Sexist Pseudoscience, the Travel Ban & Slack

The Godfather of Sexist Pseudoscience by Stephanie Newman of Narratively

Using his pseudoscientific studies linking skull size to intellect as justification, Gustave Le Bon, a 19th-century French scientist, believed women and colonized populations shouldn’t be educated. He warned that, if educated, they would become “enemies of society” and even compared women’s brains to those of gorillas. Today, some education advocates continue Le Bon’s legacy of gender essentialism or “the belief in binary, fixed differences between men and women that account for ‘natural’ behavior and characteristics.” Most scientists agree that gender differences can be attributed to a complex combination of nature, nurture, and culture, but gender essentialists hone in on the “nature” aspect, using neuroimaging research to justify gender-based treatment. Some academics have concerns about the validity of the research gender essentialists rely on, citing issues of sample size and inaccurate data representation. There’s also evidence to show that gender-segregation encourages stereotypical thinking. Despite the debate about research, the concept of gender essentialism is embedded in our culture and continues to spread: not only did Le Bon influence prominent thinkers like Sigmund Freud and Theodore Roosevelt, but modern gender essentialists give talks at influential companies like Google.

Why Dozens Of National Security Experts Have Come Out Against Trump’s Travel Ban, by Nina Totenberg of NPR

Over 55 former intelligence experts have formed a bipartisan coalition against the Trump administration’s travel ban. General Michael Hayden, the former director of both the NSA and the CIA, shared the coalition’s concerns in an interview with NPR. Hayden explains that the ban is a result of “non-fact-based decision-making” and he points out that most of his former colleagues have spoken out against the ban, while none of those still working for the NSA or the CIA have gone on record in support of it. He says his former colleagues still in the CIA privately warn that the ban is making the U.S. less safe, in part because it makes it harder for security agencies to recruit locals from the banned countries. Hayden argues that the travel ban encourages the “undying enmity between the values of Islam and the values of the West,” which he says is exactly the sentiment ISIS and al-Qaeda want to spread. Finally, Hayden emphasizes that the ban undermines our “great national strength” as “a welcoming nation.”

How Slack Got Ahead in Diversity, by Jessica Nordell of The Atlantic

The recent release of Slack’s 2017 diversity report shows the company to be a frontrunner when it comes to diversity in Silicon Valley. The popular workplace messaging app continues to outperform companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, with 31 percent of leadership positions and 34 percent of technical roles going to women, and 13 percent of all employees belonging to an “underrepresented minority”—6 percent of whom hold leadership roles. Interestingly, while more and more tech companies have a “head of diversity” on staff, Slack doesn’t, which “seems to signal that diversity and inclusion aren’t standalone missions, to be shunted off to a designated specialist, but are rather intertwined with the company’s overall strategy.” Back in 2015, the company revamped its hiring process and implemented changes like recruiting candidates through “all-women’s coding camps” and “programs that focus on training black and Latino programmers;” prioritizing applicants’ skills over elite academic backgrounds; changing the language of job descriptions to appeal to a wide range of applicants; and working to eliminate bias in the interview process. While there is still room for improvement, Julia Grace, Slack’s senior director of infrastructure engineering, emphasizes that, “All of us believe it’s our responsibility.”

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