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by Nick Statt
Facebook’s latest diversity report, out today, comes with a genuine surprise: improvement in nearly every category. While most tech companies struggle to make their workplaces more diverse and less dominated by white and male employees, Facebook has managed to hire more women and minorities in the last year in almost every category it tracks.
Of course, the improvements are still very incremental, but the improvements show that Facebook’s efforts, led by executive diversity chief Maxine Williams, are indeed helping. Facebook now reports that 35 percent of its staff is female, up from 33 percent a year ago, while the number of women in leadership roles is up one percentage point to 28 percent.
The number of technical roles held by women has increased 2 percentage points to 19 percent of the total technical workforce. Facebook says that latter stat should continue climbing, as women now represent 27 percent of all new graduate hires in its engineering division and 21 percent of all new overall technical hires at the company. (It should be noted, however, that retention is a serious issue in the tech industry, as women facing bias and sexism in the workplace tend to exit the industry after they’re hired. So Facebook’s technical hire numbers will only remain an indicator of progress if these new hires stay at the company on average as long as male colleagues.)
In terms of ethnicity, Facebook is still predominantly white and Asian, with each group respectively representing 49 and 40 percent of Facebook’s nearly 21,000 employees. However, Facebook says it increased the representation of Hispanics from 4 to 5 percent, and the representation of black people from 2 to 3 percent. Facebook leadership, however, remains unchanged: the executive makeup of the company is still overwhelmingly white, at 71 percent, while Asians hold 21 percent of the remaining leadership roles and other groups only 2 to 3 percent, or none at all.
Williams, in a blog post published today alongside the company’s diversity report, points to a few initiatives that she thinks are pushing Facebook to improve its hiring and workplace culture. One, called the “Diverse Slate Approach,” encourages hiring managers to consider applicants who don’t share their physical characteristics, as Facebook has found that “the more people you interview who don’t look or think like you, the more likely you are to hire someone from a diverse background.” Another, called “Managing Inclusion,” trains managers to consider how what issues affect marginalized communities, to help build a better understanding of how an employee or applicant may have arrived in the tech industry and the barriers to entry that still exist.
These efforts are steps in the right direction, Williams says, but “we aren’t where we’d like to be.” The company says it plans to continue trying to diversify Facebook, especially now that the social network is visited by more than 2 billion people every month, many of which are still not adequately represented by the employees and executives who manage Facebook’s myriad products and services.