The good news: Facebook has updated its statistics regarding employee diversity. The bad news: They don’t look that different from their previous releases on the same topic.
Facebook spotlighted its efforts to promote diversity in a blog post released alongside the new data. “Diversity is central to Facebook’s mission of creating a more open and connected world: it’s good for our products and for our business,” Facebook said in its post. “It’s vital for us to have a broad range of perspectives, including people of different genders, races, ages, sexual orientations, characteristics, and points of view.”
One stat in particular stands: Less than one in 10 Facebook employees are neither white nor Asian. Considering approximately 77 percent of the U.S. is white, it’s not surprising that the percentage of white Facebook employees is similar. However, Asians comprise only 4.8 percent of the U.S., yet make up 36 percent of Facebook personnel. As a result, Hispanics are woefully underrepresented, making up approximately 17 percent of the U.S. but only 4 percent of Facebook. Likewise, blacks represent over 13 percent of the U.S. but account for only one in every 50 Facebook employees.
One thing that’s unfortunate is that when it comes to senior personnel, the lack of diversity becomes even starker. While Facebook is “only” 55 percent white, when it comes to senior leadership, white representation skyrockets to 73 percent. Most of that percent increase seems to come from underrepresentation by Asians, who comprise 36 percent of Facebook but only 21 percent of senior leadership.
Indeed, Facebook’s most recent employer information report – which includes 2014 data, indicates the company’s touted diversity efforts aren’t moving as quickly as some might like – though it should be noted that the employment growth for black and Hispanic individuals grew at a faster rate than that of whites and Asians. The report indicates that the company added roughly 1,200 employees in the U.S. during the reporting period.
You may ask, why does any of this matter? For starters, a company’s diversity helps it understand and build products that cater to their audience. If you manage a startup focused on manufacturing and marketing mascara, for example, you may find it challenging if nine of your 11 employees are men. Google’s new Photos app misclassified two black people as gorillas, and some were quick to wonder if Google’s dearth of black engineers could have affected their image-recognition algorithm. After all, diversity among your personnel means that each employee approaches a problem from his or her unique point of view.
For Facebook, diversity might be more important than at other companies, as the social-media world changes rapidly. A lack of diversity could mean a lack of innovation, as recent research suggests. And of course, less innovation during a time of increased competition from Snapchat and other emerging platforms could hit the Menlo Park, California-based social networking giant particularly hard.
Do you think improving diversity at high-tech companies such as Facebook, Airbnb, and Google is an important topic? Or is this much ado about nothing? And are you doing enough to promote diversity at your own business?