The faces that run Facebook
June 26, 2015 6:32 AM   Subscribe

"..Research also shows that diverse teams are better at solving complex problems and enjoy more dynamic workplaces. So at Facebook we’re serious about building a workplace that reflects a broad range of experience, thought, geography, age, background, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture and many other characteristics.” Facebook only hired seven black people in latest diversity count.
posted by latkes (40 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow, lots of Asians.
posted by smackfu at 6:33 AM on June 26, 2015


Jesus. I fancy myself aware of the ongoing issues of race in the US, but stuff like this still has the ability to shock me. Like finding out there have only been 83 Black female Physics PhDs in the entirety of US history.
posted by schroedinger at 6:38 AM on June 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


When I taught, I never saw a black student in our department. I would specifically find black students who were successful and promising in our introductory classes (required for graduation) and tell them that the computer fields would be good choices for them... and they never followed up. It was very disappointing, especially since we were a rural community college in an area where jobs were limited (but IT hiring was strong).
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:44 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, lots of Asians.

Asian overrepresentation in STEM is one of those interesting gotchas that I've seen get pulled out to justify the underrepresentation of blacks and hispanics. It's usually along the lines of, "Everyone complains that we're racist because we don't have enough blacks and hispanics, but they go quiet when the fact that Asians are overrepresented comes up! You see, it's not that we're racist in our hiring - it's that we just can't get enough qualified candidates of these particular ethnicities. The problem is waaaay earlier in the system, and there's just not much we can do about it." If anyone knows about some discussion dealing with this argument, I'd be really interested in seeing it. Maybe that counts as Racism 101, but to me it really feels like a 201 course.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:46 AM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


"We're committed to building a diverse workplace of people that know how to write code to invert a binary tree on a whiteboard."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:46 AM on June 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


Huh. Not many women, not many non-whites/non-Asians.

Makes sense why they don't seem to clamp down all that fast on anti-Black or anti-Woman sentiments.
posted by qcubed at 6:55 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


What gets me is “It’s this problem because it’s not even clear where you would start attacking it. You need to start earlier in the funnel so that girls don’t self-select out of doing computer science education, but at the same time, one of the big reasons why today we have this issue is that there aren’t a lot of women in the field today.”

Like, give me a break on the, "It's not even clear where to start attacking it".

It's abundantly clear that the wealth (understatement, but not possible to accurately express the levels of casual excess) of silicon valley is not even in the least helping to strenghten the community it's in the middle of. On the countary, they are literally and rapidly lowering our quality of life by pricing long term residents out of our homes. If only there was some mechinism to improve science education for girls and people of color who live near Silicon Valley! Some system where wealthy corporations could be required to put money into a collective pot to be spent on these schools, not to mention firetrucks, medical clinics, etc.

And then, duh, fucking hire more women and POC. As the head of Facebook, you have more ability than almost anyone on earth to change the gender and race dynamics in stem by simply hiring trainable people (or already qualified people). When little girls have mothers who are successful tech workers, then little girls will go into tech. Not to mention when college age successful math and science students who are women and/or POC are actually hired by the industries they are qualified for...
posted by latkes at 7:13 AM on June 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


Actually having grown up in the Bay Area, the percentage that is Asian seems low to me. My high school in Cupertino's graduating class was 60-70% Asian and that was in the early 2000's. Now it's almost 80%.
posted by wilky at 7:16 AM on June 26, 2015


What gets me is “It’s this problem because it’s not even clear where you would start attacking it. You need to start earlier in the funnel so that girls don’t self-select out of doing computer science education, but at the same time, one of the big reasons why today we have this issue is that there aren’t a lot of women in the field today.”

Like, give me a break on the, "It's not even clear where to start attacking it".


Exactly. There is a zero percent chance that Facebook hired every last black and female candidate who was fully qualified in the world in 2013 and thus the pipeline of talent for them to hire has zero people in it.

It is a failure of Facebook to either intentionally find the diversity they're looking for and/or create the conditions where every black or female candidate wants to work for them. Full stop. It might be harder than, say, feasting on the cornucopia of white male resumes they are getting, but that's the work you have to do to fix this problem.
posted by buoys in the hood at 7:51 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


US filters which Asians we accept, via the visa process. Yeah yeah, you've got stories of poor kids from Chinatown who become computer science majors, but they are not the majority of CS majors. Not at all.
posted by wuwei at 8:17 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I recently got a little pop-up quiz on Facebook in which all of the questions were about Facebook "making the world a better place". Do you think Facebook is making the world a better place, do you think making the world a better place is Facebook's primary mission, do you think people hear enough about how Facebook is making the world a better place.

