Facebook Diversity Report Shows Incremental Progress

Facebook’s latest diversity report shows it’s making incremental progress in diversifying its employee ranks, with regard to both race and gender.

For example, the number of women in technical roles has climbed to 24.1 percent, up from 23 percent in 2019 and 21.6 percent in 2018. Women also occupy roughly a third of the company’s leadership slots (34.2 percent), and almost 60 percent of its non-technical roles. 

With race, the narrative is quite different depending on the group. For example, Black employees only make up 1.7 percent of Facebook’s technical ranks, and 3.4 percent of leadership; meanwhile, Hispanic employees constitute 4.3 percent of both the technical and leadership staff. Asian employees are 53.4 percent of the technical staff, and 25.4 percent of leadership. 

(Just in case you were wondering, Facebook’s report defines technical roles as “positions that require specialization and knowledge needed to accomplish mathematical, engineering, or scientific related duties. The technical workforce is defined by position; not department or reporting manager, an employee’s skills, or prior experience.”)

In addition to pledging to diversify its staff, Facebook insists that it’s also working on its supply chain. “We committed to spend $1 billion with diverse suppliers in 2021, including $100 million with Black-owned businesses,” reads the report. “From the launch of our supplier diversity efforts at the end of 2016, Facebook has now spent more than $1.1 billion cumulatively with U.S. companies certified as minority, women, veteran, LGBTQ, or disabled-owned (diverse suppliers).”

Many of tech’s largest companies know they have quite a long way to go when it comes to diversifying their employee ranks. These firms have historically viewed it as a “pipeline problem,” arguing that they can’t hire more engineers and technologists of varying backgrounds if those folks aren’t pursuing computer-science and engineering education. Google’s longtime answer to its own diversity issues, for example, has been to invest more heavily in schools and training programs—leading to initiatives such as Howard West

Despite an intensifying focus on diverse recruiting and talent pipelines, however, a recent breakdown from Wired showed that, over a five-year period, the percentages of black and Latinx workers at some firms barely budged. Moreover, according to the latest edition of Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey (which featured 38,257 respondents from the professional developer community), people of color make up a relatively small percentage of the overall developer ecosystem:

Facebook isn’t alone in investing in external diversification efforts, either. Google has granted $12 million to “organizations working to address racial inequalities,” according to a recent blog posting. Apple is devoting $100 million to a Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, and PayPal plans on devoting $530 million to support “black and minority-owned businesses and communities in the U.S. When it comes to their internal ranks, though, more substantial progress may clearly take some time. 

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