Tech Policy

Not Just the Pipeline: How to Increase Diversity at Facebook and Other Tech Companies

by Alejandra Montoya-Boyer
#FBNoExcuses has been trending today after Facebook released its annual diversity report with little gain.The revealed that the numbers of Latino and Black employees remain staggeringly low, at 4% and 2% respectively. Even more troubling is the severe lack of diverse representation in senior leadership roles, where hiring practices are determined—less than 7% is Black, Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander.
While Facebook is the current target, tech companies across Silicon Valley struggle with recruiting and retaining diverse candidates (Google released similar numbers in its report earlier this month)
Tech companies frequently blame the broken pipeline, but research also shows that there are more than twice as many Black and Latino computer science graduates as there are African-Americans and Latinos working in the big tech companies. Black and Latino computer science and engineering graduates frequently end up in lower-paying, lower-status careers like office support and administrative support.
While the pipeline issues must be addressed, Facebook and other tech companies can and should take concrete steps to increase diversity.  Here are some practical suggestions:

  • Recruit at HBCUs and HSIs, not just local top schools and a few others. Tech companies cannot keep recruiting at the same top-tiered universities and expect to diversify their workforce. Here’s a list of the top feeder schools for Amazon, Google, and Facebook. By working with HBCUs and Hispanic Serving Institutions to improve computer science curricula and create hiring programs and initiatives that link tech companies to a network of highly qualified job seekers of color, companies can develop direct pipelines for students of color into their work force. Google has already started working with several HBCUs and 20% of their new hires in 2015 came from these campuses.
  • Partner with coding bootcamps and community colleges that train underrepresented people of color. Some companies are increasingly considering candidates without traditional four-year computer science degrees, and others should follow. A recent Googlestudyshowed there was no correlation between achievement in college and eventual job performance, and up to 14% of people on some Google teams never went to college. Coding bootcamps now have become a viable—and often more affordable—alternative,particularly for people of color and women Many community colleges with large portions of Black and Latino students offer Associates’ Degrees in computer programming and other tech-related subjects. Companies should invest in and recruit at coding bootcamps and community colleges that predominantly serve underrepresented people of color and women.
  • Create in-house training programs. Facebook has already invested in its Facebook University training program—which works with college freshman “generally from underrepresented groups who demonstrate exceptional talent and interest in Computer Science.”  Tech companies should also develop in-house training programs to train entry-level non-tech positions into tech positions.
  • Use intentional recruitment platforms and blind hiring methods instead of personal networks. Because hiring is often reliant on personal networks (70 to 80 percent of people land jobs through networking), increasing the diversity of an industry that is white and male can be difficult. To increase diversity,Facebook has begun using Jopwella digital recruiting platforms that connects companies with qualified Black, Latino, and Native American candidates. In addition, by using blind application processes, companies can mitigate issues of implicit bias during the hiring process.Companies like Twitter and Airbnb are testing Blendoor an app that matches companies with resumes of candidates without using names or photos. Others use a blind skills assessment, giving candidates a work-related problem and reviewing their solution, to remain objective. According to astudy by GapJumpers when using conventional résumé screening, about a fifth of applicants who were not white, male, able-bodied people from elite schools made it to a first-round interview; but when using blind auditions, 60% did.
  • Emphasize diversity in tech and non-tech roles. While the push for diversity often focuses on tech roles, non-tech positions are similarly not diverse.   At Facebook, only 7% of non-tech positions are Latino and only 5% are Black. When hiring for these roles, tech companies should consider tailoring hiring qualifications to the demands of the particular job responsibilities rather than relying solely on credentials that are not directly connected to the job.Project Include an alliance seeking to accelerate diversity in the tech industry, recommends that employers use a “distance-traveled metric” to measure how far candidates have come (instead of relying on credentials that are “accidents of birth and linked to privilege”).
  • Open Offices in Key Cities of Color and Hire Locally.  Tech companies should move beyond a handful of regional hubs (e.g., Northern California, Seattle), open significant offices in cities with large numbers of African Americans and Latinos (e.g., Detroit, San Antonio), and hire locally.  This wouldexpand diversitywithin the tech companies, and allow for significant economic development that improves quality of life even for people of color who are not employed at the tech company.  Further, such growth does not contribute to the escalating cost-of-living in places like Silicon Valley whichpush out many including some of the few African-Americans and Latinos in the tech industry.