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

Stephen Brashear/Getty ImagesAmy Hood, Microsoft’s chief financial officer.

Some people at Microsoft are openly rebelling against Microsoft’s efforts to hire more women, people of colour, and others who are underrepresented in the tech industry, which is 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 that said women were biologically less suited to engineering than men.

The debate at Microsoft comes after Quartz published an internal email string in which dozens of women discussed how to advance their careers at the company and said they experienced sexism and sexual harassment.

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

Satya nadellaStephen Lam/Getty ImagesMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella.

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

One employee blasted the company on an internal message board for encouraging Microsoft managers to hire more women. This person said 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 colour 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.

Research has suggested that 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, an author of one study wrote in a Harvard Business Review report. 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.

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