Facebook Fails To Improve Diversity Despite Rapid Hiring

Facebook’s team is still dominated by white and Asian men. Diversity improved only slightly despite Facebook adding 2897 employees this year, according to its new demographic report. The 10,082-person company has only 1% more women as a share of all employees than a year ago despite a 40% increase in head count. And the company made no quantifiable progress growing its percentage of non-Asian ethnic minorities across the whole company or in its tech jobs.

The biggest area of progress was that Facebook’s non-tech employee percentage of women grew from 47% to 52%. Any other gains were limited to a 1% increase in the female or hispanic demographic’s share of employees.

Facebook does not disclose the exact counts of employees in different categories. Increasing the percentage of women as a share of all employees by 1% would increase the total number of women working at Facebook by several percent.  

Facebook Women

In a blog post about the report, Facebook admitted “it’s clear to all of us that we still aren’t where we want to be”. At least it acknowledged that diversity isn’t just for show, saying:

“Cognitive diversity, or diversity of thought, matters because we are building a platform that currently serves 1.4 billion people around the world. 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. Having a diverse workforce is not only the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do for our business.”

The company has launched several initiatives to improve diversity. The most noticable is its diverse slate approach, which aims to “present hiring managers…with at least one qualified candidate who is a member of an underrepresented group to fill any open role.”

It’s also expanded Facebook University, which offers internships to high-potential college freshman from underrepresented groups, and a more rigorous training program for managing biases against minorities. And to Facebook’s merit, it has has a very positive culture for LGBTQ employees, and participates actively in Pride demonstrations.

Still, given the massive 40% increase in headcount this year, Facebook seems to have failed move the needle on diversity. [Correction: We briefly used an outdated headcount number to calculate a 59% increase this year. The right headcount growth is 40%.]

Facebook’s not alone. Plenty of other tech giants are struggling to balance their makeups. Google saw almost no progress either this year.

Google Diversity 2015

Many claim the gender issue stems from a pipeline problem, where women are being discouraged from tech jobs while still in school. But anyone who lives in the Bay Area can confirm tech companies can be a hostile environment for women.

Between implicit and explicit sexual harassment, wage gaps, inequity in promotions, and constant discrimination and belittling of their contributions, it’s understandable why women wouldn’t want to go into or stay in tech. I’ve heard too many horror stories of women being asked on dates in the middle of pitching a VC for funding, or being assumed to be assistants when they show up for partnership meetings alongside their male colleagues.

Tech companies can moan all they want about the gender pipeline problem, but there’s a hole in the bucket at the end of that pipe. The culture needs fixing, not just the candidate pool.

Here are Facebook’s numbers side-by-side, with 2015 on the left with percentage changes, 2014 on the right: