Facebook’s cabal of senior engineers blocks diversity hires: report

Silicon Valley tech’s diversity problem can’t be solved merely by recruiting women and black and Latino people — they actually have to be hired.

Much is made of boosting the “pipeline” of applicants from groups under-represented in tech. But a new report suggests that at Facebook, the pipeline has a screen at the end, and it’s blocking the people the company, and other major Silicon Valley firms, say they want to hire.

“Facebook has put itself at the forefront of efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce, including a targeted internal recruiting strategy in 2015 designed to bring in female, black and Latino software engineers,” begins a report in Bloomberg.

Laudable, surely. And an obvious solution to the diversity problem is to recruit more such engineers. Which Facebook reportedly did, by starting in 2015 to give extra performance points to recruiters who brought forward women, blacks and Latinos, according to Bloomberg.

But that effort has met with little success.

“From 2015 to 2016, Facebook’s proportion of women in tech grew from 16 percent to 17 percent, and its proportion of black and Latino U.S. tech workers stayed flat at 1 and 3 percent, respectively,” the news site reported.

Recruiters may have broadened the pipeline, but they don’t do the hiring. At Facebook, final decisions on job offers are made by senior engineers, nearly all of them white or Asian men, Bloomberg reported.

It’s not that these men are biased against females and people of other colors, said the article, which was based on anonymous sources.

“The decision-makers were risk-averse, often declining the minority candidates,” Bloomberg said. “(They) often assessed candidates on traditional metrics like where they attended college, whether they had worked at a top tech firm, or whether current Facebook employees could vouch for them.”

Facebook responded to Bloomberg, saying most hires don’t come through referrals from the firm’s employees.

“Once people begin interviewing at Facebook, we seek to ensure that our hiring teams are diverse,” a spokeswoman told the news site. “Our interviewers and those making hiring decisions go through our managing bias course and we remain acutely focused on improving our ability to hire people with different backgrounds and perspectives.”

Other Silicon Valley companies approach diversity hiring in a similar manner to Facebook, pressuring recruiters to produce more diverse prospects without applying the same leverage to those doing the hiring, diversity consultant Joelle Emerson told Bloomberg.

Successful firms such as Facebook hesitate to alter a system they believe is effective, Emerson said, according to the report.

 

Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Kirstina Sangsahachart/Daily News)

 

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