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Facebook Inc (FB) Plays the “Skills” Card on Diversity Failures

Facebook inc (NASDAQ:FB)

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is being slammed after the company released new diversity data Friday. It highlighted that the diversity of its staff hasn’t changed, and it’s still predominantly white and male. This is troubling, argues many civil rights groups representing minorities and women.

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What Facebook Data Show

Facebook’s staff of tech employees is comprised of 84 percent men and 16 percent women. For non-tech workers that number stands at 52 percent women and 48 percent men.

The total number of women has gone up by one percent from 31 percent in 2014 to 32 percent in 2015. For minorities – blacks, Hispanics and mixed races – it has remained unchanged between two and four percent.

When it comes to senior leadership within the company, it is mostly filled up by white men. Seventy-seven percent of men make up senior positions and 23 percent of women are in senior roles. The number of Asian workers accounting for senior leadership positions grew to 21 percent this year, up from 19 percent last year. Hispanics working at senior levels went down from four percent to three percent.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, conceded that the social network has “a long way to go.”

Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global head of diversity, alluded to a number of initiatives the company has taken to improve its workforce diversity. One of these includes a Facebook University training program. This endeavor allows college freshmen who belong to minorities to spend a summer working with Facebook mentors. It also has a training course to educate people about conversations regarding stereotypes.

While we have achieved positive movement over the last year, it’s clear to all of us that we still aren’t where we want to be. There’s more work to do,” wrote Williams in a blog post. “We remain deeply committed to building a workplace that reflects a broad range of experience, thought, geography, age, background, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture and many other characteristics. It’s a big task, one that will take time to achieve, but our whole company continues to embrace this challenge.”

The Diversity, Skills Divide

Facebook, which persists in rolling out new advancements, developments and updates in the realm of technology, isn’t the only tech firm facing a paucity of diversity within their offices.

Google, despite spending $150 million to diversify the makeup of its corporate culture, hasn’t accomplished much since last year. Of its more than 53,000 employees, only three percent are Hispanics and two percent are blacks. Although 60 percent of its workforce is white, more than one-third are Asian.

Other companies are gradually making diversity gains. Silicon Valley giants like eBay, Pinterest and Twitter are beginning to hire more women and minorities. These companies are just asking for more time because they “are going against hundreds of years of historical inequity.”

One argument being made is that there is a skills shortage occurring in the U.S., which accounts for the paucity of blacks and Hispanics in the tech sector.

This is also one of the reasons why Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is a big proponent of H1B visas. Due to outdated immigration rules and the lack of educated STEM workers, an incredible number of skilled foreigners are being turned away. Essentially, immigration reform is vital for the continued success of numerous tech giants in Silicon Valley since many Americans aren’t entering the STEM industry.

Immigrants are far more likely than natives to study science and engineering and more likely to produce innovations in the form of patents,” wrote Gordon Hanson, University of California economist, in a 2011 study. “Expanding the supply of immigration visas for high-skilled workers increases patenting activity in science and engineering, particularly in U.S. high-tech firms.”

The supply and demand of the STEM field is at play, too. With a limited supply of skilled workers and a huge demand, the pay for H1B visa holders is in the $100,000 range at Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Many also feel that tech companies may blatantly disregard qualified applicants in favor of issues like race and gender.

Nevertheless prominent individuals, such as Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, still urge tech titans to continue hiring underrepresented minorities.

Google, eBay and Facebook 2015 numbers clearly demonstrate that more must be done, as the numbers for tech and nontech positions are virtually identical to 2014,” Jackson said in a statement. “Facebook and other tech companies must go beyond aspiring to do better and set measurable goals, targets and timetables to move the needle in diversity and inclusion.”

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