Female workers at Facebook were routinely told not to wear clothing that “distracted” co-workers, a former employee has claimed.
Antonio Garcia Martinez, who was fired after two years at Mark Zuckerberg’s social network, has made a series of sensational claims about the company in a tell-all book about life in Silicon Valley.
Martinez’s book paints a picture of Zuckerberg as prone to bouts of anger, and claims that female workers were repeatedly criticised for inappropriate clothing.
“Our male HR authority, with occasional backup from his female counterpart, launched into a speech about avoiding clothing that ‘distracted’ coworkers. I’d later learn that managers did in fact occasionally pull aside female employees and read them the riot act,” Martinez claims in his book, Chaos Monkeys.
“One such example happened in [the advertising department], with an intern who looked about sixteen coming in regularly in booty shorts. It was almost laughably inappropriate, but such was our disinhibited age.”
Facebook and many other Silicon Valley companies have long been accused of a male-dominated workplace culture. 68 percent of employees are men, according to its latest diversity report, and 84 percent in technology roles. Ex workers have also claimed that allegations of sexism are not taken seriously at the company.
Martinez’s book also claims that Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook’s chief operating officer and a high-profile feminist – once lambasted Dan Rubinstein, a senior engineer, for a crude joke.
When Rubinstein was demonstrating an algorithm that filtered out explicit photos, Sandberg stopped him to ask why all the demo photos in the presentation were of kittens.
“Dan flatly replied, ‘We use kittens as the bad photos in demos, because the real bad photos are…you know…kind of obscene.’” Martinez claims.
Sandberg then reportedly asked: “Right, but why kittens and not something else？”.
According to Martinez: “Dan looked up at the screen as if noticing the kitten pics for the first time, and then turned to Sheryl and answered, almost under his breath: ‘Well…for demo purposes we don’t show really bad photos…so the engineers use kittens instead. Because, you know…kittens and cats are like, pu-‘
“’Got it！’ she expectorated. After sucking in a lungful of air, as if loading for a verbal barrage, she continued. ‘If there were women on that team, they’d NEVER, EVER choose those photos as demo pics. I think you should change that immediately！’”
Martinez also claims that Zuckerberg was prone to angry outbursts. After an unknown employee leaked details of a new feature to the press, Zuckerberg reportedly emailed the entire office with the subject line “Please resign”, claiming that the person in question had betrayed the team.
Zuckerberg was also reportedly furious at the state of the walls at Facebook’s headquarters, which employees are encouraged to draw on, after employees had scribbled over them, rather than creating art.
“That weekend Zuck sent another to-all email （or maybe it was posted in the general Facebook internal group to which everyone belonged）, the gist being: I trusted you to create art, and what you f*****s did was vandalize the place,” Martinez wrote.
A Facebook spokesman did not comment on the allegations.