Careers Working At Home

He didn’t ask about her twelve-year career break, but it was clear he was trying to make sense of it. And because he didn’t ask the obvious question, he didn’t find out she had worked for years (without pay) as a technical writer assisting her ex-husband on articles he “wrote” for engineering industry journals. He didn’t find out she was an active and well-regarded blogger, without pay, on the highly successful Silicon Valley Moms blog, one of the first of its kind. He didn’t find out she was a leader at her daughter’s high school, serving as the vice president of fundraising, again without pay.

The recruiter called her that night and said Facebook had decided to pass. Lisa called to find out why, and the recruiter said she’d look into it but never called her back. Lisa didn’t press the issue. She decided to move on and look elsewhere.

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Sadly, because of one employee’s biases (either conscious or unconscious) Facebook lost the chance to hire a strong candidate with an unconventional background. Lisa offered the company diversity that would have been directly in line with their stated goal of increasing the number of women on their payroll.

Facebook, at least, is very publicly trying to reverse this problem They have launched a training series called Managing Unconscious Bias for their workforce.230 The series includes four videos on the topics of first impressions, stereotypes, performance attribution bias, competency/likability tradeoff, and … maternal bias.

By July 2015, more than half of their employees around the world had taken the course. But they didn’t stop there. Rather than keep the training internal and use it as a competitive recruiting tool, Facebook has open sourced the training videos so anyone can view them and use them in their own workplace.

Lori Goler, Facebook’s head of human resources, was quoted in an article on Recode as saying, “It isn’t that we’ve figured it out or we have all the answers, but I would like to think that we’re at a moment in time when any company that feels like it has something that’s working will share it back with the ecosystem” She went on to say, “It’s not a competition, it’s part of making the entire industry better.”231

The good news is the tech leaders at companies like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and others, which are largely staffed with data-driven, young men who see themselves as egalitarian and see Silicon Valley as a meritocracy, appear to be willing to acknowledge there is an issue with diversity and inclusion. When shown the statistics regarding gender (and race) discrimination at their companies, they didn’t deny it; they acted by putting in place policies and programs to change the ratio. Unfortunately, we won’t know the true outcomes of their efforts for years. In the meantime, women like Lisa Tankersley who have taken extensive career breaks will likely continue to face overt discrimination and unconscious bias. And the first wave of Millennial moms like Jenni Snyder at Yelp will likely have to go it alone given there so few women currently in engineering and other STEM-related jobs.

Still, the extensive attention on filling the pipeline with highly educated, highly skilled women means we will eventually see more and more female talent in these previously all-male bastions of work. The vast majority of these women will eventually have children. Importantly, they will have them with men who have a strong desire to be active, engaged fathers like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. As a result, the workplace will be forced to change. The problems facing parents won’t be solved overnight, but I believe it will be better by the time my children have children of their own.

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