They really believe this idiocy. I wouldn't be surprised if black and female candidates get marked down in interviews for snorting or giggling when they ask this. "Not a good fit with the team".
posted by Fnarf at 8:32 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why people don't believe that there is a problem earlier in the pipeline. Go to any college CS classroom and look around. Women and minorities are severely underrepresented there. For example:
  • Black or African American students were awarded 3.2% of all computer science bachelor's degrees in the US in 2014. Black or African Americans make up 12.2% of the US population.
  • Female students were awarded 14.1% of CS bachelor's degrees. Women make up slightly over 50% of the US population.
I don't have stats, but I believe the ratios are similarly skewed in high school CS classes, when a school even offers CS.

I'm not giving Facebook, et al. a free pass here, but to say that the underrepresentation of women and minorities in tech is entirely the fault of tech companies and their hiring is missing a big part of the picture.

There are problems with society's stereotypes and gender norms that lead to skewed ratios among those even considering or entering the field, and there are problems with hostile, unwelcoming environments for women and minorities in all levels of education that skew the ratios further before a company ever gets a chance to hire someone.
posted by whatnotever at 8:43 AM on June 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


There is totally a problem earlier in the pipeline. That seems uncontroversial. But the reality is that that problem is used as a free pass for Facebook and the entire tech industry.

They are in a unique position to both improve the earlier in the pipeline problem (pay their share of taxes for public schools, fund programs specifically for girls and kids of color, etc) and to address the downstream problem by hiring trainable people and training them.

And, additionally, that upstream problem is used consistently to excuse gender and racial bias in hiring, which is a real, long established and well documented phenomenon.
posted by latkes at 8:55 AM on June 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


The existence of a pipeline problem (which is by and large undeniable, though it's far from the only factor fueling a lack of diversity in STEM) doesn't provide companies an excuse to wash their hands of the problem. For example, here's an attempt by Google to make a dent.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:46 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Intel just invested 300 million in solving this problem, with a multifaceted strategy that seems to be exactly what people here are talking about. The goal is a workforce representative of actual demographics in the country, in 5 years (i.e. today's first-year college students will benefit).

So it's not hopeless. I think most of the racism and sexism in tech is of the unconscious kind, and I think a lot of talented engineers coming up from these groups could cause a very, very fast change in the culture, even in the bro-est parts of the startup world.
posted by vogon_poet at 10:24 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah but that attempt is going to take years to pay off since you can't just get to the level needed to get these jobs overnight so focusing on the pipeline is the better solution. I find it weird that people in this thread literally expect Facebook to hire every single qualified black or female candidate in the world. It's not as if the candidates are sitting around, twiddling their thumbs. No, they're already working somewhere else. Maybe at Google. Maybe at Hewlett Packard. If there were a bunch of black or female candidates who were fully qualified but unemployed then, yes, that would indicate a problem but that doesn't seem to be the case. The problem is that the pool of candidates is tiny and that needs to be improved. Facebook is also trying to make a dent.

And the Intel thing as well.
posted by I-baLL at 10:27 AM on June 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Most excellent good news shouldn't overwhelm the conversation begun by the events in Charleston.
posted by infini at 10:43 AM on June 26, 2015


They are in a unique position to both improve the earlier in the pipeline problem (pay their share of taxes for public schools, fund programs specifically for girls and kids of color, etc) and to address the downstream problem by hiring trainable people and training them.

Dirty secret of tech: We don't train. I mean, there are exceptions. And we all try.

But really. We don't train. It explains a ridiculous amount.
posted by effugas at 11:13 AM on June 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


*Exactly. There is a zero percent chance that Facebook hired every last black and female candidate who was fully qualified in the world in 2013 and thus the pipeline of talent for them to hire has zero people in it.

It is a failure of Facebook to either intentionally find the diversity they're looking for and/or create the conditions where every black or female candidate wants to work for them. Full stop. *

I sympathize with this point, and I agree fully that Facebook didn't hire every last black &/or female candidate who was qualified and wanted to work there, but as an end point this seems a bit unquantifiable. If the pipeline issue means that they can't match the true proportion of the population, exactly what percentage should they be aiming for? Or rather, how should they validate their process so that it gets some kind of civil rights "you're doing the best job possible"? What have other folks done?
posted by Going To Maine at 11:27 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


the pipeline issue means that they can't match the true proportion of the population,

Which population? Local, national? Global? If it's national they're going to have to dump a lot of Asian and male (Asian males? Twofer!) employees and replace them with white, and (non-Asian) POC women. That's a tough row to hoe right there.
posted by MikeMc at 11:33 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dirty secret of tech: We don't train. I mean, there are exceptions. And we all try.

