Facebook has blamed its poor workforce diversity rates on a lack of available talent, drawing international condemnation. But it’s not the only one – tech companies have struggled with a lack of diversity for years.
Workforce diversity is a problem common among tech companies; many in Silicon Valley have been pouring resources and money into diversity efforts since Google first disclosed the lopsided demographics of its workforce in May 2014. Although Facebook’s Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams says they have been “working hard to increase diversity at Facebook through a variety of internal and external programs and partnerships,” white males still remain the typical Facebook employee.
The social media giant has made only negligible diversity improvements; current representation in senior leadership is 3 per cent Black, 3 per cent, Hispanic and 27 per cent women, compared to the company’s new senior leadership hires in the US during the past 12 months, of which 9 per cent are Black, 5 per cent are Hispanic and 29 per cent are women.
Announcing the diversity statistics in a blog post, the tech giant’s global director of diversity Maxine Williams wrote:
“It has become clear that 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.”
There is some truth to the pipeline argument, referring to the number of women and minorities entering the tech industry.
In the blog post, 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 per cent 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. This has to change.”
Despite this, as the Huffington Post points out in a piece titled Facebook gives pathetic excuse for its diversity problems, Facebook isn’t hiring high school students, and has a wide range of roles that aren’t tech-based, of which 60 per cent of people employed are still white, although the genders are more balanced at 47 per cent male and 53 per cent female.
And, according to a USA study from late 2014, there are more black and Hispanic students with engineering degrees from top universities than there are tech jobs.
“I am kind of shocked that Facebook would continue to perpetuate a narrative that has been so thoroughly disproven by the data,” Joelle Emerson, founder and CEO of Paradigm, a strategy firm that consults with technology companies on diversity and inclusion, told USA Today.
The backlash against the comments is mounting. Business Insider Australia reports the hashtag #FBNoExcuses has been picking up pace on Twitter, with people pointing out that unconscious bias, recruitment habits, and culture fit are more of a hindrance to diversity than a lack of talent.
It must be said that Facebook is making moves to fix the problem. The company is promising $15 million to the nonprofit Code.org for computer science education during the next five years. Code.org has supplied training and resources to public schools for years, but it also offers unconventional online courses that anyone can access if, say, they aren’t in a position to take an AP test.
In the blog post Williams also writes about Facebook’s training on managing unconscious bias, which she says almost 100 per cent of people at the manager level and above and 75 per cent of all US employees have taken part in.