An internal memo entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” has caused a storm throughout our cultural landscape. Very few seem to have read James Damore’s text, including Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai who fired him yesterday. Pichai writes that the memo speaks of “harmful gender stereotypes” and goes on to say that for Damore to suggest that “colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.” The opening line to the conclusion of Damore’s memo reads: “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.”
It’s hard to solve a problem when you don’t have one to solve. But, in 2014 President Obama’s Labor Department told Google that it had a problem. The Department reported “compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women”. That’s because 70% of their workforce was male.
Google’s firing of Damore smacks with irony precisely because Google advanced the very arguments of which Damore writes to fend off Labor Department officials then. Google wrote that gender disparities, to the extent that they exist, are a result of factors unrelated to discrimination. The American Enterprise Institute reports that more than 80% of computer science and engineering majors are men. Google’s thought then, and Damore’s thought now, were not that individual women can’t be software engineers but that, generally, women do not tend to that profession as much as men.
And this line of reasoning is true. When it comes to the workforce, women tend to value part-time work and be more protective of work-life balance than men. The professions that women and men choose also tend to be different. Computer science and engineering majors are dominated by men, but we would do well to note that the humanities and their professions are dominated by women as much and even more.
Unfortunately, it’s controversial to say this but… this is all because women are different than men, with different desires and passions expressed in what professions they choose and how they pursue them.
With the eyes of faith we see that women and men are different. God has intended it from the beginning. Both man and woman reveal something that the other does not about the very nature of God. Further, a man and woman’s union in sacramental marriage images the relationship of Christ for the Church to the sanctification of the spouses, and the world too.
But the difference of men and women isn’t merely spiritual. It’s human and one rooted in nature and in experience. So, when Miley Cyrus declares that she is a genderless spirit soul, she contradicts my understanding as much as (and maybe even more than) my faith. Such declarations contradict what I know about myself as a man, my mother and girlfriend as women, and they fail to correspond to what I meet in my daily life, and what’s demonstrated in systematic science too.
The most profound part of Damore’s letter though, which seems to be lost on most every major media outlet, is how he offers five suggestions to make software engineering jobs more attractive to women than they currently are. This is a far better approach, not only because hiring women because they are women is discriminatory, its also disrespectful to women too. He writes:
Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things. We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration. Unfortunately, there may be limits to how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get female students into coding might be doing this).
Google’s Problem in the Church
It’s this point that got me thinking about how Google’s “sexism” problem exists in the Catholic Church. For those readers desiring a rebuke of the all-male priesthood as modeled by Jesus Christ and his Apostles, I’d refer you to the tomes of theological flexibility penned after the Second Vatican Council. What I want to expose is the man-crisis that exists today in Catholic churches across the country:
- 85% of those positions in the Catholic Church that do not require men (the priesthood) are filled by women.
- Further, a Notre Dame study shows that 70-90% of catechesis, service, bible study activities are led by women.
This is not without many unintended consequences upon the state of the faith in modern times, especially upon the spiritual maturity of young Catholic men. We make a tragic mistake as a Church when we think that because priests are men, the Church has men’s formation all taken care of. Nothing could be farther from the truth. But, let’s avoid Google’s hypocrisy in our solutions to the problem. We don’t respond by just hiring men or recruiting male volunteers because they are men. In front of these statistics, I want to outline 5 ways to make the Church, including ecclesial jobs, more attractive to men:
- Demand More Faith: What if we made concrete demands upon the spiritual lives of those who worked and volunteered for the Church? For example: Pray a daily holy hour or a rosary. Go to daily Mass. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Yeah, I get it: Lay and clerical life are busy, the ordinary events of life are sacred, and so on… But without contemplation, simply talking to Jesus, we are not living truly inspired or even fully ourselves. We are branches without sap.
- More Doing, Less Talking: A few weeks ago I heard a story I’ll never forget. A man was excited to take up his new role on the pastoral council. It was his first glimpse of parish service. But to his great surprise, the content of the meetings was less about evangelizing his zip code and more about meeting for the sake of it. He felt like the “busy-bodies” that St. Paul condemns and today he’s disenchanted. We talk a lot about talking in the Church. Why don’t we focus on concretely answering the needs of our communities instead? Is there a strip club near by? Close it. Are their hungry people? Feed them.
- Less Programming, More Movements: Every liturgical season we have another program to sign up for. Many of them are great. But I wonder if we could be a bit more organic. By focusing on the needs of our communities, you’ll find that your community will not be the only one to benefit. Men will rally together and will find themselves in the sacred bonds of brotherhood, and that will light your parish on fire. It often takes the paternal leadership of the pastor to identify and courageously commission individual men to lead the charge.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Numbers: Businesses of all shapes and sizes lay out Wildly Important Goals to achieve quarter after quarter. And they measure against their success frequently to make sure that they are taking the right steps. In the Church, we frequently mask our failure by saying things like “quality over quantity” and the classic “if only one-soul” adage. And then we ignore all those uncomfortable things that Jesus says about fruitfulness and spiritual multiplication… Set some big goals for your parish. Lay out three things that need to happen and by when. And then, make them happen.
- Compensate More: The bottom line is that very few men can provide for a family on the disrespectful salaries that are offered at Catholic institutions. I’m not sure why we think that the cause of the Church should woo talent more than compensation. In fact, I think we should think of it the other way around. Yes, the cause of the Church is the greatest one in the world and because of that, we compensate accordingly. Fundraise better, make more God Asks, and He will provide for not just your operating cost, but enough to hire the best and brightest. We cannot expect layman, who have not made promises of simplicity or poverty to be compensated so little.
God is always at work in our world, and lessons are being taught to us, if we are perceptive, patient, and humble enough to look for them.
 Stewart, Cynthia (2008). The Catholic Church: A Brief Popular History. Saint Mary’s Press. p. 322.
 David C. Leege and Thomas A. Trozzolo, “Participation in Catholic Parish Life: Religious Rites and Parish Activities in the 1980s,” Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life, Issue 3 (1985): 14.