Some people inside Microsoft are openly proclaiming that women's thoughts aren't as suited to engineering as men's

Amy HoodStephen Brashear/Getty Images

  • A debate is raging inside Microsoft over the companies efforts to hire more women and others from diverse backgrounds.
  • Some are even arguing that women's brains make them less interested in engineering.
  • This is de ja vu from what Google went through two years ago, when it fired an engineer for making similar arguments.
  • It goes to show just deeply rooted this kind of anti-diversity viewpoint is in the tech industry.

Some people at Microsoft are openly rebelling against Microsoft's efforts to hire more women, people of color and others who are underrepresented in the tech industry, known for its great pay, perks and rewarding work.

The situation is similar to the one that embroiled Google in controversy, when it fired an engineer who wrote a manifesto, and published it on Google's internal message boards, arguing that women were biologically less suited to engineering than men.

The debate at Microsoft comes after Quartz published an internal email string where dozens of women discussed how to advance their careers at the company, and claimed experiences of sexism and sexual harassment.

At the same time, a group of women are suing the company, making similar claims and Microsoft has been successfully fighting that suit.

satya nadellaStephen Lam/Getty Images

Microsoft employees took their heated discussion over diversity all the way to the CEO earlier this month, Quartz reports. While such discussions on how women are treated at the company pre-dates that published email string, it has grown rampant this month since that first Quartz story.

One employee blasted the company for encouraging Microsoft managers to hire more women on an internal message board. This person once again claims that women's thoughts are somehow less suited to engineering than men. According to Quartz, this person wrote:

"We still lack any empirical evidence that the demographic distribution in tech is rationally and logically detrimental to the success of the business in this industry….We have a plethora of data available that demonstrate women are less likely to be interested in engineering AT ALL than men, and it's not because of any *ism or *phobia or 'unconscious bias'- it's because men and women think very differently from each other, and the specific types of thought process and problem solving required for engineering of all kinds (software or otherwise) are simply less prevalent among women."

This argument is a much-loved trope among those who believe that tech jobs earned by women and/or people of color are being wrongly distributed away from white guys. Many of the comments in the internal discussion condemned this anti-diversity argument.

Experts say there is no scientific backing for the belief that women's brains are ill suited for certain jobs such as engineering.

The main reason why fewer women choose engineering careers, and more of them drop out of tech, is cultural: women are actively and subtly discouraged from these fields, and often treated with hostility or unconscious bias once they do enter, researchers say. It's a situation known as "death by 10,000 paper cuts."

And the above post gives a pretty good glimpse as to what that looks like.

The debate raging at Microsoft today, just as it raged at Google two years ago, shows how hard it is for big tech companies to change their culture to include people from all walks of life on their payrolls. There is ample evidence that diverse teams are good for a company's bottom line.

(By the way, the Google engineer who was fired over his anti-diversity manifesto sued the company and lost).

Microsoft declined to provide an on the record comment on the matter.

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

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