It’s estimated that African-Americans and Latinos make up a mere 5 percent of Facebook’s employees and 3 percent at Twitter. While women make up 50 percent of the U.S. population, at most tech companies they account for a mere 2 to 4 percent of their staff.
Despite millions of dollars being spent to create diversity initiatives, the issue still remains. But Stephanie Lampkin, an engineer and web developer, hopes her new app can curb the tech world’s persistent racial and gender disparities.
Blendoor creates a system where potential job candidates can upload their resumes without having their names and photos displayed. Lampkin admits that this idea of anonymity in hiring came from extensive research, which included a National Bureau of Economic Research study that found that applicants with “white-sounding” names such as Jenny or Bill got more callbacks in comparison to more “African-American sounding” applicants such as Lakisha or Jamal.
“We realized that hiding names and photos created a safer space. Women and people of color felt better sharing their information,” the 31-year old told Forbes.
The app will launch at the 2016 SXSW festival in March with 19 large tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yelp, and Airbnb, having already signed up to incorporate its pilot version into their own hiring practices, Black Enterprise noted. The app will hold the companies accountable by collecting the data around who is applying for positions and how often they are getting “matched” and hired for jobs.
Are you ready to party with Blendoor? The Launch we've all been waiting for. Check your Bias at the door for FREE! t.co/g8uvtO82uL
— Blendoor (@blendoor) March 8, 2016
Lampkin also encourages people of color, women and LGBT individuals who are looking for jobs to use the app too, especially those who “feel alienated by job search tools,” Forbes writes.
“I know a number of really successful, Ivy League-educated, African-American people between about 35 and 45 who refuse to use LinkedIn out of fear of discrimination,” she said.
Lampkin can speak to that alienation and fear of discrimination first-hand.
Despite having an MBA from MIT, an engineering degree from Stanford and full-stack web developer experience since she was 15, Lampkin too has been overlooked for jobs in her field. She shared with Forbes an experience where she had made it the 8th round of a interviews for a highly competitive job at “a well-known tech firm,” only to be told her background wasn’t “technical enough.” Later on Lampkin’s recruiter suggested that she wait for a sales or marketing role to open up at the company.
While Lampkin ended up working at Microsoft, she still wonders how this type of rejection can impact young people of color, especially Black women, early on in their careers. But she is optimistic that Blendoor can help create an environment where rejection and racial bias are not one in the same and everyone with talent is given a fair shot.
“My company resonates more with white men when I position it as, ‘hey, I want to help you find the best talent. Your unconscious mind isn’t racist, sexist — it’s totally natural, and we’re trying to help you circumvent it’” she said.