Mark Zuckerberg spoke about the tech industry’s diversity problem on Monday, saying that “I don’t think it’s a secret that the tech community and industry has an issue with diversity.”
The Facebook CEO took part in a public question-and-answer session with students at the A&T State University at North Carolina, where he was asked what minority students should do to try and progress in the white-male-dominated sector.
His answer: Companies need to do more, but people from minority backgrounds should just focus on being the best they can be.
Facebook — like the rest of the technology industry — isn’t particularly diverse. 33% of its global workforce were women in 2016, barely up from 32% a year before, it disclosed in its most recent diversity report. When it comes to tech employees, a staggering 83% are men.
Meanwhile, in its US workforce, 4% are Latino and 2% are black, as of 2016 — a figure that didn’t change from 2015.
The social networking giant has also been criticised for blaming its diversity problem on a lack of available talent. “At the most fundamental level, appropriate representation in technology or any other industry will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system,” diversity chief Maxine Williams said in 2016.
On Monday, Zuckerberg cited two important reasons to pursue diversity: Because it’s good for society, and it’s beneficial for companies from a commercial perspective too. (We heard about his comments via The Huffington Post.)
“I think that responsibility rests on us and our companies in the industry to make sure that we get to that,” the 32-year-old chief executive said. “And there’s so much research that shows that you need diverse teams to do the best work. So it’s important that we do better on diversity, not only because it’s the right thing to do for the country and for people, but because that’s the only way we’re going to serve our community the best.”
REUTERS/Robert GalbraithHe is, he said, a “big believer in that running a company you get what you put in. So if you want diversity you better have specific teams in your company that are focused on getting diversity. You can’t just expect that … you’re magically going to solve the diversity problem.”
Another problem: Unconscious biases. “A lot of people [who] think they care about diversity still have a lot of these biases that hold them back,” Zuck said — so Facebook trains managers to help identify them.
Hinting at Facebook’s slow rate of progress tackling the problem, he said it won’t be solved overnight. “This is something that’s very ingrained in our society, and it’s going to take a while to back this out … I really think the tech industry has a big issue on this. It’s holding us back from building the best things we can, so we have to solve this.”
But for those still frustrated by the pace of change, Zuckerberg’s advice was just to focus on being the best you can. “We do need more good engineers … you do the best work that you can in training yourselves and getting to be a good engineer, and you will have a good future … there’s way more demand for engineers right now than there are engineers.”