Who gets invited to the party?

Tony Allen
Jul 22 · 4 min read

It should be obvious to everyone at this point that the tech industry has a diversity problem. Lots of folks have written about this, but one of my favorite blog post on the matter is written by Dan Luu. In it, he links to a Twitter thread where Roger Dickey expresses his “unpopular opinion” that hiring women/minorities is hard because there is a pipeline problem. Basically, Roger thinks that there are not enough women or people of color graduating from STEM programs, so there aren’t enough of them starting companies to fund or entering the candidate pool to hire. Here’s my favorite response:

There’s a pervasive bias in who the industry hires, refers, and invites to parties…
There’s a pervasive bias in who the industry hires, refers, and invites to parties…

There’s a pervasive bias in who the industry hires, refers, and invites to parties…

Let me tell you a story.

I used to work for a company (let’s call it Hooli), where recruiters would go on tour to various universities each fall with the hopes of recruiting some shiny new college grads. At some point they were going to colleges in my home state of North Carolina to do the usual: give some presentations, get the students excited about Hooli’s mission, something about #impact and whatnot. One of the colleges on the itinerary was North Carolina A&T, a historically black college/university, and a damn good one. Since I was one of only 3 black engineers in the Hooli office and a Carolina Boy, the recruiting team insisted that I accompany them on this leg of the tour. Free trip to NC? Count me in.

The first recruiting event was for Duke/UNC students and consisted of a 1-hour presentation which covered life at Hooli, various teams that exist, what the interview process is like, how to prepare for the interview, and then a slide containing the recruiter’s contact info. This was then followed by a 1.5 hour break-out session where the students formed small (~5 person) groups and then had a chance to ask a Hooli engineer at their table anything they want over a catered dinner. This was also a way for them to make a good impression before we collected all of their resumes, marked which ones seemed the most impressive, and invited half of them to dinner at a fancy restaurant the next evening. Wow, talk about rolling out the red carpet!

The second recruiting event was the following afternoon at NC A&T. Recruiters put out the catering leftovers from the previous night and rushed through a shortened (30 minute) version of the previous night’s presentation. There were no break-out tables, no resume collection, no recruiter contact details... I personally ordered a bunch of pizzas because nobody thought that this was a problem. I was livid. After the pizzas arrived, recruiters handed out some Hooli swag, encouraged everyone to apply, and packed up so that everyone could make the 2-hour drive back to Durham in time for a second dinner with the other group of students.

Sit with that for a moment.

The demographics of the first group of students reflected pretty much what you’d expect to find in your typical Silicon Valley tech company. Those were the people that received all of the attention and all of the advantages on this trip.

I’m sure that the NC A&T event was just so Hooli could check some “diversity recruitment” box. It’s apparent that they didn’t actually take those students seriously. By showing more attention to the UNC/Duke students and half-assing the event at NC A&T, those A&T students were put at a disadvantage. Why? Did Hooli recruiters think that they wouldn’t pass the hiring bar?

This is the kind of nonsense women and people of color are going through. No wonder there’s a lack of diversity when the deck is stacked against them like this. Pipeline problem, my ass.

Racism is real and bias is persistent.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store