Silicon Valley’s ‘Affirmative Action’ Policies Are TANKING

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Tech companies adamantly trying to diversify their workforce are failing to meet their own standards.

A telling example is Pinterest, a content sharing service. Tracy Chou, a former engineer at the company, established a 30 percent threshold for female engineer hires in 2015, but failed to reach that level after only reaching the 22 percent mark more than a year later.

“Obviously we were all hoping it would be better and closer to 30 percent,” Chou, who left the company in June, said, according to Bloomberg.

Chou implored other companies in Silicon Valley to publicize what the percentage of their software engineers are female.

After Google, Apple, Facebook, and other big name corporations obliged, she became a face of the workplace diversity movement, getting her own profile in Vogue magazine, despite her previous lackluster diversity figures.

Pinterest isn’t the only company that strives for more diversity in the workplace and was ultimately unsuccessful.

Former recruiters at Facebook told Bloomberg that they were directed to make more “diversity hires,” which included anyone who wasn’t white or Asian men. Even though Facebook would reward hires of minorities, job recruiters became frustrated because minority engineering candidates wouldn’t ultimately get an offer.

Specifically, the proportion of Latino and black workers stayed the same and women in technology roles at Facebook only increased 1 percent, according to Bloomberg. Recruiters blame the lackluster results on the fact that the people making the final hiring decisions are not being held to the same standards.

GitHub, a repository website where coders can collaborate and share work, sought to improve its diversity efforts, so it hired a consultant to launch its Social Impact team.

The new diversity group operated in a stern, even aggressive manner, according to two disgruntled employees, who spoke to Bloomberg with anonymity. The workers said that the Social Impact team caused GitHub to miss out on hiring some of the best talent by focusing too much on a candidate’s background, rather than other factors like tangible skills.

But Mitchell Lee, CEO of Penny, a personal finance application, thinks diversity should make an applicant more qualified because that is what some employers are explicitly looking for.

“When I say affirmative action, I mean I want to be able to see someone’s picture,” Lee said. “Somebody with a diverse background and a totally different perspective is more qualified for the position we’re trying to fill, which is expanding upon the collective viewpoint of what Penny has.”

Leslie Miley, director of engineering for the chat service startup Slack, says he actively looks for diversity in the hiring process, including loose metrics like “distance traveled” in order to dissuade hiring the usual people.

Miley, though, has hostility towards the term “affirmative action” because “the amount of baggage attached to that term is horrid.”

“When you say ‘affirmative action,’ the very next question most people have is, ‘Are we going to lower the bar?’ So let’s not call it that,” Miley told Bloomberg.

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