By Levi Sumagaysay
Another year, another report that shows little progress on Facebook’s stated effort to diversify its workforce.
As the provider of the world’s largest social network, the Menlo Park company stresses the importance of having diverse employees.
“People from all backgrounds rely on Facebook to connect with others, and we will better serve their needs with a more diverse workforce,” said Maxine Williams, chief diversity officer, in a blog post Thursday.
Williams noted that since the company first started releasing its diversity numbers in 2014, it has increased:
- the number of female employees globally, from 31 percent to 36 percent;
- the number of women in technical roles from 15 percent to 22 percent;
- and the number of women in senior leadership roles from 23 percent to 30 percent.
Yet gains in other measures are meager or nonexistent. Facebook managed to grow its overall percentage of black employees from 2 percent to nearly 4 percent from 2014 to 2018, and Hispanic employees from 4 percent to almost 5 percent. Black employees’ representation in technical and leadership roles stayed flat at 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Hispanic employees in technical roles remained flat at 3 percent, while in leadership roles that number declined from 4 percent to 3 percent.
“Facebook deserves credit for continuing to report on diversity,” said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Greenlining Institute, an Oakland advocacy group that works on racial and economic justice issues. But he expressed disappointment in the dismal gains for black and Latino workers at Facebook. “These communities make up a huge part of Facebook’s user base, and if their voices aren’t heard in decision-making, the company will inevitably make some bad and insensitive decisions.”
As of June 30, Facebook’s overall workforce is 46.6 percent white, 41.4 percent Asian, 4.9 percent Hispanic, 3.5 percent black, and 3 percent who identify as two or more races. Asians make up 50 percent of employees in technical roles, while whites make up 43 percent. The company’s senior leadership is nearly 70 percent white and 22 percent Asian.
The company had more than 27,000 employees as of March 31.
“A critical lesson we’ve learned is that recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse, inclusive workforce should be a priority from day one,” Williams wrote. She rattled off what the company is doing to try to diversify, which includes investing in training and coding programs at universities with lots of minority students. “The later you start taking deliberate action to increase diversity, the harder it becomes.”
The report comes on the heels of Facebook again citing diversity of viewpoints as a reason for a controversial policy: It said this week during a presentation on how it is fighting fake news that InfoWars, the Alex Jones-led peddler of false conspiracy theories, would remain on its platform. John Hegeman, head of Facebook’s News Feed, reportedly said the company would not ban InfoWars because he wanted the social network to be “a place where different people can have a voice.”
“I think it’s disingenuous to conflate allowing content from far-right conspiracy sites like InfoWars with diversity,” Mirken said. “Being delusional doesn’t mean you’re oppressed, it just means you’re delusional.”
The company has faced accusations of liberal bias, including from lawmakers, investors and conservative media, who complain about Facebook’s constant tweaks that affect the news its users see.
Diversity of viewpoints is also the reason Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has defended keeping Peter Thiel, the company’s earliest outside investor, on the board despite the billionaire’s controversial views. Thiel, who among other things once slammed women’s suffrage, is a supporter of President Trump and some have urged Facebook to dump him from the board.