Facebook to Publicly Share Its Internal Diversity Training

By Jena McGregor

Despite the fact that its own diversity numbers haven't moved much in the past year, Facebook has decided to publicly share its internal program for training employees on unconscious bias.

Sheryl Sandberg, the company's chief operating officer and a leading advocate for women's careers, wrote in a blog post Tuesday that the social network is releasing its course to outsiders. The company launched a Web site that includes video modules of its training course, slides used in the presentation and a downloadable worksheet with a bulleted list of "what you can do."

"Many people have asked if we'd be willing to share our training outside of Facebook," Sandberg wrote, noting that the company has worked with "leading researchers" to develop the course. "Managing bias is an essential part of building diverse and high-performing organizations. We know we still have a long way to go, but by helping people recognize and correct for bias, we can take a step towards equality."

Facebook isn't the only Silicon Valley company releasing its diversity training, which covers topics like preventing racial bias in the hiring process or gender bias when giving out promotions. Last fall, Google shared a public video of its own unconscious bias training, and is currently developing and testing a full training "kit" that it plans to release for wider public use later this year.

In a prior interview, Google's personnel chief, Laszlo Bock, said that the company was first making sure the program would have the same impact outside of Google as it has had inside. He reported that some 95 percent of Google's workers say they now see it as their responsibility to take action when they see bias.

It may seem puzzling that tech companies, which have low numbers of women and minorities, particularly in technical roles, are sharing how they train their employees about diversity. Every week seems to turn up more evidence of the industry's male-driven culture. And data have shown that tech companies are hiring black and Hispanic applicants at significantly lower rates than engineering schools are producing them.

Improvements in the industry's diversity figures aren't coming quickly. Last month, Facebook released numbers showing that only 1 percent of its technical employees are African American, the same percentage as last year. Just 16 percent of its tech workers are women, up only one percentage point from last year.

Google's numbers also showed little change from last year. The search giant said in June that the percentage of women in technology jobs had risen only slightly, from 17 percent to 18 percent. And while African American and Hispanic workers are making up a larger percentage of its new hires, the overall proportion of these ethnicities at Google also didn't significantly change.

Still, the microscope these companies have been under for their low numbers of women and minorities may be part of what's prompting them to address the problem with more resources and urgency than other companies where the gaps are not nearly as glaring. In addition to investing in college-level programs for women and minorities, Facebook revamped the bias training it just released—the company said in June that the course had been "completely reworked" to be "harder hitting." The social media company is also testing its own version of the NFL's Rooney Rule: In a pilot program, Facebook is requiring that hiring managers consider at least one job candidate from an underrepresented group to fill any open role.

Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.


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