Facebook responds to charge that it has a ‘black people problem’

A former manager says that despite the company’s claims of increasing inclusion and diversity efforts, the social media giant has a long way to go to create a welcoming workplace—and product.

Facebook faces race issues

Facebook is facing another crisis—this time from a more common source: a former employee.

Mark S. Luckie, a former manager and diversity advocate at the company, published a memo he sent to executives before leaving his post Nov. 16.  

It read, in part:

Facebook has a black people problem.

One of the platform’s most engaged demographics and an unmatched cultural trendsetter is having their community divided by the actions and inaction of the company. This loss is a direct reflection of the staffing and treatment of many of its black employees.

In my role as Strategic Partner Manager for Global Influencers focused on Underrepresented Voices, I’ve been uniquely exposed to the issues surrounding the internal and external representation of black people here.

Luckie went on to criticize the experience of black consumers on the platform as well as address how black workers feel working for the company. He offered concrete recommendations for what Facebook should do to become a more inclusive workplace, including holding a diversity audit.

The article made headlines, though some at Facebook didn’t agree with Luckie’s assessment.

Facebook’s response pointed to its progress in making diverse new hires.

CNN reported:

In a statement sent to CNN from Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison, the company said it has been “diligently” working on increasing diversity over the last few years.

“The growth in representation of people from more diverse groups, working in many different functions across the company, is a key driver of our ability to succeed,” Harrison said. “We want to fully support all employees when there are issues reported and when there may be micro-behaviors that add up. We are going to keep doing all we can to be a truly inclusive company.”

Luckie has a history of being outspoken on issues of diversity and inclusion in tech.

CNN reported:

Luckie has been open about his experience at previous jobs, too. Prior to joining Facebook, Luckie worked at other tech firms, Reddit and Twitter. After leaving Twitter in May 2015, he wrote a Medium post about what it was like to work at a tech firm as a black man.

The widespread underrepresentation of faces of color in tech is already alarming,” wrote Luckie, who was previously an editor at The Washington Post. “However, the situation is more dire than raw numbers project.”

On a call with CNN on Tuesday, Luckie said he’s making the Facebook memo public because “Facebook does not make any meaningful change on a company level unless it is being held accountable publicly.”

Other employees at Facebook backed up Luckie’s comments.

USA Today reported:

After he shared his post internally, black staffers at Facebook offered up their own experiences of racism at the company, including disparaging racial comments.

“This truly resonated with me and flooded me with emotions and sadness that I am sure that plenty of us are all too familiar with from experiencing many of the examples you provided,” commented one fellow employee.

One employee, who is new to Facebook, said she had already observed and heard stories of marginalization and mistreatment. “Very disheartening considering how much love Black employees have for this company,” she commented.

Others said they hoped Luckie’s post would get the attention of senior management. Luckie tagged Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in the Facebook post but he says they never responded.

Luckie says that although Facebook isn’t alone in failing to hire diverse candidates and promote inclusion, it is open to criticism because of how it touts its inclusivity.

USA Today continued:

“I talked to someone from HR and they said: ‘Do you think that this just happens at Facebook?’ And I said: ‘No, of course not, it happens at many companies. But the thing is: Facebook is touting how inclusive it is,” Luckie told USA TODAY. “It has Black Lives Matters posters all over the walls. It has black people in its presentations. But black people here are scared of talking about the issues that affect them because they don’t see this as a supportive company.'”

Many noted the unfortunate timing of the crisis for Facebook. The company has been waging a PR battle on many fronts after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other subsequent missteps that have eroded trust between consumers and the social media giant.

On Twitter, many shared Luckie’s comments:

Many called on others to read Luckie’s full statement:

How would you advise Facebook to change the narrative on its workplace and inclusion efforts, Ragan/PR Daily readers?

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