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Sheryl Sandberg defends Facebook's treatment of female engineers on earnings call

  • Facebook COO says company promotes men and women "at the same rate"
  • Sandberg says study alleging gender bias was done with "incomplete data"
  • Still, lack of women in senior engineering roles leads to same effect
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announces Facebook will support startups at the future startup incubator.
Vincent Isore | Getty Images
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announces Facebook will support startups at the future startup incubator.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg launched a vigorous defense of the company's personnel practices Wednesday, rejecting claims that it discriminates against female engineers or their work.

"We do a comprehensive look every six months" at which employees are promoted and why, Sandberg said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

"We know we're promoting men and women at the same rate," she said, in response to a question from analyst Mark Mahaney about claims of gender bias at the company.

Her comments come on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report in which a former Facebook engineer alleged that computer code written by female Facebook engineers is rejected at a rate one-third higher than code written by men.

The study behind the report "was conducted with incomplete data," Sandberg said on the call, held to discuss the company's first-quarter results.

According to Sandberg, Facebook looked at the same data and "found the main reason code was sent back had to do with (the) level, not gender" of the engineer who wrote it.

Still, even if the rejection of code was not due to conscious bias, the effect was the same, given that the company has far fewer women than men in senior engineering roles.

"This is an issue I take very seriously," said Sandberg, whose first book, Lean In, advised women to be more proactive at work to advance their careers.

In its most recent diversity report, Facebook said on 17 percent of its technical employees were women.