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Black Female Engineer Creates Job Matching App Designed To Remove Bias From Tech Hiring

stephanieheadshotAt the young age of 13, Stephanie Lampkin learned to code. By the time she was 15, she was fluent in computer programming. Graduating from Stanford University with an engineering degree and from MIT with an MBA, she remembers still being told her background wasn’t “technical enough” when applying for a position at a well-known tech firm in Silicon Valley.

“The recruiter told me a sales or marketing job might open up,” she said.

Luckily for Stephanie, she ended up landing a position at Microsoft, where she would spend five years working in a technical position. But Stephanie continued to wonder if her earlier job denial could have had something to with the fact that she is a Black woman.

With this doubt looming in the back of her mind, Lampkin decided to create a job matching tool that is aimed at removing the race and gender factor from the tech sector job hunt.

The app is called “Blendoor.” It allows people searching for employment in the tech sector, to upload their resumes and then hides their name and photo from potential employers. Lampkin says the idea is to avoid bias by removing gender and ethnicity from the equation.

During her research, Lampkin found that, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study, a “white sounding” name can return as many job callbacks as an additional eight years of experience for someone with an “African-American sounding” name.

“It’s quantifiable,” Lampkin said. “We realized that hiding names and photos created a safer space.”

Blendoor is scheduled to 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.

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14 Comments

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  1. I applaud this young woman’s ingenuity and intelligence. However, once again I am faced with the specter of the belief that we as African Americans have as a whole that racism is based on our not being skilled, and that we have to get jobs by hiding who we are, then having to put up with racism without naming it. I guess I have grown old and now see what my elders were telling me about wanting to work where you are not wanted. The problem is that say you get the job, that fact still remains that you had to get the job through deception, and don’t think that will not be held against you, in fact it will be the biggest thing that causes you stress on that job. Stress leads to medical problems, medical problems, lead to death. I have to say that no job is worth my life.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s deception in this case – any companies that use this app are consciously choosing to remove biases from their hiring processes. It’s the same as orchestras adopting blind auditions, which lead to a big increase in the number of women accepted.

  2. I applaud her idea and hope its successful but I have to ask. Once you get past the initial step of being selected, dont you eventually have to give your name and come in for an in person interview? Whats to stop the interviewer from being bias than? Most big corps have multiple interviews before hiring you. It seems like this app would just get you in the door of a company that might still turn you away because of your race or gender and end up wasting your time more? Or am I missing something?

    • Once you get face to face is easier and more likely to disprove any preconceived negative comes-with-being black assumptions.

      • bri – don’t be so sure about that. Relatively recently I applied for an IT job. The screening with HR and the phone tech screening were fantastic. Yes, they knew that I was female. However, when I came in for the face-to-face interview I could see and sense how the attitudes towards me changed. Even though I did get the job, I wound up leaving after a very short time. I’ve had other similar situations where things were fine until the in person encounter. It would be wonderful if there was some way of anonymizing the entire pre-employment process (especially including salary negotiations) until the candidate has definitely been selected. Companies say that they are impartial, but that is nearly never the case.

  3. This is an excellent idea. Get to know the person first instead of what a person looks like. I am pretty sure they are some people who will hire a person based on skills and not just race. God bless you, Stephanie, and thank you for coming up with this brilliant plan!

  4. Yes, this may only put off the inevitable, but it gets your foot in the door. A door that otherwise, may not have ever been opened. Once you’re in, then it’s up to you to prove yourself and worth to their organization. Wow them with you intellect and hopefully your unapologetic melanin will be a mute point.

    Yes, it’s unfortunate that in 2016 we still need play games to get our just due, but as today’s political arena has shown, there are many in this country that would prefer we were back in Africa. So yes, we need yet another tool to to get to the next level.

    Kudos to this young lady for giving our people a chance!

    Continue to do great things+

  5. Heres my question….lets say this works and you get the job but the people who hired you are racist and wouldnt have hired you if they new you were black or a female…dont you think its going to be a very uncomfortable work environment anyway?

  6. This app works on the presumption that once the face to face interview occurs, enough of a relationship will have been established that the racism goes away?

    Would that were the case.

  7. This is a good step but I believe establishing a tech firm with a team of people will also solve the problem. That is my end goal because these companies try and play stupid with the diversity game when they have access to resources to find and hire black or Hispanic people with skills. If they are not already diverse then I’m not going to play their game and play it better I mean did this sista not create a solution?

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