Ex-employee spills sex secrets of Facebook

Facebook, which is supposed to be one of the most dynamic companies in the world, was deeply sexist and stuck in a 1950s mentality that was a cross between a frat house and Mad Men until recently, claims a former staff member in her new book.

| Updated on: Jun 28 2012, 16:57 IST
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Facebook, which is supposed to be one of the most dynamic companies in the world, was deeply sexist and stuck in a 1950s mentality that was a cross between a frat house and Mad Men until recently, a new book by a former senior staff member has claimed.

Katherine Losse, who worked for Facebook between 2005 and 2010, claims that female workers at the social network were propositioned for threesomes or given crude insults like 'I want to put my teeth in your ass' in The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network.

Lower ranking employees, who were invariably female, were treated like "second class help" and banned from a conference unless they worked as coat checkers whilst there.

Meanwhile in between toga parties and late night 'hackathons', male engineers raced skateboards around desks as if they were in the X Games.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckberg has been compared to Napoleon and branded a 'little emperor' who created a company where his staff could 'idol worship' him.

On his 22nd birthday female workers were even asked to wear a T-shirt with his face on it in his honour.

Losse was employee number 51 and worked her way up from customer relations to a senior marketing role before becoming the speechwriter for Zuckerberg.

At its core, she claims that Facebook is all about creating a 'popular techno frat that didn't exist at Stanford or Harvard' where men can engage in endless competition with each other.

"The older men in the office could be unbridled in their wide ranging desires for sex and attention as the youngest ones," the Daily mail quoted her as writing.

"One of the few married engineers on the team was known by his female colleagues (after he had made several unwelcome propositions to them) to invite lower ranking women at the company to have threesomes with him...

"...When a female employee reported being told by a male co-worker in the lunch line that her backside looked tasty — "I want to put my teeth in your ass" was what the co-worker said — Mark asked (it was hard to tell whether it was with faux or genuine naiveté): 'What does that even mean?" she wrote.

During an away trip to Las Vegas a group of Facebook engineers filmed themselves inviting girls up to their table in a club then shouting "Leave, you're not pretty enough!" when they didn't like them.

The 2007 'F8' conference in San Francisco was open only technical employees but Facebook relented on everyone else - so long as they carried out coat checking duties whilst there.

This meant lower paid employees who were invariably female were treated like 'second class help', Losse writes.

The year before Facebook had offered its staff a $1,000 a month subsidy to live within a mile of the office in the belief that it would make them happier.

But until there was an outcry this was only offered to engineers on 80,000 dollars a year salaries.

Customer service workers, which included the few women who worked for the company, were told they could not have it even though they were on just 30,000 dollars a year.

"The company's entire human resources architecture was constructed on the reactionary model of an office from the 1950s in which men with so-called masculine qualities (being technical, breaking things, moving fast) was idealised as brilliant and visionary whilst everyone else (particularly the nontechnical employees on the customer support team who were mostly female and sometime, unlike the white and Asian engineering team, black) were assumed to be duller, incapable of quick and intelligent thought. It was like Mad Men but real and happening the current moment, as if in repudiation of fifty years of social progress…," Losse wrote.

"...Facebook it seemed wanted to have it all: to be the new and scrappy kid on the block and have the feel of an old boys' club that had been around forever," she added.

It wasn't until the arrival of chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg in 2009 that things actually changed.

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First Published Date: 28 Jun, 16:41 IST