“Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” an internal memo written by former-employee James Damore, caused a storm throughout our cultural landscape this past summer. Only a few days ago, Damore formally filed his class action lawsuit stating that a) workplace bias exists over and against men and women with conservative views at Google; and b) that Google’s employment practices work against white people, especially white men.

Very few seem to have read James Damore’s original text, including Google’s CEO (Sundar Pichai) who fired Damore immediately after the memo leaked. Nevertheless, buried in it is a treasure that the Church can learn from as she goes about her sacred mission.

Google’s Problem

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. The most profound part of Damore’s letter though is how he offers suggestions to make software engineering jobs more attractive to women. Here’s one snippet:

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).

What the Church Can Learn

It’s this point that got me thinking about how the Church can learn from Google’s discrimination case. 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.[1]
  • Further, a Notre Dame study shows that 70-90% of catechesis, service, bible study activities are led by women.[2]

We make a mistake as a Church when we think that because priests are men, the Church has men’s formation all covered. 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 her jobs, more attractive to men:

  1. 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. Without contemplation, simply talking to Jesus, we are not living truly inspired or even fully ourselves. We are branches without sap.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Compensate More: The bottom line is that very few men can provide for a family on the salaries that are offered at Catholic institutions. I’m not sure why the cause of the Church should woo talent without due consideration to compensation. Instead, how about this: the cause of the Church is the greatest one in the world and because of that, we compensate accordingly to seek the best talent available. How? Get humble, fundraise better, make more God Asks, and He will provide for not just your operating cost, but enough for excellence.

God is always at work in our world, and lessons are being taught to us if we are humble enough to look for them. Even within a lawsuit at Google.


[1] Stewart, Cynthia (2008). The Catholic Church: A Brief Popular History. Saint Mary’s Press. p. 322.

[2] 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.

  • Mike17

    "The bottom line is that very few men can provide for a family on the salaries that are offered at Catholic institutions.” Is that a factor which helps to explain the percentages quoted in the article about male/female participation rates in positions not reserved to men? I can’t speak about the situation in the USA but in the United Kingdom the only person in a parish who does a role not reserved for men and tends to be paid is the priest’s housekeeper. Everything else tends to be voluntary. So if females fill more of these positions in the UK it has nothing to do with the level of salaries.