If everyone has a Facebook account, in order to best represent all of these peoples' interests, Facebook employees should look like — and have had the experiences of — as many people as possible. Right? Facebook agrees, at least outwardly, and that's the idea behind the social network's move, in line with its peers like Twitter, to release a glimpse of the diversity within its own ranks. But that alone won't earn Mark Zuckerberg a cookie, and — as it has this week — it might instead get him chewed out.
In a post by Maxine Williams, the company's Global Director of Diversity, Facebook points to some positive trends. It's been hiring women and people of color in greater numbers, and, for the first time, the company has wisely included LGBTQ numbers in its diversity report.
"While there is a lot of distance to cover in the short, medium and long term, we're moving in the right direction," Williams writes. "While our current representation in senior leadership is 3% Black, 3% Hispanic and 27% women, of new senior leadership hires at Facebook in the US over the last 12 months, 9% are Black, 5% are Hispanic and 29% are women.
In seeking to explain their stats, Williams also announced the company would be committing $15 million to Code.org, a website that teaches coding, over the next five years, "At the most fundamental level, appropriate representation in technology or any other industry will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system," Williams wrote. "Currently, only 1 in 4 US high schools teach computer science. In 2015, seven states had fewer than 10 girls take the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam and no girls took the exam in three states. No Black people took the exam in nine states including Mississippi where about 50% of high school graduates are Black, and 18 states had fewer than 10 Hispanics take the exam with another five states having no Hispanic AP Computer Science (CS) test takers."
That general point — which is about the talent pool, basically, and appears to pass a sense of blame from tech companies to public systems instead — rankled many, especially people of color in technology or looking to enter the field.
Even (falsely) assuming that Facebook is right, and that the talent pool of technical employees is entirely those who learned CS in school and also mostly, somehow resultantly, white and male, consider the numbers provided by the company. Okay, Facebook's global technical population is 1 percent black and 17 percent female. But not all the jobs at Facebook are technical. Non-technical jobs at Facebook, while held by 53 percent women, are still 60 percent white, and just 5 percent black.
As Williams wrote in her diversity numbers release, "We want every person in this country to have the opportunity to learn the skills that our industry needs — and we want the chance to hire them." But what if the skills that the industry needs are, in part, the perspectives of people from diverse backgrounds and of varying experiences? Especially in non-technical positions, Facebook has the "chance" to hire whomever it wants, right?
Then, for those who do possess the technical skills qualifying them to work at the likes of Facebook, the news from the company and the tone of its remarks seems to have been discouraging. As Kaya Thomas, a black undergraduate at Dartmouth studying CS, wrote in a widely shared Medium post titled Invisible Talent: " What more must students of color do to make it clear that we are qualified to be in this industry?"
When I saw this article I had to fight back tears. I thought about all the work I’ve put into to get to where I am today and wondered will it even matter when I start my job search in a few months. According to most tech companies, if I can’t pass an algorithmic challenge or if I’m not a “culture fit” I don’t belong. I haven’t even started my first full-time job yet and I’m already so tired of feeling erased and mistreated by the tech industry. I’ve worked so hard to make myself visible over the last few years so it hurt me to see Facebook make such false statements.
Thomas points to factors far beyond the technical that enforce homogeny in the halls of the technology industry. "I wish that tech leaders would just be honest and admit that they’ve made tech culture so exclusive and toxic."
That's in keeping with the remarks of former Twitter employee and current Reddit worker Mark S. Luckie , who put it this way last year: "White Americans have 91 times as many white friends as Black friends, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. Three-quarters of whites have entirely white social networks without any minority presence. If current employees don't know any people of color then they have none to recommend."
As Thomas concludes, "The tech industry needs to accept the blame for not hiring underrepresented people. We are here, but you are choosing not to see us. If you want to recruit more new grads of color, send technical recruiters to HBCUs and HSIs. Reach out to Black and Latinx organizations on college campuses. Stop blaming us for not doing YOUR job."via Facebook