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."

Policy

Google is wooing a coalition of civil rights allies. It’s working.

The tech giant is adept at winning friends even when it’s not trying to immediately influence people.

A map display of Washington lines the floor next to the elevators at the Google office in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As Google has faced intensifying pressure from policymakers in recent years, it’s founded trade associations, hired a roster of former top government officials and sometimes spent more than $20 million annually on federal lobbying.

But the company has also become famous in Washington for nurturing less clearly mercenary ties. It has long funded the work of laissez-faire economists who now defend it against antitrust charges, for instance. It’s making inroads with traditional business associations that once pummeled it on policy, and also supports think tanks and advocacy groups.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Sustainability. It can be a charged word in the context of blockchain and crypto – whether from outsiders with a limited view of the technology or from insiders using it for competitive advantage. But as a CEO in the industry, I don’t think either of those approaches helps us move forward. We should all be able to agree that using less energy to get a task done is a good thing and that there is room for improvement in the amount of energy that is consumed to power different blockchain technologies.

So, what if we put the enormous industry talent and minds that have created and developed blockchain to the task of building in a more energy-efficient manner? Can we not just solve the issues but also set the standard for other industries to develop technology in a future-proof way?

Keep Reading Show less
Denelle Dixon, CEO of SDF

Denelle Dixon is CEO and Executive Director of the Stellar Development Foundation, a non-profit using blockchain to unlock economic potential by making money more fluid, markets more open, and people more empowered. Previously, Dixon served as COO of Mozilla. Leading the business, revenue and policy teams, she fought for Net Neutrality and consumer privacy protections and was responsible for commercial partnerships. Denelle also served as general counsel and legal advisor in private equity and technology.

Workplace

Everything you need to know about tech layoffs and hiring slowdowns

Will tech companies and startups continue to have layoffs?

It’s not just early-stage startups that are feeling the burn.

Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images

What goes up must come down.

High-flying startups with record valuations, huge hiring goals and ambitious expansion plans are now announcing hiring slowdowns, freezes and in some cases widespread layoffs. It’s the dot-com bust all over again — this time, without the cute sock puppet and in the midst of a global pandemic we just can’t seem to shake.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

Entertainment

Sink into ‘Love, Death & Robots’ and more weekend recs

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Our favorite picks for your weekend pleasure.

Image: A24; 11 bit studios; Getty Images

We could all use a bit of a break. This weekend we’re diving into Netflix’s beautifully animated sci-fi “Love, Death & Robots,” losing ourselves in surreal “Men” and loving Zelda-like Moonlighter.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt

Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Workplace

This machine would like to interview you for a job

Companies are embracing automated video interviews to filter through floods of job applicants. But interviews with a computer screen raise big ethical questions and might scare off candidates.

Although automated interview companies claim to reduce bias in hiring, the researchers and advocates who study AI bias are these companies’ most frequent critics.

Photo: Johner Images via Getty Images

Applying for a job these days is starting to feel a lot like online dating. Job-seekers send their resume into portal after portal and a silent abyss waits on the other side.

That abyss is silent for a reason and it has little to do with the still-tight job market or the quality of your particular resume. On the other side of the portal, hiring managers watch the hundreds and even thousands of resumes pile up. It’s an infinite mountain of digital profiles, most of them from people completely unqualified. Going through them all would be a virtually fruitless task.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Latest Stories
Bulletins