Facebook blames dismal diversity figures on lack of skilled minorities

Social network launches $15m fund to help minorities gain tech skills

Facebook has blamed its poor diversity statistics on a supposed lack of women and minorities in the talent pool.

The social network's senior leadership team comprises three per cent black people and three per cent Hispanic people, and 27 per cent women, it revealed yesterday. In the last year, senior leadership hires comprised nine per cent black people, five per cent Hispanic people, and 29 per cent women.

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Facebook's overall tech workforce is currently 94 per cent white or Asian and 83 per cent male.

Its LGBTQ+ figures, published this week for the first time, reveal that, of the 61 per cent of employees who responded to a voluntary survey, seven per cent identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or asexual.

Maxine Williams, Facebook's global director of diversity, listed some statistics to blame the US education system for Facebook's lack of diversity, saying in a blog post: "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."

Currently, only one in four US high schools teach computer science, she said, adding that last year seven states had fewer than 10 girls take the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam, while no girls took the exam in three states.

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Meanwhile, no black people took the exam in nine states including Mississippi, where half of high school graduates were black, according to Facebook, and 18 states had fewer than 10 Hispanic people take the exam, with another five states having no Hispanic AP Computer Science (CS) test takers.

"This has to change," said Williams, and announced the launch of a $15 million scheme to help.

Non-profit organisation Code.org will operate over the next five years to train people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations in the skills needed by the tech industry.

"Facebook's mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected," Williams said. "In order to achieve that mission, we need an employee base that reflects a broad range of experiences, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and many other characterisations."

In addition to Code.org, the company has pledged to work on "building a diverse slate of candidates and an inclusive working environment", "supporting students with an internet in tech" through its Facebook University programme and Computer Science and Engineering Lean In Circles.

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It will also offer "opportunity and access" by continuing to work with school-age students.

Last year's diversity figures demonstrate how little progress has been made so far, with the number of female tech workers at Facebook up just one per cent.

"While there is a lot of distance to cover in the short, medium and long term, we're moving in the right direction," added Williams.

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