The tech industry has been repeatedly criticized for the lack of diversity among its workers, and despite statements from companies acknowledging the issue, progress has been slow and plodding. Part of the reason behind this is the lack of a pipeline for some underrepresented communities to get careers in Silicon Valley. We spoke with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams about TechPrep, the company’s new program to invest in these groups earlier in hopes of bringing new faces into the tech world.
Maxine Williams on TechPrep’s value:
There are a lot of leaks in this pipeline, Kai, and we’re trying our hardest, as much as we can, to address the things where we can feel that we can make a difference. And what we saw with the research we’ve done and our own experience with investing early on in the potential of underrepresented groups is that once they get the opportunity, the exposure and the connection to the resources to help them build their skills, they’re off and running. So there’s no difference in quality, there’s a difference in opportunity and using our platform to reach people, and using our skills to connect people. We built TechPrep so that the underrepresented people would have the exposure and the opportunities to gain the skills they need to take advantage of all of the opportunities in this industry.
Sheryl Sandberg on measuring the platform’s success:
Success is that our companies, and our industries, and our nonprofits, and our governments reflect the diversity of the people we serve. And our industry is far from that. Our company is far from that. All industries and all companies are far from that, and I think what matters is the motivation we have for getting there. We want — and I want — quality, which means real representation from the different groups, no matter how you define it… And we know that if actually had more diverse leaders and more diversity in our company, we would build better products, because, again, we would reflect the diversity of the people we’re serving.
Sandberg on the resources Facebook is putting behind its diversity efforts:
You know, we have a very broad program, and we’re putting in at all levels. We invest with our current employee base, and we developed our own managing bias training, which we’ve had a lot of people in the company go through, and we’re continuing to get more people to go through. We also invested the resources to put that online and not only deliver it in person to our own company, but be able to deliver online so that everyone can take the class. And we’re getting some really great feedback on that. We invest in our own hiring pipelines, we invest in things like Facebook University, where we have internships and partnerships programs for over the summer, where we train people not just with tech backgrounds, but people we think have the potential to join a tech company even if they don’t have the background. We typically look for that one way of broadening the pipeline and also finding great talent that we’d otherwise would have missed. We’re investing even further with TechPrep, and we’re investing even further with LinkedIn and Lean In. We’re also investing in computer science and engineering circles, small groups in universities all over that are helping women stay in computer science.
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