Campus professor responds to former Google employee’s memo about diversity in technology

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Campus professor David Patterson published an essay Friday in response to former Google employee James Damore’s memo, in which Damore stressed that women are biologically different and not suited to working in technology companies like Google.

Damore’s memo, which generated a lot of controversy when it surfaced in August, stated that Google has mistakenly made gender representation a priority.

In the essay, Patterson, along with Maria Klawe and John Hennessy, highlighted four main points in rebuttal to Damore’s memo, concerning why women are underrepresented in computer science, why diversity in the field is important and how to improve diversity in the future.

The three authors mentioned that they have seen women thrive under their guidance as faculty and administrators. Patterson is a professor in the electrical engineering and computer sciences department, or EECS, on campus.

“Biology doesn’t explain anything,” Patterson said. “Despite (Damore’s) cherry-picking of scientific results, science disagrees with want he wants to say.”

According to Patterson, since computer science courses are popular on campus, a variety of students enroll in courses. Patterson added that courses such as CS10 and CS61A are good opportunities for students to gain coding experience.

“Computer science is becoming an extraordinarily popular major,” Patterson said. “Berkeley is a diverse campus, and what’s happening with popularity is that the field is getting more diverse. All of us in the field who have been here a long time think that’s just wonderful.”

Gresshaa Mehta, the president of FEMTech — a student organization dedicated to supporting women in their careers in technology — said in an email that Damore’s memo is a reminder of why a club like FEMTech must exist.

Mehta added in an email that the Berkeley faculty and students are aware of the “toxic culture” in Silicon Valley and in the EECS department on campus, and the community is working towards creating an inclusive and diverse setting.

Armando Fox, the faculty adviser for the CS Scholars Program, said numerous programs, such as CS Scholars, exist on campus to improve gender and ethnic diversity.

“It is important for me to understand that I am not a minority in computing. That means I have not had the experience that women or African Americans or other minorities had,” Fox said. “Just listening to what I had to say would not help.”

Fox said he finds it beneficial to listen to students in CS Scholars Program and their experiences interacting with faculty. Fox also added he regularly invites women and underrepresented minorities in the EECS field to give technical talks in addition to talking about their struggles in the field.

According to Mehta, various female engineering students approach FEMTech to share their experiences of being isolated in the computer science community.

“Clearly, we have different concentrations of people who live in their own bubbles of belief in Berkeley and it’s up to all of us as a community to make the department more inclusive,” Mehta said in an email. “It’s a slow process but I like many others on campus, believe we can combat the toxicity.”

Ananya Sreekanth covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @asreekanth_dc.

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  • Mark

    Top grads in EE, CS, etc., can’t even get job interviews at Google because they’re so overwhelmed with quality US citizen applicants at all levels. Google goes out of their way to hire foreign nationals. I’d support a complete ban on use of foreign workers at Google unless they could prove that they meet the standards for O-1 visa use.

  • hoapres

    You are better off being an electrician in a union than a UC Berkeley EECS grad from a financial point of view. Now Patterson won’t like to hear that but that is the case. IBEW local for San Jose starts the apprentices out at almost $28 an hour. In five year your salary doubles to close to $60 an hour. You actually get paid for overtime unlike engineering. You don’t compete against OPTs and h1bs. No educational costs to speak of. If you start off at 18 then you will have 4 years of EARNED income and at 22 making over $100K a year along with having a pension plan.

    No wonder Americans aren’t going into EECS.

    • Mark

      Americans are still going into EECS, but when they graduate, and apply for jobs, they’re literally ignored. UC Berkeley can only substantiate 1/3rd of their EECS grads actually finding post-graduation employment, *and* they’re mostly employed in the software, not the ‘hardware’ sector which is what EECS is all about. The ‘hardware’ sector has been decimated, there’s no more “Silicon” in “Silicon Valley”, most of the interesting stuff having moved to Asia a long time ago.

      • Scott Jenner

        hmm wonder if I change my name to Sanjay Kumar and get skin operation to look dark then I can get another IT job? I am going to do an experiment and post fake resume see if I get job offer that way.