But really. We don't train. It explains a ridiculous amount.


I agree, and it's an awful part of tech, and probably most of modern America's economy. But isn't Facebook renowned for providing a mandatory bootcamp to all new hires? Surely they should be at the forefront of hiring people for potential, not just for how much they already know.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:34 AM on June 26, 2015


whatnotever, there is definitely a problem earlier in the pipeline, but if black/African-American students are 3.2% of CS graduates then it isn't totally unreasonable to expect them to be around 3% of the CS students working at Facebook, and it's not even close.

But I'll also bet that a non-trivial number of those students come from traditionally black universities and not, perhaps, the Harvards/Cals/Stanfords/usual suspects where Facebook likely does a lot of its recruiting.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:42 AM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


And then, duh, fucking hire more women and POC

Women and minorities are severely underrepresented there.

Asians are also minorities in the US and people of color. The Facebook example illustrates that this is very real: senior management is 15% Asian, but the company is 36% Asian. It is a persistent issue in Silicon Valley. Asians programmers earn $8000/yr less than their Caucasian counterparts in tech; racial minorities earn less in tech in general. A US census study showed that, controlled for having a Bachelor's degree, Asians will earn $200k-$400k less than Caucasians. Controlled for occupation, Asians earn 92% of what Caucasians earn.

Wow, lots of Asians.

36%? Depends how you look at it. US is 6%, California is 12%, SF is >33%, Asian tech workers compose over 50% of the industry in the bay area.
posted by helot at 11:52 AM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dirty secret of tech: We don't train. I mean, there are exceptions. And we all try.

But really. We don't train. It explains a ridiculous amount.


Well, having been a programming teacher... if I became an executive, I also wouldn't train. Determining if someone is capable of becoming a programmer is difficult, and training someone from zero would be an incredible gamble. The layers and layers of knowledge that are achieved through hobbyist programming and/or education would be incredibly time- and money-intensive to provide to a new hire who might, in the end, not work out (like a large portion of new programming students).

Even the bootcamps that are currently trendy are basically teaching an incredibly tiny subset of programming, and you can't hire someone coming out of them unless the bootcamp has uncovered an untapped reserve of brilliance (it has happened—we've hired a couple).

So, no, we don't train. Because we can't, unless perhaps we're Google, Facebook, or Microsoft... but those companies and their peers represent a relatively small portion of the tech industry in terms of headcount.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:08 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Asians get stereotyped just like other races, but in this case the stereotype of them being good in STEM works in their favor. As helot pointed out though, it falls apart when it comes to being promoted to management. Because, like, Asians are a hive-mind and totally incapable of displaying the social skills, assertiveness, and independent thought that's unique to white men, amirite?
posted by schroedinger at 12:26 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are people promoted to management from programming in general? It sounds like an entirely different job field.
posted by I-baLL at 12:44 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Determining if someone is capable of becoming a programmer is difficult, and training someone from zero would be an incredible gamble.

I thought back in the day IBM had the idea of taking any employee and being able to make a programmer out of them?
posted by Apocryphon at 1:47 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apocryphon, that was when being a programmer consisted of learning the one computer, the one machine language, the one interface, and using those components to perform calculations defined for by someone who didn't want to get their hands dirty. Computer Science was a lot younger, software was a lot simpler, and computers were a lot "smaller" (not physically, but in terms of the number of things you needed to understand). These days, everything is at a higher level of abstraction, but also a far higher level of complexity.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:50 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I thought back in the day IBM had the idea of taking any employee and being able to make a programmer out of them?

Back in the day H-P believed that if an employee was not doing well in their job it was a management failure for not putting that person in the right job. Many, many things have changed in the computer/tech industry (and not all of them for the better).
posted by MikeMc at 2:03 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many Facebook engineers are over 40? Especially new hires....
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:11 PM on June 26, 2015


Maybe young women just have enough social acumen to figure out early on that IT workers – except for a tiny (ageist, sexist) Silicon Valley elite – inevitably get shortchanged in the long term in terms of pay, promotion, and status?

Or most young women have, by age 18, already been put off computers entirely by the microcomputer-hobbyist types whose terrible social skills and persecution complex provide society with an excuse for this obvious class snobbery

(I was a male CS student, and the gender imbalance was off-putting from the start)
posted by ormon nekas at 3:22 PM on June 26, 2015


Intel just invested 300 million in solving this problem, with a multifaceted strategy that seems to be exactly what people here are talking about.

