This suggests the problem may be rooted at the foundation of the company, Williams said. Not only are minorities not receiving the proper training, they’re simply not involved in many early-stage start-ups — including Facebook, which was started by Mark Zuckerberg and a few college friends and roommates only 14 years ago.
She says she tells Zuckerberg, “in your doom room, there should have been Hispanic women who could have participated in the early days,” Williams said. “Building a start-up, you look to your friends and who’s willing to give up everything to go on this journey.”
Being able to afford an elite university in a privilege afforded to a few. Tuition at Harvard is $67,580 per year, while Stanford is at $67,117. Taking an unpaid internship requires having financial support. Even taking a “cheaper” programming bootcamp will set you back an average of $11,400 – as well as the ability to take the course full-time meaning students can’t maintain another job during the duration.
“People of color are not in those circles,” she continued. “We come from backgrounds where we are less likely to take those kind of risks, because we don’t have a safety net. The whole start-up world is very, very low [on diversity] when you combine all those factors, who’s getting the financing, who’s able to raise the money. They are just building on each other. That brings us to the point where you cannot expect it to happen organically.”
To increase potential candidates, Facebook is working with some historically black colleges (HBCs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HIS), including engineer-in-residence training programs at Morgan State University and California State University, Monterey Bay. It also offers an eight-week training program for engineering and business roles called Facebook University for people from underrepresented communities.
“We do need to think — and we have been working on — what is our role in giving people opportunities,” Williams said.
There’s partnerships with CodePath.org to improve outreach to computer science students, and on-going project with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to create course for their HBCU CS Summer Academy. Facebook is also working with groups that help people of color and women, like Anita Borg/Grace Hopper, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers.
In addition, it’s trying to make its engineering application process more accessible through Crush Your Coding Interview courses, training for how to pass the practical par. It’s encouraging referrals from other Black and Hispanic employees, as well as training its recruiters.
“It’s not a gotcha situation,” Williams said. “We have more jobs than people for them… We’re trying to be more transparent and open so more people can compete for these jobs.”
Facebook believes these efforts are slowly working. It’s increased the number of black women at the company by 25 times since the report began publishing four years ago, but Williams admits it’s still not that many people because it started with so few.
With the company turning 14 this year, excuses that its a start-up going through growing pains are starting to wear thin. Still, Williams is optimistic.
“In the beginning we were a start-up, and the beginning was not that long ago,” Williams explained. “I’m hoping that long after I’m gone 100 years from now they will consider this whole 20-year period as a foundation problem.”