Tech Companies Deserve More Credit for Their Diversity The numbers that critics use to paint a damaging picture of Silicon Valley need to be viewed in context.
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Let's start cutting tech companies some slack over the diversity of their workplaces.
Facebook is the latest company to be lambasted in the media for a perceived lack of diversity of employees, with USA Today going so far as to say Facebook's workforce is indicative of "an industry sector dominated by white men."
Indeed, Facebook, which released its demographic figures, is 70 percent male and 57 percent white.
But it is a very, very diverse company and hardly "dominated by white men."
For one thing, Facebook (with apologies to founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg) is essentially run by Sheryl Sandberg -- certainly not a white man and certainly a dominant force in that company. She is among the business world's most prominent female executives. And, through her Lean In Foundation, she has been an inspiring voice for empowering women in leadership.
Then, let's look at the actual breakdown of employees. Yes, Facebook says its workforce is 57 percent white. But that is actually more diverse than the average U.S. company. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American employed workforce is 67 percent white. So, if hiring whites is a key criticism point, Facebook's employees are actually 15% less white than the U.S. workforce.
Why? Well, put simply, Facebook employs a lot more minorities than other companies. The Asian workforce at Facebook represent 34 percent of its employees. The national average? Five percent. So, when it comes to hiring Asians, a key minority group, Facebook is nearly seven times above other American companies.
It is true that there are two areas that need improvenent, namely the hiring of blacks and Hispanics. Facebook's employees are 2 percent black, versus a U.S. workforce of 12 percent, and 4 percent Hispanic, against a workforce pool of 16 percent.
Then there is the issue of why the company is 70 percent male. Looks unbalanced, right? Not really. According to the Commerce Department, women make up just 24 percent of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. That means the pool of available candidates for Facebook's open positions (it is, after all, a STEM company), is 76 percent male. Yet it found a way to be 6 percentage points more diverse than its available candidates.
Diversifying workforces is important. That means hiring more racial minorities. That means gender balance. It means hiring people from different countries or who grew up in different economic backgrounds. It also means supporting programs that develop and educate a better potential workforce. Businesses know that hiring is the most important factor in growth. You have to seek out the best candidates for your business needs, and diversity pays off with new opinions, new viewpoints and a better understanding of customers.
Facebook understands that. Google, which faced similar criticism, knows that. Most of Silicon Valley's biggest companies were created and grew with diversity in mind, and have made great strides. Yet they face derision.
That's wrong. The diversity of these companies should be celebrated, not shamed. Could they do more in minority and gender hiring? Maybe. Chances are, given the nature of their employee bases, they are doing as much as they can.
That needs to be cheered, and it should be the model for businesses of all sizes and in all industries. Pundits should save the boo's for a real controversy and hit the "like" button on the example Facebook and other companies are setting.