Of course, they're in a hiring freeze and planning layoffs. Even if they do build a pipeline, will there be a spot in the company for them?
posted by pwnguin at 6:01 PM on June 26, 2015


Pointing to "women are smart enough to stay out of tech jobs" is a terrible, circular excuse for the reality of sexism in the tech workplace. But, let's get back to talking about the racism...
posted by girlhacker at 7:02 PM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow, these numbers.

Facebook’s black female headcount increased by just one person over 2013 to 11, and the number of black men increased by six to 34

I work for a techy company less than 1/10th the size, and we have at least 11 full-time black female employees. This isn't a pipeline problem. They aren't hiring black women ANYWHERE in the company full-time? They aren't hiring black men ANYWHERE in the company? Facebook is more than just engineers. Wow. Shame, shame, shame, Facebook. Shame shame shame.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:15 PM on June 26, 2015 [6 favorites]




As to the pipeline problem, when I graduated college with a CS degree nearly 30% of them (in the U.S.) were granted to women. That was about 15 years ago. There are no where near 30% of women in the group "people in technology roles with 15 years experience". At best it's 5-10% (depends on company and role.) So sure the pipeline is a problem but only insofar as society and industry have been driving women out of technology and telling women (and girls) it's not a place for them.
posted by R343L at 8:27 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Facebook case with black employees seems especially egregious given we're talking about ANY role, not just programmers. You really can't find more diverse hires in accounting, sales, marketing, product management, etc?!
posted by R343L at 8:29 PM on June 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, my own work is more representative of the tech industry as a whole, and is much more diverse than Facebook. In fact (despite being much smaller than Facebook) we have a dedicated internship program for minority women, and it's been very successful. I've done a lot of volunteering teaching programming in schools, and I've actually slowed down on that because there's kind of too many programmers trying to volunteer in schools right now -- we had a Technovation team last year (at a high poverty, mostly minority school) with as many mentors as students. Around 25% of our engineering staff are women, which certainly isn't great, but is far less abysmal than the numbers coming out of the ultra-exclusive Bay Area companies.

On the other hand, there are a lot of real problems. One big one is that most of the more-senior techy people (the ones with the power to set up new programs and make big grants) are from far away (across the country, from other countries), are here for only a few years at a time, and are really not interested in anything to do with supporting the local community. Another issue is that many of the techies who we would count as "black" are from more recent African immigrant backgrounds, not the group that was historically discriminated against in the US. So there's a lot of work left to do.
posted by miyabo at 9:46 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I came across Regina Agyare's work with Tech needs Girls, in Ghana. A model like that may be interesting in parts of the United States?

In a small study room in Nima, one of Ghana's biggest shanty towns, Regina Agyare holds forth to more than 50 young girls aged between six and 18. The youngsters listen eagerly, their eyes glued on Agyare as they digest what she is telling them. When Agyare asks "What is technology?" one girl has this definition, "Technology is the use of science to create energy sources, machines, tools and gadgets to satisfy the need of man." Agyare is giving lessons aimed at equipping the girls with IT skills, especially in the area of coding.

30 year-old Agyare, herself an IT graduate, is also an entrepreneur. She runs Tech Needs Girls, an initiative she founded after she quit a well-paid banking job in 2012. Her goal is to encourage as many girls as possible to do technology-related courses; she wants to make sure that girls are not left behind when it comes to innovation.

[...]
As a result of her efforts many girls have become aware that they too can take part in innovation.

"At first most of us were afraid to sit in the midst of the boys and do our exercises, but through the work of Tech Needs Girls, we have been able to master the courage to be in the same class with them and even perform better than other guys," said one of the girls in Agyare's class.

Agyare's own technology skills didn't come easily. She had to pass many hurdles to get to where she is today. "I remember growing up, I watched this movie and the man was able to fly with a rocket on his back. At the time I thought everything you see on TV was real so I wanted to build my own rocket," she said. But her dream was shattered by a teacher who told her that it was impossible for girls to build rockets and that girls belonged in the kitchen. She encountered the same attitude when she wanted to study computer science, but she decided to ignore the negative comments and go ahead.

posted by infini at 3:14 AM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


In related news, a trans FB employee has been kicked off the site for not using their real name: My name is only real enough to work at Facebook, not to use on the site
posted by Going To Maine at 9:06 PM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


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