A Black career IT professional put himself forward for a promotion but was instead asked to help recruit another candidate, who was white. A Black Google engineer was confronted by a white coworker demanding to see his ID badge. A Latino project manager pointed out his quickly growing startup was almost all white, and the chief executive responded by telling him to invite his friends to apply for jobs. A Black Air Force vet was offered positions at both Twitter and Snap, only to be set adrift both times when the recruiting programs that brought him there dissolved. A Black programmer on contract was denied a full-time job and asked to train her unqualified white replacement instead.
These are just some of the stories of discrimination against women, LGBTQ-identified people, and people of color that The Times has collected in a survey of 68 tech workers that began in the fall of 2019.
Public protests demanding justice for Black people killed by police have brought a reckoning to the business world, with executives forced to resign, companies overhauling internal policies and employees quitting in protest.
For the tech industry, this reckoning has been going on in some form since 2014. But while large tech and venture capital firms have promised to do better, little has changed in how Black people and other people of color are treated as job candidates, employees and investors.
Some of the common experiences detailed in survey responses: enduring daily microaggressions; feeling targeted by superiors or external critics; being trotted out to defend a company’s diversity practices; being tasked with extra work typically reserved for diversity and inclusion officers. Respondents described companies where people of color are severely underrepresented in both rank-and-file and executive roles and corporate cultures that can feel hostile to anyone who is not a heterosexual, cisgender white male.
Of the 68 tech workers who responded to the survey, half said they felt tech was not inclusive to people from diverse backgrounds.
“Tech is inclusive because they need our talent and manpower regardless of whether they acknowledge it or not,” one Hulu employee who asked not to be named said. “It’s a spectrum of tolerance and acceptance.”
People whose identities are underrepresented in their field find themselves judged through a different set of lenses, one that ignores the question of privilege, the Hulu employee said. “A single mom that didn’t go to college is seen as uneducated whereas a white college dropout is seen as a ‘genius,’ as if he’s too good for college.”
Despite the hardships of navigating largely white, male spaces, fewer than a third of respondents said they’ve ever left a company in response to discrimination or non-inclusiveness. “When your position is this tenuous, you rarely leave since the next job is never sure to be there,” one woman who works at an education-tech startup and asked to be anonymous said.
These experiences mirror the results of a Pew Research study from early 2018, which found that more than 60% of Black people in STEM fields have been discriminated against at work, as have 50% of women, 44% of Asian STEM workers and 42% of Latino people. Pew found that discrimination typically took one of eight forms: being denied a promotion, being turned down for a job, being passed over for important assignments, experiencing repeated slights at work (or microaggressions), receiving less support from above than coworkers, getting paid less than coworkers doing the same job, feeling isolated, and being treated as less than competent.
The stories shared with The Times both capture and transcend those neat categories. Drawn from dozens of interviews, these accounts reflect the experiences, both common and unique, of women, LGBTQ-identifying people, and people of color who work in tech.
| Gaslighting, pay gaps and doxxing at Pinterest
| Racially profiled at the Googleplex
| Empty promises to an Air Force vet at Snap
| A career dogged by dog whistles
| Can’t the poc just recruit their friends?
| Gunning for a promotion—but asked to recruit a (white) boss instead
| Shut out and undermined in virtual reality
| Pushing for change at PatientPop