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After layoffs, Meta, tech companies face an uphill battle to drive diversity


Brit Levy, 35, was eager to join Meta’s paid training program for aspiring hiring managers last year because she wanted to gain a foothold in recruiting and help other military families find jobs in the lucrative tech sector.

Levy, who is Mexican-American, agreed to begin the 12-month gig in April after checking with Meta that her position would be safe for the duration of the program despite the company’s financial challenges. She was told that the program, which was aimed at improving the pipeline of recruiters who focus on diversity, was fully funded for this year.

About six months later, Meta laid off Levy and most of the other participants in its program, along with 13 percent of its full-time employees, amid declining sales growth due to a sluggish economy and increased competition in the social media marketplace.

“What they’ve done with this program, I would never recommend anyone sign up for a diversity program at Meta,” Levy said. “Actually, [Meta] cut us off at the knees.

Levy’s experience illustrates the uphill battle Meta and other tech companies face as they reduce their workforce while delivering on their commitments to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities in their ranks.

The tech industry has long struggled to attract a diverse workforce, but the recent wave of corporate cutbacks in Silicon Valley has hit women especially hard, according to recently published analyzes of demographics on the layoffs. Women and some minorities were particularly vulnerable to layoffs because they were newer to their jobs and held positions that companies were less interested in retaining, experts said.

Diversity “was never their forte,” said Benjamín Juárez, cofounder of Latinos in Tech, a group that offers technical skills training. “It probably won’t be during this downtime.”

Many of the largest tech companies had increased the number of women and minorities during the pandemic due to the appeal of remote work, which allowed the companies to recruit in a wider geographic area and hire people who would otherwise have preferred to stay at home.

But the layoffs threaten those profits. An analysis of data from the technology layoff tracker Layoffs.fyi found that women accounted for about 39 percent of the total workforce, but accounted for 46 percent of all layoffs since September, according to Reyhan Ayas, a senior economist at Revelio Labs, a company that tracks trends in the labor market. Hispanic workers were also slightly more represented among layoffs than among the labor force, according to data from Revelio.

“In general, non-technical roles are definitely more affected, women are more affected,” said Reyhan Ayas, a senior economist at Revelio Labs. “And [diversity, equity and inclusion] efforts in general have been hampered at least in some companies by the layoffs over the past year or so.”

One reason why women and Hispanic workers may have been disproportionately targeted by the cuts is that companies used a “last in, first out” strategy to decide which jobs to keep and which to cut. The average seniority of a laid-off employee was just one year, which Revelio said was dwarfed by the time the remaining employees had spent with the company. Laid off employees were more likely to work in positions the tech companies were eager to cut, including recruiting and customer service positions, the data showed.

“When you’re on a shorter tenure, you don’t have as many friends and connections within the organization, so you tend to be on the chopping block first as well,” said Bhaskar Chakravorti, the dean of global business at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. . “The last-in-first-out has affected a large number of people, but because women and minorities have been disproportionately hired in recent years, they have also been disproportionately fired.”

Meta is a company that worked remotely during the pandemic to increase diversity. Between 2021 and 2022, according to Meta’s annual diversity report, the share of black, Hispanic, multiracial and Asian workers in the U.S. workforce increased, while the share of white workers declined by 1.5 percentage points. Leaders at the company also became more diverse, with the proportion of women, black and Hispanic managers increasing, according to the report.

Meta Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams said last year that candidates in the United States who accepted remote job openings were more likely to come from underrepresented racial groups; globally, it was more often women.

Between 2021 and 2022, the proportion of women in Meta’s workforce increased slightly from 36.7 percent to 37.1 percent, according to Meta’s report.

Chakravorti added that remote workers may also have been particularly vulnerable to budget cuts because they received fewer critical assignments and had less contact with their managers compared to office-going employees.

“When people started coming back to the offices, there was a kind of two-tier citizenship within a given company” between people who worked completely remotely and those who went to the office occasionally, he said.

The easing of pandemic-era security restrictions hit Meta at a time when its core business model was experiencing other serious threats. The social media giant competes for both users and ad dollars from rival apps like TikTok. Apple introduced new privacy restrictions that affect the company’s ability to collect data about its users for targeted advertising purposes. Meanwhile, marketers have scaled back their ad spend due to the uncertainty in the global economy.

Over the summer, Meta executives issued a dizzying array of guidelines, outlining a new era of higher performance expectations, and slowed hiring as the company emerged from the pandemic with a growing list of economic challenges. Managers were asked to identify their underperformers, sparking a wave of fear and resentment among Facebook’s staff.

Meta’s treatment of minority workers has already come under scrutiny. In 2020, an African-American executive and two applicants rejected by Facebook filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that the company is biased against black employees in evaluations, promotions, compensation, and hiring practices. The case is running.

“It’s not like they just fired people who underperformed,” said Peter Romer-Friedman, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case. “To the extent that the company fired someone because they underperformed, I think it’s very clear that that’s problematic because Meta’s evaluation system is riddled with discriminatory issues.”

In November, Lori Goler, Meta’s head of human resources, told the remaining employees after the layoffs that the company did not explicitly consider diversity when deciding which positions to cut, according to a recording of the meeting listened to by The Washington Post.

“The way we thought about DEI,” said Golder, using an acronym for diversity, equality and inclusion, “was the same way we think about it in all of our workforce processes, which is the less discretion and the more objectivity you have in each of your personnel processes, the better it will be for DEI The recruiting team was hit particularly hard, she said.

One of the strategies the company used, she said during the call, was “this kind of last in, first to move out idea. And so you arrive at more objective criteria. And there were different ways we did that across the organization as we tried to move forward with the plans and the layoffs.”

Goler also said about 46 percent of the layoffs came from the technology teams, while 54 percent came from the business side of the company. At Meta, women and people of color are more likely to serve in the business side of the company than in technical positions.

As Meta’s financial situation deteriorated and the company began to slow down and then cease hiring, Levy said there was much less for her and her colleagues to do. So she would sometimes spend much of her days reaching out to other Meta employees to learn more about the company and their career paths.

Two months after the cuts, Levy said she’s still struggling to find a job in recruiting or any other field. So far, she said, she’s applied to hundreds of job openings, but landed only a few interviews.

“I apply for anything,” Levy said. “It’s been tough.”

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