Facebook rejects claims of gender bias against its women engineers
Facebook HQ, California. Image: achinthamb/Shutterstock

Facebook rejects claims of gender bias against its women engineers

3 May 201710 Shares

Ex-Facebook employee reveals trove of data suggesting that women coders’ work may be more heavily scrutinised than men’s.

Facebook has slammed claims by a former engineer that it treats its female technical staff different from their male counterparts.

For a pivotal player in an industry that is slowly awakening to the realisation of how it has treated women and minorities, Facebook prides itself on being a leader in tackling diversity.

‘The discrepancy simply reaffirms a challenge we have previously highlighted – the current representation of senior female engineers both at Facebook and across the industry is nowhere near where it needs to be’
– FACEBOOK

However, the $400bn social media giant’s own statistics depict a long road ahead. Only 33pc of Facebook’s workforce are women, and they hold just 17pc of technical roles and 27pc of leadership roles.

This week, The Wall Street Journal reported on the case of a former Facebook engineer who collected five years of data, which suggests that the company’s female engineers may be victims of gender bias.

Her research indicated that code submitted by female engineers was rejected 35pc more often than code added by men to Facebook’s internal peer-review system.

The engineer also alleged that female colleagues waited 3.9pc longer to have their code accepted and received 8.2pc more questions and comments on their work than men did.

Bias has no place in the 21st century

Gender bias, or bias in any form, is unacceptable in the 21st century workplace.

Facebook has described the unnamed engineer’s data as “incomplete and inaccurate”.

Clearly rattled by the claims, however, the company called on its head of infrastructure, Jay Parikh, to investigate.

Parikh’s analysis actually reveals an uncomfortable truth that Facebook itself has to acknowledge: there aren’t enough women at senior engineering levels in the industry.

He summed up that the gap in the rejection rate had more to do with an engineer’s rank rather than gender.

In a statement, Facebook said: “The discrepancy simply reaffirms a challenge we have previously highlighted – the current representation of senior female engineers both at Facebook and across the industry is nowhere near where it needs to be.”

While Facebook may have a point that the overall tech industry has a big problem in ensuring more women hold technical positions and leadership roles, the very fact that women engineers themselves are stepping up with data to challenge the so-called ‘bro culture’ that unfortunately pervades Silicon Valley, is a welcome development.

Facebook HQ, California. Image: achinthamb/Shutterstock

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist. He joined Silicon Republic in 2002 to become the fulcrum of the company’s news service He was recipient of the Irish Internet Association’s NetVisionary Technology Journalist Award 2005 and Siliconrepublic.com has been awarded ‘Best Technology Site’ at the Irish Web Awards seven times. In 2011 he received the David Manley Award commending him for his dedication to covering entrepreneurs. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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