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Facebook VP: Company has ‘a lot more work to do’ on diverse leadership

·4 min read
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Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a message on Tuesday minutes after a guilty verdict came down for ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, calling the decision "part of a bigger struggle against racism and injustice." 

The statement followed a concerted effort on the platform to remove misinformation and hate speech about the trial in the days leading up to the verdict, carrying out a vow to improve content moderation outlined in the company's commitment to racial justice released last June in the wake of Chauvin's murder of George Floyd.

In a new interview, Carolyn Everson — vice president of Facebook's Global Business Group — acknowledged the company still has "a lot more work to do" advancing a different part of its commitment to racial justice: diversity. 

When asked about steps taken to improve the representation of women at the company, Everson noted that the leadership team directly below her is majority-women but acknowledged that the company overall lacks diversity in its leadership ranks.

"It's not just of course about gender," she says. "We have a lot more work to do to bring people of color into leadership positions, across my team, across every team at Facebook."

"I would argue most companies have that mandate as well," she adds. "That is a journey that every company needs to be on, but it is going to be a multi-year journey."

A diversity report released by Facebook last year found that women hold 34.2% of the company's leadership positions and 37% of the overall workforce; however, Black employees hold only 3.4% of leadership slots and 3.9% of all roles. 

Last July, Black employee Oscar Veneszee Jr. filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging the company does not afford minority workers an equal chance to remain and grow at Facebook. The move came two years after an internal memo made public by Mark S. Luckie, another Black employee, who alleged: “Racial discrimination at Facebook is real.”

'Some of the numbers and forecasts are very depressing'

The struggle to improve staff diversity plagues the tech sector, including rival tech giant Google (GOOG, GOOGL). Black employees make up just 3.7% of the overall workforce and 2.6% of leadership positions at the company, according to a diversity report released last year.

In 2019, Black people made up 9% of workers in core information-technology occupations in the U.S., up slightly from 8% in 2015 and 7% in 2010, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published by MarketWatch.

Carolyn Everson, vice president of Facebook's global business group, speaks with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer on
Carolyn Everson, vice president of Facebook's global business group, speaks with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer on "Influencers with Andy Serwer."

"Some of the numbers and forecasts are very depressing about how long it's going to take to have proper representation of all forms of diversity on leadership teams," Everson says. 

Everson spoke to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

She joined Facebook a decade ago, leading the company's advertising division and cultivating relationships with top advertisers. Over her tenure, the company's annual advertising revenue has exploded from $3.1 billion in 2011 to $84.1 billion last year. 

Prior to her tenure at Facebook, she held executive roles at tech and media companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), Viacom (VIAC), and Zagat. 

Last summer, as civil rights protests swept the nation in the aftermath of Floyd's killing, Facebook faced a boycott from more than 1,000 advertisers in opposition to the company's handling of hate speech and misinformation.

"It was definitively the hardest couple of months that I've had in my almost 30-year career," Everson says. "Because these were companies and partners that I had worked with for, in some cases, well over two decades."

Ultimately, she grew thankful for the boycott because it prompted reflection and improvement at Facebook, she said.

"Through very, very difficult times, when companies are willing to dig deep and look at can we do things better — and every single company can do things better — we certainly learned that through racial injustice, every company, every leader can always be improving," she says. 

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