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A MongoDB Engineering Response to the Anti-Diversity-Effort Manifesto

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The following is an email I sent to the MongoDB engineering team this past Friday. At the behest of the team, I am now making it public. —Eliot

You’ve likely heard of the 10-page memo that was published by a (now former) Google employee regarding Google’s diversity efforts. Parts of the memo assert that the gender gap in tech is rooted in biological differences. I want to make it clear where MongoDB stands on this issue, where I stand on this issue, and what behavior we expect from employees in regard to this.

If everything was a level playing field, and had been for millennia, this whole conversation would be non-existent. The fact is, the historical legacy of sexism, racism, and a host of other isms is real and powerful. What really matters is that trying to undo that damage, while a necessarily imperfect endeavor, is nonetheless of vital importance, and that diversity efforts are an effective method for achieving that goal. If we all agree that working towards a level playing field is the goal, conversations about how best to achieve it can be responsibly had.

This manifesto, however, is not part of a healthy dialogue at all. It advances a false equivalence between diversity efforts and discrimination built on a substrate of reasonable statements and context-free references to research. It is just another attempt to disguise prejudice in the clothing of rationalism. History is littered with them, and we can only hope that our work will hasten their consignment to the dustbin of shameful ideas. For those of you with the luxury of reading this latest example without feeling directly threatened by it, understand that crediting the author with “some good points” provides cover for his conclusions, and contributes to a hostile environment for your peers.

And for the record, there are many reasons I care a lot about diversity, beyond the obvious and paramount moral ones. I am 100% convinced that a more diverse engineering team at MongoDB will make our products better. Diversity isn’t just a metric, it’s a means to a more inclusive way of thinking, and teams with more diverse opinions and thought processes can better understand how others will interact with things they build. Such teams can’t help but build better, more usable, more understandable products, thereby better fulfilling our core company mission of making developers productive.

As our Embrace the Power of Differences value states, our commitment to increasing diversity is not about changing our standards (which is what the memo implies). It’s instead about a commitment to source, interview, grow, and retain members of underrepresented groups who meet those standards. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please feel free to reach out to me.