It’s no secret that Silicon Valley has a problem hiring and retaining Black engineers. Despite long-standing promises of increasing Black employees in executive suites and beyond, not much has changed. When an insider gives proof of a lack of effort to hire Black workers, it is still shocking. This is what happened when a Black Facebook recruiter quit and revealed that the social media platform isn’t in any hurry to get more Black people on staff.
Rhett Lindsey, 32, was recruited at Facebook to find highly paid engineers for the platform. He quit in August 2020 after less than a year when efforts to hire Black engineers were shut down by the company, The Washington Post reported. Potential recruits were often rejected because they didn’t meet a “cultural fit,” he said.
The term “cultural fit” is often used in the tech industry to refer to job applicants who staffers would want to have a beer with, according to The Verge.
Lindsey and other current and former Black employees involved in hiring claim that the company has a systemic diversity problem.
Potential recruits filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the summer of 2019 alleging that Facebook is biased against Black workers.
Facebook disputes the complaints. “We’ve added diversity and inclusion goals to senior leaders’ performance reviews. We take seriously allegations of discrimination and have robust policies and processes in place for employees to report concerns, including concerns about microaggressions and policy violations,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told The Washington Post.
But the EEOC complaint backs up Lindsey’s charges. In it, Facebook operations manager Oscar Veneszee Jr., who is Black and still works at Facebook, said he had submitted more than half a dozen qualified applicants who were underrepresented minorities for jobs at Facebook, but all were rejected. He said he believed they were rejected because they did not pass the “cultural fit” test.
“When I was interviewing at Facebook, the thing I was told constantly was that I needed to be a culture fit, and when I tried to recruit people, I knew I needed find people who were a culture fit,” he said. “But unfortunately not many people I knew could pass that challenge because the culture here does not reflect the culture of Black people.”
“There is no culture-fit checkmark on an application form, but at Facebook, it is like this invisible cloud that hangs over candidates of color,” Lindsey said. He added that at least a dozen qualified candidates of color that he referred for interviews were also rejected by Facebook, with culture fit being part of those decisions. “It really boils down to who do I feel comfortable hanging out with.”
There have been several instances where Black Facebook employees have spoken out on racism in big tech.
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In November 2020, a dozen anonymous current and former Facebook employees wrote a Medium post titled “Facebook Empowers Racism Against Its Employees of Color.” It portrayed Facebook as a culture filled with racist and discriminatory behavior against African Americans and listed several racist incidents the workers had experienced, USA Today reported.
In 2018, Facebook admitted it was doing a bad job hiring more Black people. At the time, 1 percent of Facebook engineers and coders were Black. In 2014, Facebook had a workforce that was 3 percent Black. In 2020, that number had risen to 3.8 percent.
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