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What Netflix’s layoffs say about DEI commitments

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. My heart goes out to the families mourning their loss in Uvalde, Texas. My heart also goes out to all of you who are striving to work, commute and take care of yourselves and your families in the middle of what feels like an unrelenting stream of national tragedies. If you’re in a position of leadership, make sure you’re checking in on your employees and urging them to take the time and space they need to take care of themselves as well.

Today: My colleagues Lizzy Lawrence and Amber Burton dive into how Netflix’s layoffs impacted marginalized employees, and how this reveals a larger diversity challenge in tech. Also, Allison Levitsky writes on what the job market would look like in a downturn, and a new survey is out on how stress about global events like mass shootings affect your employees.

— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)

How layoffs hurt DEI

One common and disheartening consequence of all the tech layoffs we’re seeing in the news lately? They tend to hurt marginalized employees the most.

In the wake of Netflix’s two layoffs, it became clear that many of the affected workers possessed marginalized identities. A number of laid-off social media contractors who ran accounts aimed at Black, LGBTQ+, Latinx and Asian audiences shared that they had been let go on Twitter. Protocol identified at least 40 people from marginalized backgrounds who lost their jobs in the latest round of cuts.

  • Netflix wouldn’t comment on the exact number of laid-off workers who were from marginalized communities but it did say that among Netflix's full-time workers, representation of women and POC remained the same.
  • The social media contractors Protocol spoke with said it was the most diverse workplace they’d ever been a part of. They worked for Netflix full-time via a now-seemingly-defunct agency called Made by Fabric that offered a six-figure salary and benefits — making it unnecessary to freelance, though they were allowed to. Their contractor status inherently made them more vulnerable to layoffs.
  • “My former employer didn’t just decimate Tudum,” tweeted Evette Dionne, who had been an editorial and publishing manager at Tudum. “Layoffs are also targeting social channels designed to bring marginalized viewers into the fold (Strong Black Lead, Golden, Most, Con Todo, etc.) There’s a deeper story here. I hope we’re all paying attention.”

The move made some question Netflix’s commitment to DEI, though Netflix has done a lot of work in the space.

  • “It is really frustrating to feel like those communities are the expendable ones,” said a former contractor, who was granted anonymity to protect her severance agreement with Netflix.
  • Netflix has done a lot of work in this space compared to other FAANGs. It was one of the first tech companies to publish diversity data back in 2013, and has improved its gender and racial diversity over the years. In 2021, it moved 2% of its cash holdings — about $100 million — into Black-owned banks and other Black-led financial institutions.
  • But the company also came under fire for hosting Dave Chappelle’s transphobic comedy special, and then terminating the employee who led a related company walkout last October. GLAAD also called out the platform on Tuesday for hosting Ricky Gervais’ comedy special, which contains anti-trans jokes.

Layoffs frequently disproportionately affect women and people of color because companies often don’t have diversity spread throughout the organizations, according to Star Carter, co-founder and chief operating officer at DEI tech company Kanarys.

  • “A lot of times you will get diversity in your contractors, and so if you have just a flat decision to cut contractors … that's where you're going to see an issue, and you might want to reevaluate your criteria, because you are having a very disparate impact on a specific demographic,” Carter said.
  • Carter recommended being clear and objective in your criteria for layoffs, and then carefully analyzing the affected employees for any disproportionate effects on certain demographic groups. A quality severance package and transitional career services help as well, if you must go the route of laying off employees.

Better yet, try not to be in this position at all. Thanh Nguyen, CEO and co-founder of the compensation benchmarking startup OpenComp, said this is a good time to get back to “operating fundamentals.” Meaning: hiring plan reevaluation, burn and runway costing and sticking to your compensation ranges.

Read the full story.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter) & Amber Burton (email| twitter)

A recession job market?

Everything that goes up must come down. And the market is going down, down, down. My colleague Allison Levitsky wrote about what that means for the tech talent market. “It’s a little bit like whiplash,” a compensation consultant told her. TL;DR: There’s still a talent shortage. Sought-after engineers will continue to command large compensation packages, but those packages could start to look a little different. Think smaller benefits packages, cooling merit increases or scaled-back sign-on bonuses and equity.

Read the full story.


At the same time that the pandemic demonstrated all that is possible in an interconnected world, we saw in new and increasingly stark ways how certain communities continue to be marginalized and harmed by a persistent digital divide and how effectively that divide exacerbates our society’s other inequities.

Learn more

Today's tips & tools

After Sunday’s newsletter on tools that use punishment to encourage productivity, a reader wrote in with another example: Write or Die, a website that literally deletes your writing if you pause for a certain amount of time. Can’t say I’ve tried it (it sounds terrifying). But here’s a Guardian article from 2014 describing the experience.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Just keep swimming

It’s nearly the end of the month, so it feels like the right time to acknowledge that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone is just trying to stay afloat? Well, according to a new survey of over 950 working Americans from employee rewards platform Blueboard in conjunction with The Harris Poll, people are stressed.

  • Two in five surveyed say their motivation to do their job is heavily impacted by current global events.
  • More than half of respondents say their employer is not doing enough to support employees’ mental health with the stress related to those events.
  • Only 29% of respondents say their employer has increased their mental health support due to potential stress related to current events.

More stories from us

Snapchat is joining Meta, Nvidia, Salesforce, Coinbase and others in slowing hiring. The company is blaming Apple’s new ad-tracking policies and the war in Ukraine.

Bolt is laying off workers citing “several structural changes.” Will its much-touted four-day workweek survive?

LGBTQ+ employees are happiest at these four tech companies, according to Glassdoor: Google, Microsoft, IBM and Apple.

Call of Duty studio workers have voted “overwhelmingly” to form a union, a historic victory for the video game industry.

Microsoft hopes a new cloud service will help developers with one of their biggest challenges: managing developer workstations.


There is so much more we need to do to make sure our future is more equitable and inclusive and maximizes America’s potential. It is not enough just to ensure everyone is connected. We also need to extend the full scope of digital opportunity to the people, the communities, and the institutions.

Learn more

Around the internet

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Are bad jobs an inherent part of the workplace, or can automation help create an equitable future of work? The Better Life Lab podcast investigates.

Tech companies could face a recruitment crisis if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

THREAD: Are you a POC and do you feel safe asking these questions in a job interview?

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to Have a great day, see you Tuesday. (We’re taking Sunday off for Memorial Day.)

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