The standard it's-my-last-day-working-here email includes a few basics: A playful inside joke to make your coworkers laugh, your personal contact info (even though there are some people you never want to hear from again), and a word of thanks. It's short, simple, and implies you enjoyed working at the company — even if you didn't.
But for one former Snapchat software engineer, this farewell message took on a different tone entirely: Yesterday, Cheddar reported on an email the engineer, Shannon Lubetich, sent her colleagues at Snap in November 2017, in which Lubetich called attention to issues of discrimination and bias within the company, specifically on the engineering team.
In the email, shared by Cheddar, Lubetich lists "reminders" of all of the things an engineer can be, including, "kind, compassionate, collaborative, outgoing, extroverted, loving, warm, friendly, a person who takes more than two days off when their child is born, a person who isn't straight or doesn't want to get married and have kids, a person who doesn't drink Red Bull or alcohol, a person who loves council, a person of colour, and a woman."
Of course, anyone can be an engineer, no matter what their gender, sexuality, race, or drink of choice might be. But the implication of Lubetich's emails is that this is a list of traits that are not highly valued at Snap, and anyone who encompasses one of them — whether you are a new mom or an outgoing woman — is viewed as a less "legitimate" engineer because of it.
Snap's senior engineering vice president, Jerry Hunter, replied to Lubetich's email, thanking her for sending the message and voicing his commitment to making the workplace more inclusive.
In a statement, Hunter said, "I appreciate Shannon speaking out against any behaviours that are not in line with our values and the company we are trying to build. We’ve worked hard to make Snap a place where everyone feels respected and everyone can grow. I’m excited about the progress that we have made this year, but know that we certainly have more work to do. ”
Lubetich was writing about her time at Snap in particular, but she could have been referring to any number of tech companies, where women — especially women of colour — in technical roles are still a minority, and the boy's club stereotype exists for a reason. Yesterday's report prompted Snap to publicly share diversity statistics for the first time. The numbers aren't good — women fill just 13% of tech-related roles and 22% of senior roles — but also, sadly, aren't unusual. At Facebook, for example, women fill just 19% of the technical roles (35% of the company's employees are female).
When diversity numbers draw backlash, many companies cite the pipeline problem — a reference to a lack of available, diverse talent — but Lubetich's scenario is strong evidence against that excuse. It's clear from her email that she left the company not because she was unhappy with the work she was doing, but because of culture issues that made her feel unwelcome.
Lubetich's list of reminders could be an important new addition in engineering job descriptions. After all, it isn't enough to just hire a more diverse workforce — companies need to retain these employees, too. To do that, it's critical that everyone on staff is fully on board with the list in order to broaden their view of what an engineer can look like.
Snap, which seemed to sidestep many of the #MeToo issues other Silicon Valley companies faced in 2017, is in the spotlight right now. But as much as this news is about Snap in particular, it's news that anyone hiring for engineering roles, managing engineers, or working with engineers in any capacity should pay attention to. Because if one thing is clear, it's that the problems Lubetich faced are not an anomaly — her email is just the one that got out.
This piece has been updated to include comment from Snap.