Stephanie Lampkin learned to code at age 13. By 15, she was a full-stack web developer, fluent in the languages of computer programming. She has a Stanford engineering degree and an MBA from MIT.
Still, she recalls making it to the eighth round of interviews in pursuit of a gig at a well-known tech firm in Silicon Valley, only to be told her background wasn’t “technical enough” for a role in software engineering.
“The recruiter told me a sales or marketing job might open up,” she said. She ended up at Microsoft MSFT -0.64%, where she spent five years in a technical role. Still, she wonders about that early rejection, and whether being a young African-American woman hurt her chances.
This month, Lampkin is set to launch a job matching tool aimed at removing just that sort of lingering doubt from the tech sector job hunt.
Her app Blendoor lets job seekers upload resumes, then hides their name and photo from employers. The idea, says Lampkin, is to circumvent unconscious bias by removing gender and ethnicity from the equation.
In the course of her research, Lampkin found a National Bureau of Economic Research study showing that a “white-sounding” name (Emily or Greg, for example) can yield as many job callbacks as an additional eight years of experience for someone with an “African-American sounding” name (Lakisha or Jamal, in the experiment).
“It’s quantifiable,” Lampkin said. “We realized that hiding names and photos created a safer space. Women and people of color felt better sharing their information.”
Blendoor will go live on March 11th at this year’s SXSW digital festival for public beta testing. So far, Lampkin has had buy-in from 19 large tech firms. She aims to have 50 on the app in the near future.
She didn’t approach any companies that don’t already have strong diversity initiatives in place. Intel INTC +0.13%, with its $300 million commitment to diversity, was a natural fit. So was Google GOOGL -0.22%, which devoted $150 million to expanding its talent pool in 2015 alone.Facebook FB -1.09% and Apple are also on board.
“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.’”
Lampkin hopes women, people of color, members of the LGBT community and other minorities in Silicon Valley who may feel alienated by job search tools that prominently display one’s name and headshot will feel comfortable using Blendoor.
“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.
“These [online networking] companies are founded by white guys. There’s a psychology I understand as a woman of color that’s driven how and why I’ve shaped the product the way I have.”
The app will, of course, be collecting useful stats on who exactly is applying to tech’s most sought-after positions and who is getting “matched”, in the app’s parlance, with jobs. “Blendoor wants to make companies accountable using data,” Lampkin said.
If all goes according to plan, she may well test Blendoor’s technology in the venture capital world, where minorities — black women, especially —have made little headway, either as investors or recipients of VC backing.
“When you think about it, names and photos are not necessary for the transaction,” said Lampkin.
She herself has raised $100,000 in pre-seed funding for Blendoor. Half of that came from Pipeline Angels, a network of women investors and social entrepreneurs funding diverse companies. More than 20% of the businesses funded to date have a black woman at the helm.
source: forbes.com by Clare O’Connor
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