace is highly topical.
In the largest study of women in the workplace carried out in 2014, 52 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment or bullying in the workplace. Yes that's right. One in every two women you know would have experienced this.
New research carried by Professor Sabrina T Howell at NYU helps shed light on the damage that has probably been caused by the memo. Her sample included 4,328 high-growth entrepreneurs, who were roughly representative of the US startup scene; 21 percent were female founders.
The main take-away from the research paper is that receiving negative feedback increased venture abandonment by about 13 percent, an effect that doubled among female founders. Meaning that women who read the memo, which included incorrect conclusions about women not being good leaders due to their on average weaker performance in math, could have both driven women out of tech and also discouraged women from taking a tech job, or studying STEM topics.
I spoke to Howell about the impact on the memo on women in tech:
"There is substantial evidence that women, on average, are less confident about their own abilities than men are. It stands to reason that receiving a signal, in this case via Damore's internal memo at Google, that they are biologically less well suited to high-tech careers might contribute to discouraging some women from entering the field."
Celia Francis, CEO of Rated People and with over 20 years of experience in tech commented on the impact of this research:
"The conversation happening right now in tech and other industries about how important it is to treat each other with respect is actually very useful. I suspect that it will make what could be seen as an unconscious set of behaviors more conscious.
We all (men and women) have more control over our lives than we believe we do. Every day we make big and small choices. When we are conscious of the moment of choice, we can decide to take negative feedback or bad behavior and not let it touch our ambition or vision. We can decide to treat colleagues with honor and respect and good listening. The Google story helps bring some of the unconscious bias and unconscious behavior into the light which is helpful for men and for women in the workplace to improve their relationships with each other."
So is there a happy ending to Googlegate? Richard Thaler just won the Nobel Prize for Economics. One of his theories is 'January Madness': Thaler realized that the stock market would always rise in January for no apparent reason. After he discovered it, the market realized and it stopped happened. Hopefully the same will happen with women realizing they are, on average, not as confident. The same goes with imposter syndrome, once women realize, they can take into consideration this science, and take it into account.