Facebook, like Google, makes scant progress in hiring blacks, women

Other tech companies also struggling to have more diverse workforces

jesse jackson mark zuckerberg sheryl sandberg at shareholder meeting in june

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and CFO Sheryl Sandberg  speak with civil rights activist Jesse Jackson at the company's shareholder meeting in June.

Credit: RainbowPush

Facebook and other tech companies aren't making much progress in their efforts to increase the percentages of women and minorities they employ, and that's a matter of concern for civil rights activists.

For example, black employees accounted for just 2% of Facebook's U.S. workforce as of May 31, according to diversity data that the company released yesterday. In June of last year, the figure was also 2%.

Hispanics represented 4% of Facebook's U.S. workforce at the end of May, while people of two or more races accounted for 3%.

There was a positive, but minute, change in the percentage of women in the company's worldwide workforce: That figure increased from 31% in June 2014 to 32% in May 2015.

The percentage of white staffers in Facebook's U.S. workforce fell from 57% to 55% over the same period, while the percentage of Asian employees in the U.S. increased from 34% to 36%.

Another tech giant, Google, said this month that the hiring of blacks and Hispanics outstripped the company's overall hiring growth, but those groups still make up just 2% and 3% of the company, respectively. Moreover, though 21% of Google's tech hires last year were women, their share of the tech workforce increased by only 1%.

It's difficult for a company with more than 55,000 staffers to quickly make changes in the percentages of people of various backgrounds in its workforce, said Google chief legal counsel David Drummond at the company's shareholder meeting. He was responding to remarks made at the meeting by Rev. Jesse Jackson, who noted that companies had not moved the "needle on representation" very much.

The civil rights leader has, with considerable success, been calling on tech companies to publish their diversity data. More than 25 companies have released such data. Jackson now wants the companies to set tangible targets and to report on their success in meeting their goals. He contends that women and people of color represent underserved markets, underutilized talent and untapped capital for the companies.

On Thursday, Jackson said in a statement that 2015 employment figures from Google, eBay and Facebook clearly demonstrate that employers must make more of an effort to diversify, because the numbers for tech and nontech positions are virtually identical to those of 2014. "Tech companies must go beyond aspiring to do better, and set measurable goals, targets and timetables to move the needle in diversity and inclusion. They must be intentional and accountable," he said.

Facebook's global director of diversity, Maxine Williams, wrote in a June 25 post that the company had adopted an approach, akin to the National Football League's Rooney Rule, that "encourages recruiters to look longer, harder and smarter for more diversity in the talent pool and ensures that hiring managers are exposed to a range of different candidates during the interview process."

Williams went on to say that the Facebook University training program "invites college freshmen, generally from underrepresented groups who demonstrate exceptional talent and interest in computer science, to spend most of their summer working on teams with Facebook mentors," so that they can learn the skills the company is seeking.

During a recent Facebook shareholder meeting, Jackson asked the company to partner with his RainbowPush civil rights organization to set up tech labs in 1,000 churches across the country, according to a transcript of the speech provided by RainbowPush. He also urged the company to make a major investment in the Oakland, Calif., public school district to build "a pipeline, not just from India, but from surrounding Bay Area communities to Facebook and the tech industry,"

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for the IDG News Service. You can follow John on Twitter (@Johnribeiro) or email him at john_ribeiro@idg.com.

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