3 Ways Facebook Is Trying to Diversify Its Workforce

January 20, 2017, 11:30 AM UTC

Like Google (GOOGL), Facebook (FB) gets scrutinized and criticized for the hue and gender of its workers. The social network is applying the same spirit of experimentation to its employment imbalances that it does to its products, says Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity. The company tracks the results of a series of pilot programs, revises accordingly, and then either expands or kills the program. “Because we’re so data driven,” she says, “doing pilots makes a huge difference.”

The fate of one initiative shows how tricky the obstacles can be. In recent months, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have reported on a Facebook system in which its recruiters receive twice as many points for hiring a black, Hispanic, or female engineer as for whites, males, or Asians. Bloomberg’s article reported that hiring managers sometimes rebuff diverse candidates offered by the recruiters. During interviews, according to Bloomberg, the managers often inquired where the applicant went to college, the sort of “old boys” question the program seeks to avoid.

Read about Google’s plight with diversity in our feature “Google Searches Its Soul.”

Williams declines to comment on the points system or even confirm that it exists. Either way, though, change has been slow at Facebook. As of July, 1% of the social network’s U.S. tech team is black and 3% is Hispanic, numbers that have stayed flat since 2015. Globally, 17% of its tech employees are women, an increase of one percentage point over the previous year.

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Still, Williams says some Facebook programs, such as the three below, are showing promise:

The Diverse Slate Approach: Based on the NFL’s Rooney rule, it requires that hiring managers interview at least one member of an underrepresented group for each open role.

Facebook University: The company has been running a summer training program for undergrads from underrepresented groups. The hope is that these trainees will join the company after graduation as engineers and business and data analysts (some already have). The program has expanded from 30 engineering students in 2013 to a class of 170 engineers and analysts-to-be.

Managing Unconscious Bias: In 2015, Facebook publicly launched an online training course to help its employees identify and address unconscious biases. The course is a series of videos in which Facebook executives explain commonly held stereotypes. The clip on performance bias, for example, explains why some people are perceived as naturally talented, while others as having “gotten lucky.”

A version of this article appears in the February 1, 2017 issue of Fortune in the feature titled “Google Searches Its Soul.”

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