I know this post is different from my usual blogs, however, I was reading this article yesterday morning “Facebook has a problem with black people, former employee charges” and it resonated deeply with my experiences in the tech world since living in California. It especially resonated because Facebook recruiters have reached out to me several times. I’ve done multiple interviews with them, yet for some reason Facebook has not hired me. I am definitely more than qualified to work at Facebook. I’m a Harvard University and Howard University School of Law graduate. I have a strong technical background. I’m also extremely experienced with the platform. I am the type of person who would be an asset to Facebook especially given their diversity problems. However, even with the ability to hire me and black women like me, Facebook only employs “278 black women out of a U.S. workforce of just under 20,000.” From what I saw the few times I have visited Facebook the handful of black women working there are in security or reception but I saw no black women in high level or management roles. So, I can only assume that whoever does the hiring at Facebook is only comfortable hiring black women in positions where they do not have any power or make any management decisions.
Black people represent about 13% of the U.S. population but black women represent less than 3% of Facebook. Facebook should have at minimum more than twice the current number of black women working there and not only in positions such as security and reception. Tech companies often say that they have a hard time finding candidates qualified to fill higher level positions. Looking at these numbers I am actually shocked Facebook would pass over the opportunity to work with me. I am fairly sure that with my experience and background that if I had been a white male I would have been easily hired at Facebook and most likely in a management position. From this article it seems Facebook has a serious problem, especially with black people. To be honest, in light of this article, it is probably for the best that Facebook didn’t hire me because I’m not the type of person who stays quiet when dealing with racism and bias. It has never been my thing to remain quiet when I am being treated unfairly, which means I probably would not be a good fit for the “culture” at Facebook.
In my personal experience I find that most people who work at these companies are not outright racist but operate in racial bias and microaggressions. Racial bias and microaggressions are subtle, passive aggressive forms of racism. For example, many times at other tech companies my abilities were questioned and I was micromanaged. As a black person if you speak up about these kinds of experiences you will be told that you are not being treated with bias. It’s an insult to your intelligence to be told that someone truly doubts your abilities especially when you are extremely accomplished. And at these tech companies when you see white men with half the accomplishments playing ping pong all day it is especially infuriating.
There is a reason why many black people in companies like Facebook don’t speak up about the racial bias that affects them every day. Since these companies do not have black people in positions of power, when a black person does make a complaint about racial bias, it will most likely be reviewed by a person with the very same bias. That person will review the complaint and will conclude that they don’t believe race had anything to do with how the person making the complaint was treated. That actually happened to me at a company I worked for. I complained of racial bias from a white woman and my complaint was reviewed by white women who concluded there was no racial bias. Think about that for a moment. My complaint was reviewed by women who have the same perspective as the woman who was racially biased against me. How could someone who has never dealt with racial bias know what racial bias looks like so that they can identify when it is present? This is the inherent problem with racial diversity and inclusion in tech companies. They do not have the people in positions of power with the experiences and perspective necessary to review, understand, and counteract racism, nor do they want to.
The reason why Facebook and other tech companies have problems with black people and diversity/inclusion is because tech companies are inherently racist. Just like the state of Mississippi they don’t want to change. They have become accustomed to operating without diversity and although they constantly publicly speak about diversity because that is today’s “hot topic” they have absolutely no intention of actually doing anything about it. Just like in our own government, white men dominate in positions of power in the tech industry. In this 2014 EEOC report “In high tech for San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area, whites make up over three-quarter of the Executive, Senior Officials and Managers (76.4 percent) and Asian Americans around 17.8 percent. African Americans were 2.8 percent and Hispanics were 7.7 percent. For every hundred Professionals, there were 1.5 African Americans and fewer than four Hispanics.” I can guarantee you that that 2.8 percent black doesn’t include more than a handful of black women.
The only way to fix the tech industry’s problem with black people is to put more black people into positions of power. However, the truth is placing black people in positions of power makes white men uncomfortable. White men are especially uncomfortable with black women in power. Just look at these numbers from the research at LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co.
“The stats laid out in Women in the Workplace 2018 are appalling:
- Only one in 25 C-suite leaders is a woman of color
- Four in 10 black women never have interactions with senior leaders about their work
- For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 60 black women are
- Black women and lesbian women experience microaggressions at a higher rate than women overall, at 69% and 71%, respectively”
“Black women are far less likely to get help navigating organizational politics and balancing work and personal lives, and managers are less likely to promote their accomplishments. The same dynamic holds true for access to managers: only about a third of black women socialize with their manager outside of work, compared to about half of white women.” – “New Study Proves Black Women Executives Can’t Catch A Break”
The reason why the diversity issue in Silicon Valley has been going on for decades is because there has been no actual shift in power to include more diversity at the top. If no black people ever holds a true position of power where they can actually make real changes in how these companies are run, nothing will ever change.
Here’s the thing, the solution to creating more diversity in Silicon Valley is not complicated. If Facebook or any other tech company really wants to fix their racial diversity problems all they need to do is follow these very simple steps:
-Have an independent company do a REAL assessment of every department to see which departments lack the most underrepresented communities. Then make a REAL effort to recruit from those underrepresented communities. And, ACTUALLY HIRE people from those communities.
-Hire BLACK WOMEN into positions of power. Black women are the least represented group in Silicon Valley of C-Level Executives. If companies like Facebook REALLY want to change, this is a necessary step.
-If someone makes a complaint of racial bias have it reviewed by a committee of people in which at least 50% of those on the committee are of the same background as the person who made the complaint. This allows the perspective of the person making the complaint to have a voice on the committee. That committee must reach a unanimous decision on every review. This will also allow dialogue so that the committee can begin to understand the intricate dynamics of racial bias.
-Stop discouraging black people and other ethnic groups from creating their own internal organizations. In my personal experience I’ve been the ONLY black woman in two separate engineering departments. Being the only black woman in a department gives you an experience like no other. This is also why the retention rate for black people in tech companies is low. Working as the ONLY person like you in a company takes a mental toll. If the opportunity to join a group of other black people in those companies had been available I would have surely joined.
-And for Facebook specifically, they need to create an internal anti-hate team to combat the racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia that has run amok on Facebook platform for years now. The people they currently have in charge around counteracting hate on Facebook are obviously biased towards protecting white men.
Companies like Facebook can fix their diversity issues IF they really want to. But, so far they haven’t and I promise you that is NOT by accident.