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Facebook's diversity push hampered by its own hiring practices

The company hasn't gotten much less white and male despite an effort to bring on more minority engineers.
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2016 was supposed to be the year that Facebook took the lead in positive hiring practices and show the rest of the industry what a truly diverse workforce looked like. To that end the company instituted a points-based incentive program the year prior, geared towards bringing on more hispanic, black and female workers. So far, it hasn't worked out too well (no, Peter Thiel doesn't count). And now it appears we finally know why.

The problem lies within the company's own hiring practices. Specifically, it's the company's multi-tiered system, which vests a vast majority of the final hiring decision with a small group of executives. According to a Bloomberg report, despite a number of minority candidates making it through the rigorous interview process, the final decision always fell on engineering leaders who nearly exclusively picked white or Asian men. What's more, these leaders relied heavily on conventional metrics like where the candidate went to college, where they had worked before and whether a current Facebook employee could vouch for them. This practice drastically limited the pool of potential employees to just those candidates that looked like, acted like, or grew up like the existing staff. It also hamstrung the recruiters' ability to cultivate a more diverse workforce at the company.

"Facebook recruits from hundreds of schools and employers from all over the world, and most people hired at Facebook do not come through referrals from anyone at the company," a company spokeswoman told Bloomberg. "Once people begin interviewing at Facebook, we seek to ensure that our hiring teams are diverse. 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."

Despite Facebook's boilerplate denial that its hiring system isn't systematically rigged against minority candidates, the company's incentive program clearly isn't working. Over the past two years Facebook has hired barely any more women than it had in 2014 while black and hispanic hires were unchanged. Even though black and hispanic students constitute 6 percent and 8 percent of computer science graduates, respectively, though still represent just 3 percent and 1 percent of Facebook's overall workforce.

The problem lies, as always, within Facebook's upper echelons of management. This is the same issue that we saw with Facebook's attempts to control the private sale of firearms through its site last year. Despite the overwhelming support from both the FB user community and rank and file engineers, the efforts were ultimately thwarted by a small cadre of managers led by director of engineering, Chuck Rossi. So until Facebook gets its management house in order and stops treating the multinational corporation's boardroom like a college frat house, don't expect much meaningful change on any of these issues.

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