Workplace

Facebook adds more Black leaders but falls back in female representation

Facebook's latest report revealed a 38% increase in Black people in leadership roles.

A Facebook "like" symbol across a street

Facebook's latest diversity report shows progress on race.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Facebook's efforts to increase diversity have moved at a glacial pace over the years. Like the rest of the tech industry, Facebook employees are overwhelmingly white and male. But Facebook's latest report actually showed some notable progress.

"Don't say 'actually,' Megan," Facebook Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams told me, laughing. "Yes, there's good progress!"

Facebook increased the amount of Black people in leadership from 3.4% in 2020 to 4.7% in 2021, which represents a 38.2% increase. The company also boosted its overall representation of Black people from 3.9% in 2020 to 4.4% this year. That represents the largest year-over-year increase since 2017, when Facebook reported a 3% Black population compared to 2% the year before.

There wasn't progress all around, however. Despite increasing the number of women in tech, non-tech and leadership roles, Facebook's overall representation of women slightly declined from 37% in 2020 to 36.7% in 2021.

"This was where I had to do a math course," Williams said. " ... How is this possible that we can increase in all of the categories and have a decrease overall?"

It came down to the fact that each department at Facebook has different needs, and some organizations within the company are bigger than others, she said.

"We've been able to take more market share," Williams said. "But given the number of technical roles [at Facebook], we're coming up upon some challenges to get more and more market share when the market [of women in computer science] isn't expanding as much."



Women represent about 20% of computer science graduates, according to 2018 data from the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS Completions Survey. Facebook's engineering department is currently 24.8% female, which means the company has already surpassed parity.

Facebook currently has its eyes set on three goals: to double the number of women in its global workforce and double the number of Black and Latinx employees in the U.S.; to have at least 50% of its workforce be women, underrepresented minorities, people with disabilities and veterans by 2024; and to increase the number of people of color in director-level positions and higher by 30%. Last June, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg highlighted a goal for Facebook to increase the number of Black people in leadership positions by 30%.

Facebook has already surpassed that last goal, but Williams says the company is still aiming to increase the representation of Asian and Latinx people in leadership roles.

"I'm not resting on my laurels," she said. "Things could fluctuate, but it was a good sign that we got ahead of the goal in the one year."

Facebook held off on setting concrete diversity goals for years, despite companies such as Pinterest, Intel and others openly setting them. When reporters would ask Williams about goals, she said, "I would keep saying the goal is more, we need more."

"What I deeply believe is that people have a perception that if you set the goal then that's what will get you to it," she said. "When in fact I think a goal without a strategy is just a statement."



Instead, Williams said, Facebook spent years building a strategy before setting goals. Over the years, it became more clear what worked based on the progress Facebook made, she said.

"The value of the goal, really, is to just bring focus to the efforts, to kind of centralize everyone around an anchor of what you're prioritizing and where you want to go," she said. "But the strategies you're using are the same. You're not giving them new tools just by giving them new goals, but it may incentivize more consistent execution."

In March, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began looking into allegations of systemic racial bias in hiring and promotions at Facebook. Then, in April, a Facebook recruiter left the company and alleged Facebook's hiring practices don't create positive outcomes for people of color.

Williams, a Black woman who is above the age of 40, said there is a variety of things that could be challenging for her in the workplace, but that she has "never had a better experience" at work than she's having at Facebook.

"I know many, many people at Facebook who are like that," she said. But Williams also recognizes that not everyone has a great experience at the company.

"There's always going to be a certain amount of variation at scale," Williams said.

"What I see as part of my job is to close that gap," she said. "And to have a more above-the-line, consistent, supportive environment and career and give people the opportunity to do the best work in their lives."

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins