Many observers say talent pipeline isn’t primary factor
The share of Hispanic and black employees in Facebook’s U.S. workforce didn’t budge from a year ago. The percentage of women at Facebook inched up 1 percentage point. — Photo: Peter Foley for The Wall Street Journal
Facebook Inc. said Thursday that it made meager increases in the number of women and minorities working at the social-network giant, highlighting the difficulty large tech companies have in diversifying their workforces.
The share of Hispanic and black employees in the company’s U.S. workforce didn’t budge from a year ago, remaining at 4% and 2%, respectively. The percentage of women at Facebook inched up 1 percentage point to 33%.
Facebook blamed its problem on the “pipeline,” meaning the number of women and minorities entering the tech industry.
“Appropriate representation in technology or any other industry will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system,” Facebook’s head of diversity Maxine Williams said in a statement.
Many observers, however, say the pipeline of available talent for the tech industry isn’t the primary issue.
“There are a ton of opportunities to increase demographic representation in tech companies with the people that already exist in the workforce,” said Joelle Emerson, chief executive of Paradigm, a diversity consultancy that works with many Silicon Valley firms.
She added that there are more black and Hispanic computer-science graduates than are offered jobs with tech firms in the U.S.
AI such as Microsoft’s Tay show why we need more women in tech – and how the male-dominated industry is failing to consider their real-life counterparts
By now you’ve likely heard the story of Tay, Microsoft’s social AI experiment that went from “friendly millennial girl” to genocidal misogynist in less than a day. While Tay promised to learn from her interactions with people online, Microsoft apparently hasn’t learned anything from the countless headlines about how Twitter users like to talk to visible women – everything from gleefully anarchic trolling to threats and abuse – otherwise it would have seen this coming.
At first, Tay’s story seems like a fun one for anyone who’s interested in cautionary sci-fi. What does it mean for the future of artificial intelligence if a bot can embody the worst aspects of digital culture after just 16 hours online? If any AI is given the vastness of human creation to study at lightning speed, will it inevitably turn evil? Will the future be a content creation battle for their souls?
But Tay was not a very good AI, and on Microsoft’s part, this was not a very good idea. All it would have taken to know this would have been a basic level of dialogue with women in tech – and nothing terrifies this industry more.
In recent years we’ve had two very good films about artificial intelligence: In Spike Jonze’s Her, a goofy Joaquin Phoenix twiddles his way into an idyllic relationship with his charming operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. In Ex Machina, Oscar Isaac plays a damningly plausible tech zillionaire called Bateman (like the American Psycho) who invites equally plausible startup geek Caleb to Turing-test Ava, his fey, beautiful AI creation.