The Reverend Jesse Jackson took Facebook to task on Thursday over the lack of diversity among its board of directors.
Speaking at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, Jackson noted that he’d addressed Facebook’s board on the same subject at the same meeting two years ago. The makeup of Facebook’s board hasn’t changed since then. As he noted, Facebook still doesn’t have any blacks, Latinos or Asians on its board. That’s a stark contradiction with what the company is supposed to stand for, he said.
“I hope you’re as disappointed in that lack of progress,” Jackson said.
Blacks, Latinos and women have long been underrepresented in Silicon Valley companies. For the last two years, Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH organisation have made a concerted effort to pressure Facebook and other valley companies to disclose data on their hiring practices and their workforce compositions and to hire more women and minority workers and executives.
In its most recent diversity report, released last July, Facebook disclosed that just 4% of its overall workforce is Hispanic and only 2% is black. Among tech workers at the company, only 3% are Hispanic and 1% black. Hispanics and blacks each comprise just 3% of the company’s senior leadership.
Women too are underrepresented at the company. They comprise just 33% of Facebook’s overall workforce, 17% of its tech workers and 27% of its senior leadership.
Jackson wasn’t the only person at the meeting highlighting Facebook’s lack of diversity in its workforce. Investors voted on a shareholder proposal that urged the company to report on its policies concerning potential differences in pay between its male and female workers. Unlike other tech companies, including Apple, Intel and eBay, Facebook hasn’t disclosed any quantitative data about the relative levels of pay between men and women on its staff, noted Natasha Lamb, a managing partner at Arjuna Capital.
If there are marked differences in pay between male and female employees at Facebook, it would poses a risk to the company’s brand and investor returns, Lamb said. It’s important to attract and retain women employees.
“Gender diverse teams are more innovative and drive better results,” she said. Not disclosing more information about or addressing gender pay differences would be “detrimental to Facebook’s ability to compete,” she said.
Facebook officials didn’t directly address the criticisms about diversity at the meeting. In its proxy statement, though, the company said it was committed to diversifying its workforce and taken steps to achieve that goal. It also said that it had examined its compensation practices and found no differences in pay between male and female workers performing similar work.
“We remain deeply committed to building a workplace that reflects a broad range of diverse characteristics, including experience, gender, culture, and many other characteristics,” the company said in the proxy statement.
Investors voted down the proposal on gender pay and all other shareholder resolutions. That outcome wasn’t in much doubt, though, since the company opposed them and Zuckerberg controls a majority of voting shares.
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