Facebook on hiring more minorities: 'It's complicated'

Key Points
  • Women are now 35 percent of Facebook's workforce, blacks are 3 percent and Hispanics are 5 percent.
  • The company announced measures to increase minority hiring.
A group of visitors sit for a photograph in front of the 'Like' logo displayed at the entrance of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Facebook revealed the latest numbers about the diversity of its workforce Wednesday, and even though the report reveals progress, minorities remain a small percentage of the company's global workforce.

"We aren't where we like to be, but we're encouraged that over the past year, representation for people from underrepresented groups at Facebook has increased," the company said in its blog post announcing its latest numbers.

Globally the number of women at Facebook has risen to 35 percent this year, up from 33 percent last year, and 31 percent in 2014. points out how meaningful that change is given that its employee base grew 43 percent in the past year to more than 20,000.

The percentage of women in Facebook's technical jobs has also risen 2 percentage points in the past year to 19 percent — and women now make up 27 percent of all new graduates hired in engineering.

Maxine Williams, Facebook's global director of diversity, Williams points out how significant these numbers are in the context of the greater gender gaps in tech, where only 16 percent of computer science degrees go to women, according to the Computer Research Association. And now 28 percent of Facebook's leadership roles are held by women, up 1 percent in a year. And 55 percent of nontechnical roles are held by women, up from 53 percent from last year.

How does Facebook compare to others in tech? As of their most recent diversity reports Google's workforce is 31 percent female, Microsoft's is 25.8 percent female, Amazon is 39 percent female and Twitter is 37 percent female.

More work to do on hiring minorities

The pace of change is also accelerating for minorities at Facebook's U.S. operations.

The company has grown its representation of black people at the company by 50 percent, from 2 percent to 3 percent of the company — the first time since the company started reporting these numbers in 2014 that the percentage has moved. The number of Hispanics has grown by 25 percent, from 4 percent to 5 percent. Facebook also publishes LGBTQ numbers, with about 7 percent of its U.S. workforce self-identified as such.

So why are the numbers so low?

"It's complicated," said Williams. "This is a reflection of a lot of societal issues that are not specific to tech." She also cited how few women earn technical degrees and how much less minorities know about the potential to earn these degrees and work at a company like Facebook.

"There's the question of exposure of the tech industry to people who are traditionally underrepresented – the Bay Area is between 3 percent and 6 percent black."

Facebook says it's investing in every stage of the pipeline to accelerate the pace of change, from recruiting to inclusion and retention.

"The more attention we bring to this, the more investment, and the more opportunities we provide, the better we'll get as a country at increasing these numbers," said Williams.