IBM apologises after its online jobs page asked applicants if they were 'yellow' or 'mulatto'

Getty ImagesIBM CEO Ginni Rometty.
  • IBM’s job application site featured a drop-down menu in which applicants had to list their ethnicity, and options included “yellow” and “mulatto.”
  • The Register reported on the menu after being tipped off by an engineer applying for a position at the company, while a separate applicant posted a video of the menu on Twitter last week.
  • When the Register investigated further it found the menu had been removed, but it was still findable in the website’s code.
  • IBM apologised, saying it had removed the menu as soon as it became aware of it.

IBM has apologised after an engineer found racial slurs embedded in its job application page, The Register reports.

The Register was tipped off on Monday by an engineer who was applying for a job at the tech giant. The engineer clicked on a drop-down menu, which said “please state your Ethnic group.”

Among those listed were options including “yellow” and “mulato [sic],” an outdated word for a person with a white and black parent. Candidates could also mark themselves as “indigenous,” “caucasian,” or “black.”

Another engineer looking for a job at IBM posted a video of the same menu on Twitter last week.^tfw

In the video, there are two menus. The second includes as options, “African,” “Indian,” “coloured,” “white,” “none of these,” and “not a South African national.”

When the Register looked at the site it found the menu had gone, but was present in the website’s code. It also found that the menu elements were preceded by a “Brazil_” prefix, suggesting a link to the country. In the Twitter video, “not a Brazil national,” comes up as an option on the first menu.

“Our recruiting websites temporarily and inappropriately solicited information concerning job applicant ethnicity,” Edward Barbini, IBM’s vice president of external relations, said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

“Those questions were removed immediately when we became aware of the issue and we apologise. IBM hiring is based on skills and qualifications. We do not use race or ethnicity in the hiring process and any responses we received to those questions will be deleted. IBM has long rejected all forms of racial discrimination and we are taking appropriate steps to make sure this does not happen again.”

It is not clear from IBM’s answer exactly how the slurs ended up in the menu. According to the Register, its job pages are hosted by the company Brassring, but no one could be reached for comment.

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