Here’s exactly what to say to white men who think they’re being oppressed or discriminated against
For today’ installment of “Things We Can’t Believe We Have To Talk About,” we present you with a bunch of white men who are filing a class-action lawsuit against Google for discriminating against their race, gender, and conservative views. Yeah, we’re confused, too. Last we checked, we were pretty sure that white men in America functionally can’t be oppressed or discriminated against, being that they’re white and male, just like the people who historically created (and therefore benefited from) all the systems in our society. All of this is why we have to enact actual laws to protect people of other races and genders to ensure some semblance of equality. That’s exactly how much things are set up to advantage white guys, especially straight, cisgender ones.
But some white men apparently still feel oppressed, so you’re going to need have some comebacks ready for the next time you hear this absurd line of thinking, which so many of us find ourselves facing from time to time.
Just so you know what you’re up against, James Damore is the instigator here. He’s a former Google engineer who was fired in August after he wrote a ten-page memo with footnotes that said there were fewer women in tech because women are biologically less able than men to do software engineering and have less drive at work. He’s joined on the suit by David Gudeman, another former employee who left the company last year, without writing a memo, but who ostensibly didn’t like working alongside his female counterparts.
The suit was filed by the Dhillon Law Group, which, according to the New York Times, is happy to represent any Google employee that feels they’ve been discriminated against because of their “male gender,” “Caucasian race,” or “perceived conservative political views.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a letter to employees after Damore’s termination in August that he was fired because “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”
The suit specifically says that the two men were “ostracized, belittled, and punished for their heterodox political views, and for the added sin of their birth circumstances of being Caucasians and/or males.” It also alleges that “the numerical presence of women” was celebrated and that men were met with “boos” and that the company has “illegal hiring quotas to fill its desired percentages of women and favored minority candidates, and openly shames managers of business units who fail to meet their quotas — in the process, openly denigrating male and Caucasian employees as less favored than others.”
Meanwhile, by the way, the company is facing another class action lawsuit from three women who allege that they were systematically paid less than male counterparts. Google is also, in a separate case, being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor for wage discrimination. Just saying.
Men’s rights advocates on Twitter are celebrating Damore for standing up in defense of being a white male who holds “conservative” (or just really bigoted?) views. Most of us probably see why this is all so infuriating and insane, but it can be challenging to explain to someone who doesn’t quite get it.
Here’s what you can say.
1No, being a white male isn’t “like being gay in the 1950s.”
Damore has said that being a white male with conservative views is akin to being “gay in the 1950s,” insinuating that men who think women (or people of a different race) aren’t biologically capable of the same caliber of work are fired, jailed, sent to electroshock therapy, or lose custody of their children, as Kara Swisher, a leading tech journalist and founder of Recode pointed out when she heard him say it. Spoiler alert: They aren’t. As Swisher tweeted, “Please. It’s like comparing yourself to a political prisoner when you get arrested for jaywalking.”
In fact, there are 30 states still that don’t ban LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender. A 2011 study found that 9.2 percent of openly gay people lost a job because of their sexual orientation and 38.2 percent reported being harassed. Almost 78 percent of transgender reported being harassed and 47 percent reported being fired or held back for promotion because of their gender identity. So, no. It’s not like “being gay” in the 1950s or even in 2018.
2Women are passed over for promotion for lesser qualified men.
A 2014 study found that even when women have the same experience as men, they get passed up for promotions. It’s not just in one industry, either. The researchers controlled for different industries, age, education, tenure, and came up with the same results. According to their findings, “[f]or men, fatherhood is associated with a greater chance of promotion,” whereas for women having kids can “have a negative effect on promotion rates and that effect is even more negative if they are younger.”
Another 2015 study found that although both genders would like to be promoted at the same rate, men are 15 percent more likely to be promoted than women, again, even controlling for industry, tenure, and job level. So, please, white men, tell us again how oppressed you are.
3White men are more likely to get job interviews.
Really, we could do this all day. There are so many studies about how men are still winning in the workplace, but one of the most recent, from January 2017, found that white men are three times more likely to be hired than women. Researchers from the Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management showed hiring managers two resumes: One with the name “James” and another with the name “Jessica.” Yes, James got more calls to come in and interview. A similar 2015 experiment found that STEM jobs are more often given to “John” over “Jennifer.”
Similar studies have done the same with “white sounding” and “Black or Latinx sounding” names, to a point at which a 2017 study found that when people of color “whiten” their names on a resume, they get more jobs. Oh, and male interviewers reported in a 2017 study that they’re more likely to judge a job candidate based on appearance and wardrobe, which is always nice to hear.
Damore’s lawsuit and his supporters are really concerned about the “group think” at companies and institutions that push an ideology onto their employees. Yet hiring managers (40 percent to be exact) are loathe to hire women for something they might do in the future, like take an expensive maternity leave, based on really old data about how women often leave the workforce after having kids, sometimes just because they want to, but also sometimes because their husbands and society preferred it or because the jobs they could get weren’t paying enough to make putting the kids in daycare worth working outside of the home.
Damore wasn’t fired for his political views, but imagine never even getting a chance to clock in because your boss assumes you might do something one day because you have ovaries or they believe some stereotype about your race. Now that’s oppression.
4Half of women in STEM report harassment.
A study out this week found that over half of women in STEM fields report being discriminated against in their industry and while they were in school, preparing to take on a career in tech, math, or science. Twenty-two percent report sexual harassment. According to the Pew Research Center:
"One-in-five women in STEM (20 percent) say their gender has made it harder to succeed at work, compared with 7% of men in STEM. Among women in STEM jobs who work in majority-male settings that figure rises to 48 percent."
It’s not any better for people of color. Although only 13 percent of white people in STEM fields report being discriminated against because of their race or gender compared to 62 percent of blacks, 44 percent of Asians, and 42 percent of Hispanics. A 2016 study found that 47 percent of women leave STEM fields “based on behaviors,” such as harassment and discrimination — not because they are biologically worse at coding than men.
5Race discrimination rates at work are the same as they were in 1989.
We all know that the gender pay gap is worse for women of color than it is for white women, but black men are also making less money than their white counterparts. Black men and women make up only 4.7 percent of the C-suite jobs in the Fortune 100. Fortune reported that even at “smaller companies,” black men and women only hold 6.7 percent of the country’s 16.2 million “management jobs.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, black people make up twice that share of the population overall.
According to Vox, anti-black hiring practices haven’t changed since 1989, which is appalling. “White applicants receive 36 percent more callbacks than equally qualified African Americans” while “[w]hite applicants receive on average 24 percent more callbacks than Latinos,” the study’s authors found. Another study found that black men have to have more education than white men do to get the very same job, which could also lead to more student debt and time spent in school, meaning that black men are starting way far behind.
Instead of white men worrying about the “numerical presence” women and people of color at the weekly meeting, they should use their privilege to make room for even more.