Why Facebook Isn't Getting More Diverse

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Facebook has failed to hire a significant number of nonwhite and female employees, despite establishing a point-based reward system that incentivizes recruiters to bring in black, Hispanic and female engineers.

Recruiters at Facebook receive one point for every white or Asian male employee they recruit and two points for hires outside of those demographics that are already overrepresented within the company. Previously, the value of each “diversity” recruit was 1.5 points. However, the company-wide demographic breakdown remains stagnant. Four percent of its U.S. employees are Hispanic and 2 percent are black -- unchanged from 2014 and 2015. In 2014, 31 percent of Facebook employees were women. Today, 33 percent are women, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Related: Diversity Programs Often Make Workplaces Less Diverse, New Study Finds

The tactics that Facebook’s recruiters have devised for tracking down diverse talent on LinkedIn include searching the network for individuals who attended historically black colleges or are members of Hispanic engineer organizations, for example. They also seek out individuals with common Hispanic names or attempt to recruit people based on their profile pictures, the Journal reports.

In June, two sociology professors published a study regarding the effectiveness of various strategies to increase company diversity in the Harvard Business Review. Frank Dobbin of Harvard University and Alexandra Kalev of Tel Aviv University gathered data from 829 U.S. companies to examine which types of initiatives hinder diversity efforts, vs. which methods are more likely to succeed.

For one, they found that companies cannot trust their employees to follow through with hiring more diverse candidates. They also noted that the word “diversity” itself may be the culprit of a failed initiative for increased representation. (You can read a summary of their findings -- diversity hiring do’s and don’ts -- here.)

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Dobbin about Facebook’s point-based system, which he says is “not a really effective way to change behavior. It can backfire.” While Facebook argues that its minority recruits are not merely an “add-on” to interview lists, the company’s failure to shift its numbers indicates a different reality, despite Facebook’s intentions.

Related: How Top Companies Aim to Close the Gender Gap in Tech

Facebook needs to stop making false statements about the “pipeline,” or the lack of availability of female and nonwhite talent. These cop-out excuses undermine the efforts the company has in place to improve representation within its global enterprise. They disregard so many people who know and prove otherwise in their daily lives.

Companies are better off taking a more systemic approach to the problem internally, following Dobbin and Kalev’s findings about mentorship, diversity task forces and cross-departmental collaboration. While Facebook may be experimenting with some of these solutions already, it’s clear that giving recruiters positive reviews and bonuses when they find Spanish-speakers on LinkedIn isn’t working.

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