    • Scott Jenner

      agree I can make $20/hr plus bennies plus free training which is better than not working

  • hoapres

    What shortage of software engineers ?

    We don’t see it in Silicon Valley. If we really had such a shortage then the wages would be going up.

    • Scott Jenner

      agree so what can we train in to find jobs that are not H1b infested or outsourced?

      • hoapres

        Start looking at fields that require professional licensing such as medicine or law. In those fields, the relevant professional societies can reduce the numbers of new entrants to keep the supply down with the resultant wages up.

        Note: I have been banned by Siliconbeat as well. I said it was going to happen.

        • Scott Jenner

          thanks what about trades like plumbing and electrical work that require the completion of an apprenticeship and licensing?

          • hoapres

            Not a bad bet because there is going to be a heck of lot of rebuilding going on in the next 20 years that is assuming we don’t let this country go down the tubes.

            AND

            It really does take some brains and skills to be really good at the trades. Being a good tradesmen isn’t a skill you can learn in a weekend.

          • Scott Jenner

            Yeah I doubt my college GPA of 3.3 would get me into medical school since I am not black or female or a special minority category. Plus I would have to take a year of organic chemistry and physics and then even if I was accepted into an MD program I would be 55 by the time I graduated! Plus 200k in debt. I have enough money now to almost semi-retire. So will look into becoming an electrician that is less physical than pure construction. Man these banksters and global greedpig elite CEOS have really screwed the normal American people!

          • Scott Jenner

            plus demand overseas is high for trades and since I speak 5 languages can work in almost any country with the skills.

        • Scott Jenner

          true and one idiot manager I worked for years ago who happened to be an H1b originally called me a racist for speaking out against this whole scam and crime against Americans.

    • Scott Jenner

      correct I sent out hundreds of resumes and rejected

    • Scott Jenner

      plus companies are H1b INDIAN infested

      • Mark

        Yup. Take a look at Marvell’s “social club”, its all Chinese. If it were all white, the EEOC lawyers would be all over that, but all-Chinese H-1B doesn’t seem to cause a problem.

        • Scott Jenner

          well looks the commies from red china and corrupt india have won and americans lost. So much for Trump changing things. I guess the saying stinky chinky is a pinky takes on real new meaning!

    • Scott Jenner

      if there really was a shortage, wages would go up and there would be ZERO unemployed Americans! Truth is, MILLIONS of American engineers who are qualified like myself are OUT OF WORK and cannot find another job!

  • Martin Macdonald

    Typical lefty press. Misrepresent Damore’s statements and denigrate actual science in favor of the left’s brave new world of behavior control.

  • intranethatemachine

    Silicon Valley is one of the most diverse regions of the US, we are plurality south asians, east asians, south-east asians, and jews. Oh wait, we don’t count as minorities.

    Also, what is the gender ratio of the EECS department, at the undergraduate level? The EECS diversity page omits this important piece of information for some reason.

  • D.Plorable

    I think the article should have specified the gender composition of EECS. Even better with historical trend data included. And how about race/ethnicity?

    Ages ago the DC published a comprehensive review of the ethnic breakdown across the different majors and grad departments, most interesting how ethnic “clusters” were clearly evident–Chinese in EE, India in ChemE, Middle Eastern in Mech E, and a preponderance of US native whites in CE–notably there were more females in the latter than anywhere else. It would be interesting to see what those numbers look like now.

    This issue has been going on for some time, as in the 80s I know they even had a program for women who already had a non-tech degree to grant them access to the (even-then highly competitive) CS major.

    • Scott Jenner

      That is easy to figure out. Gender is 90% MALE and of that 90% from SOUTHERN INDIA!

  • lspanker

    in which Damore stressed that women are biologically different and not suited to working in technology companies like Google.

    That’s NOT what Damore said. Why is it necessary to misrepresent him, unless you are afraid of dealing with the specific issues he discussed?

    • hoapres

      Isn’t it amazing how the press never quotes you accurately.

      • Scott Jenner

        that is because the press is owned by 5 oligarchs like Turner and Bezos and Carlos Slim.