Some Facebook employees struggle with inclusion

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There’s a clear disconnect between what Facebook’s leadership team says about diversity and inclusion and how it plays out in the office. The most recent example is the presence of a series of posters that describe the average characteristics of software engineers, product designers and other tech positions.

The photo above, which was posted in Facebook’s Menlo Park office and subsequently shared via social media, implies that there’s no talent in places like Africa and South America. Then there’s the language used in the poster for content strategist, which describes people in that role as “meek and unassuming.” The one for UX researchers describes them as “dry, dour, humorless beasts.” As a colleague of mine noted, those are the only ones that have Africa as part of their native range.

It’s problematic that the posters emphasize certain geographical areas over others, and overlook the broad swaths of the globe where people — and presumably engineers, data scientists and content strategists — live.

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I have obscured the name of the person who posted the photos on Facebook, but I will say that they work as a product manager at Facebook, according to the person’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages. The person, who posted these photos on Aug. 26, 2016, said they love their “HILARIOUS colleagues.” When someone asked where in the building those photos were located, the person replied, “behind my desk.” The photos were located in one of Facebook’s Menlo Park buildings.

It’s not clear if the intention was to show where Facebook employees hail from or where Facebook has its offices, but either way, the information is not correct. Facebook has offices and engineering positions in Latin America, for example, and also recruits talent from all over the world.

This begs the question of why were these posters up at Facebook. I reached out to Facebook, but the company declined to comment. These posters are reminiscent of the time when employees were crossing out “Black Lives Matter” and replacing it with “All Lives Matter.” 

Facebook is currently 52 percent white in the U.S., compared to 55 percent white last year. That should’ve been good news, but it was bittersweet because there was no increase in the two most underrepresented groups at Facebook: black and Hispanic. Facebook’s employee population in the U.S. is still only 2 percent black, 4 percent Hispanic, 1 percent other and 3 percent two or more races. There was, however, an increase in Facebook’s Asian population, which went up from 36 percent to 38 percent this year. Globally, Facebook employs slightly fewer men; as of June 2016, Facebook is 67 percent male compared to 68 percent male last year.

There’s clearly still a lot of work to be done on both the diversity and the inclusion front at Facebook.