Facebook's New-Graduate Hires Help Diversify Workforce

By Yoree Koh Features Dow Jones Newswires

Facebook Inc. said its efforts to diversify its workforce are starting to bear fruit, thanks in part to an effort to hire more women straight out of college.

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The social network has made strides in increasing the percentage of women at the company over the past year. Women now account for 35% of global employees, up from 33% the previous year, Facebook said Wednesday. In technical roles--positions where there are typically the fewest female, black and Hispanic employees--the percentage of women has increased from 17% to 19%.

Facebook said 27% of all new-graduate hires in engineering were women. That outpaced the 18% of computer-science graduates who are women, said Maxine Williams, Facebook's head of diversity, citing a statistic from the National Center of Education Statistics.

"I'm happy with the trends, I'm feeling good about the growth, but I want more," Ms. Williams said.

Facebook, like its tech peers, has struggled to make its workforce more diverse, which experts say is key to producing technology adapted for a wide variety of audiences. Experts say there are several causes for the homogeneity, from the universities companies tend to favor recruiting from, to the referral hiring programs that limit potential candidates to a narrow network of friends that typically come from similar backgrounds.

Ms. Williams said there are also systemic issues at play. While the company can take steps to improve its hiring process and try to reduce unconscious bias, she attributed problems to the pipeline issue, referring to the pool of candidates available to hire.

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"The pipeline is not everything, but it's part of the issue," she said.

Overall, Facebook's workforce still looks overwhelmingly white, Asian and male.

The percentage of black and Hispanic workers at the company in the U.S. ticked up 1 percentage point each to 3% and 5%, respectively. But their presence in technical roles and senior leadership roles didn't budge in the past year. For technical roles in the U.S., Black employees still only account for 1% of workers and Hispanic employees account for 3%.

She attributes the progress, such as women accounting for 21% of all new technical hires, to efforts such as the company's implementation of the Rooney Rule, where hiring managers consider candidates from underrepresented backgrounds when filling positions. Facebook declined to disclose comparable figures for other minority groups.

Write to Yoree Koh at yoree.koh@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 02, 2017 12:14 ET (16:14 GMT)