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Facebook sees more small increases on the diversity front

Facebook's latest diversity report shows modest upticks in the numbers of women and minorities working at the company.

Facebook released a new diversity report.
Niall Carson/Getty Images

Facebook reported that less than half its US employees are white for the first time since it began releasing the data four years ago, indicating the social network's efforts to create a more diverse staff are making steady, if slow, progress.

In a diversity report (PDF) published Wednesday, Facebook said 49 percent of its US-based staff is white, down from 52 percent a year earlier.

Facebook, like many large tech companies, has been releasing diversity statistics since 2014, part of a broader attempt by Silicon Valley to address criticism that it's overwhelmingly white and male. The reports have succeeded in bringing attention to the industry's general lack of diversity. Just a few of these reports paint a clear picture of an industry that's mostly white and employs fewer women in technical roles than in nontechnical ones.

Facebook says improving diversity helps it improve its services.

"Diversity helps us build better products, make better decisions and better serve our community," Maxine Williams, global director of diversity, said in a blog post.

In terms of racial and ethnic diversity overall in the US, Facebook is 40 percent Asian, up 2 percentage points from 2016. In the last year, the percentage of black (3 percent) and Hispanic (5 percent) employees increased by 1 percentage point each. The balance are of two or more ethnicities or fall into the "other" category, which includes American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

The social network also saw increases on the gender front. For women globally, the percentage ticked up to 35 percent from 33 percent last year. Men are 65 percent of the company. Broken down into technical roles, the number of women rose to 19 percent from 17 percent. Additionally, Facebook said new engineering hires were 27 percent women.

"We aren't where we'd like to be, but we're encouraged that over the past year, representation for people from underrepresented groups at Facebook has increased," Williams said in the post.

The report also highlighted short-, mid- and long-term goals around recruitment and retention, including internal resource groups for various minority groups, recruiting at professional conferences and corralling educational resources like links to coding classes for students, parents and teachers.  

Following last year's addition of LGBTQ statistics, Facebook said that according to a voluntary survey, 7 percent of its US workforce self-identified as being in that group, which is the same from last year, but based on a higher participation rate (67 percent, up from 61 percent).

Facebook tracks other metrics internally but is unable to say if there are any plans to add any additional metrics to its reports in the future, a Facebook spokeswoman told CNET.