The Stupidity of the Facebook Diversity Report

The Facebook diversity report reveals low numbers, but an even lower respect for freedom and dignity.

If you want to see a lion, a polar bear, a penguin, and a bison in a location that allows you to view them within a single half-hour, you will have to go to a zoo. Only captive animals will be in that close proximity to one another. In the wild, they live in completely different environments.

Human “races” are not the same as animals. Even if some racial characteristics originated in certain locations, they are not bound there. They can and do mix.

But it is still demeaning and disrespectful to expect people with power to deliberately bring them together in one place without regard for what the people of different races might want to do.

So it really bothers me that the employment make-up of Facebook is being judged apart from any consideration of who has applied for a job with the company.

The Guardian reports it as if it has caught them in a scandal: “Facebook only hired seven black people in latest diversity count.”

Facebook is still dominated by white men despite Mark Zuckerberg’s repeated promise to get serious about building a workforce that better reflects the diversity of its 1.4 billion global users.

In its diversity report released on Thursday the social network company revealed that more than half of its US staff are white, with the proportion dropping slightly from 57% to 55%. The proportion of Asian employees increased by 2% to 36%, but the shares of hispanic and black people or those of “two or more races” remained flat at 4%, 2% and 3% respectively.

Facebook’s senior leadership is even more homogenous, with 73% of the most important positions filled by white people.

Up until this point, I was thinking that Facebook was being foolish to keep and release these records. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with them collecting the information. But if they are going to make a big deal about diversity, and then fall so far short, that’s a pretty stupid PR move.

But this is all Big Brother work required by the government.

The company did not provide a breakdown of the exact numbers of people of different ethnicities in different ranks at the firm. It is required to do so by US law, but a spokeswoman said there is a lag in filling the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) report.

Excuse me? That is none of the government’s business. And if it was their business, they could figure out the information themselves rather than commandeer time and labor from Facebook employees to write these reports.

It turns out that, if you thought only seven African Americans work for Facebook, you were misled by the headline. Only seven more were hired this year.

I don’t understand why the workforce needs to “reflect the diversity” of their customer base. When I walk into Church’s Chicken, and stand in a line of white people, to get food from an all-black staff behind the counter, all I care about is if the chicken tastes good. The racial diversity of the workforce does not matter.

So what is the deal?

The slow progress on improving diversity comes despite Zuckerberg repeatedly promising to make the company’s employees better reflect the identities of its users. When Facebook released its first diversity report Maxine Williams, its global head of diversity, said: “At Facebook, diversity is essential to achieving our mission.

“We need a team that understands and reflects many different communities, backgrounds and cultures. Research also shows that diverse teams are better at solving complex problems and enjoy more dynamic workplaces. So at Facebook we’re serious about building a workplace that reflects a broad range of experience, thought, geography, age, background, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture and many other characteristics.”

OK, even if Facebook needs demographic and market knowledge, that doesn’t mean they need coders who provide the knowledge of their particular communities as part of their secondary duties. That would be a hiring and work nightmare. It wouldn’t work.

Also, seriously, how can a company that has a finite number of locations expect to reflect a “broad range of… geography.” People do relocate for jobs but it is still more common to apply to companies who have job sites near where one lives. And is it as likely that Facebook will find qualified new employees from the Midwest as from Silicon Valley?

Why shouldn’t the diversity of Facebook’s workforce depend on the diversity of people who are driven to educate themselves and win jobs there. How is Facebook supposed to make more minorities apply to them? Why should they?

This is all stupid.

I am curious, though, if Facebook will allow this post to be shared on its site, or if it will stifle it.