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Former Snap employee says company has a ‘toxic’ and ‘sexist’ culture

Former Snap employee says company has a ‘toxic’ and ‘sexist’ culture


Snap released diversity numbers for the first time in the wake of the accusations

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A former software engineer at Snapchat parent company Snap Inc. accused the company of fostering a “sexist” and “toxic” workplace culture, accusations company leadership did not deny, according to a report from Cheddar. Snap now says that it’s working hard to remedy the issues the engineer, Shannon Lubetich, highlighted — starting with improving its diversity figures. For the first time ever, Snap disclosed that just 13 percent of its technical workforce are women and that 22 percent of upper management are women, Cheddar reports. Those figures put Snap behind larger Silicon Valley social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, though diversity progress for the industry remains slow across the board.

Snap’s soul-searching over its workplace culture can be traced back to Lubetich leaving the company in November of last year, amid Snapchat’s redesign efforts and following a spike in bad press after a troubling earnings report. On her last day, Lubetich wrote an email to Snap’s entire engineering team encouraging employees to help create a “kind, smart, and creative” workplace culture. The note was reportedly widely discussed within the company and has kickstarted efforts to make working at Snap more inclusive and less emblematic of the male-driven startup culture that dominated the company’s early days.

Only 13 percent of Snapchat engineers are women

Lubetich is more candid now that she’s no longer working for Snap. In an interview with Cheddar, Lubetich described Snap has having a “pervading sexist vibe,” citing various aspects of employee behavior ranging from dick jokes to in-office pushup contests to company parties with hired female dancers in revealing clothing. “We’ve worked hard to make Snap a place where everyone feels respected and everyone can grow,” Jerry Hunter, Snap’s senior vice president of engineering, told Cheddar. “I’m excited about the progress that we have made this year, but know that we certainly have more work to do.”

According to the report, Snap CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel is now making a more public effort to promote diversity and inclusion, and has begun communicating more widely with employees. Spiegel has built a reputation at Snap for confiding only to a close circle of friends and advisors, sometimes refusing to listen to the feedback of others. This has had an effect both on workplace culture and employee morale, as well as the product itself; Spiegel’s approach reportedly resulted in missteps like the failed redesign effort the company is now trying to fix, according to a report earlier this month from The Information.

In an email sent to employees after Cheddar’s story published, Hunter reiterated the ways the company is trying to do better. “I don’t want anyone on my team to ever feel the way Shannon felt,” he wrote. “I want every person at Snap to have a great experience coming to work every day, and I regret that Shannon did not. We will continue to take important feedback like hers to heart, and as the last few months should show, we will put those learnings into action.”