Ex-Facebook engineer reveals company's ongoing D&I struggles
- Software engineer Sophie Alpert recently opened up on Facebook's internal social media platform, Workplace, that she was harassed by her colleagues for criticizing the company's lack of diversity, CNBC reported. Alpert said that she wanted to work "where it's not OK to write on Workplace that white privilege doesn't exist. One where if I call out that our board has too many white men, I don't get harassed by other employees on Blind with transphobic messages saying I should be fired."
- A Facebook spokesperson told CNBC that the company has "clear policies" about how people should treat each other at work and specifically noted spending "significant time" with Alpert to address the issues with Blind, an anonymous workplace app. However, a recent Business Insider report revealed that Facebook has issued new ground rules prohibiting workers from insulting, bullying or antagonizing others, trying to change someone's religion or politics, or breaking the company's rules on "harassing speech and expression."
- In 2018, Mark Luckie, an African-American manager, left Facebook because of what he described as the company's "black people problem." Although women make up 22% of Facebook's tech roles, African Americans made up only 4% of the company's staff in 2018, with few in technical or leadership roles.
Facebook has garnered a veritable flock of poor D&I headlines. Generally, D&I hiring efforts in the tech industry reportedly stalled in early 2018 because companies weren't making notable progress in diversifying their workforces. According to the survey that uncovered the slow down in D&I efforts, 80% of the respondents said they believed diversity was important, but were less likely to have a formal D&I program in place in 2018 than in the year before. Furthermore, backlash against D&I surfaced when ex-Google engineer James Damore sued the company in early 2018 for firing him after he posted controversial statements about women being unfit for technical jobs.
The tech giant's record on hiring women and under-represented groups has been so dismal that the Congressional Black Caucus stepped in to challenge the industry's lack of D&I progress. As workers take to social media to express their dissatisfaction with their employers, such as Alpert's postings and the walkout by Google employees over the company's mishandling of sexual harassment and other issues, a company's risk for liability increases and its brand diminishes.
Surveys show that qualified underrepresented groups in tech lose out on the high earnings associated with the industry, professional growth and opportunities to take on leadership roles. Companies could also lose out from not committing to D&I; according to research published last year in the Harvard Business Review, innovation flourishes in businesses that operate in areas that encourage diversity. Others studies show that companies with a commitment to D&I programs yield higher rates of return on their investment. Employers will likely find the benefits of D&I well worth the commitment.