Today at Berkeley Lab

Director’s Message on Lab Commitment to Diversity

Dear colleagues,

When I presented the Annual Laboratory Plan to DOE leadership in early June, I ended with a slide on the long-term future of the Laboratory that said, “Our ability to meet these challenges depends on our ability to bring together diverse teams of talented, creative, and committed scientists and engineers.” I showed photos of the eleven scientists who were the finalists for the Laboratory Directed R&D competition that we held for early career scientists this year. I pointed out that seven of those eleven scientists are women.

As you know, the Bay Area technology industry has been going through a very public conversation about the gender gap in the sector. This ongoing discussion was intensified recently when a male Google engineer circulated a memo which argued, among other things, that “the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

Measuring and interpreting biological differences in the abilities of men and women is extremely challenging, and neither the memo author nor I are qualified experts in such social science. This is not rocket science; it is more difficult. I can only get some appreciation for how hard it is by looking at research papers like this one: http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2010-22162-004. In the abstract, it says: “First, we meta-analyzed data from 242 studies published between 1990 and 2007, representing the testing of 1,286,350 people. Overall, d = 0.05, indicating no gender difference, and variance ratio = 1.08, indicating nearly equal male and female variances.”

As we have heard recently from Steve Robbins, people are more creative and productive when they believe their accomplishments will be evaluated fairly. It is important for us to listen to thoughtful people who can describe from their own experience what it is like to be constantly pushing against dismissive co-workers. I recommend to you the column published yesterday by Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, and the sixteenth employee of Google.

This Laboratory is committed to giving women the opportunity to do great work here in every area – research, operations, facilities, and leadership. We will continue working to improve the environment for all of our employees, both because it is the right thing to do and because it will make us a more productive laboratory.

Best regards,
Mike