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Facebook tests program to boost diversity in the workplace

The social-media giant wants to increase the number of minorities in its workforce -- which is overwhelmingly white and male.

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Facebook says it's hard at work at boosting diversity in its workplace. Facebook

Facebook has launched a program to bring more diversity to its workforce. If successful, the company reportedly plans to roll it out across its many divisions.

Within the last few months, Facebook has started a program in a handful of divisions that requires the applicant pool for a job to include at least one minority before someone can be hired, the world's largest social network confirmed Thursday. If the efforts expand Facebook's workforce to include more African-Americans, Latinos and women within those divisions, it will be rolled out across the entire company, people claiming to have knowledge of the plans told Bloomberg.

Facebook currently employs over 10,000 people around the globe, but like many technology companies, it has been criticized for having too little diversity in its workplace. In a diversity report released last year, Facebook acknowledged that it had work to do, revealing that 69 percent of its workforce at that time was male and over 90 percent of employees were white or Asian.

In a statement Thursday, a Facebook spokeswoman noted that the social network "has had a diversity program for a long time." She likened the new program to the "Rooney Rule," referring to a regulation imposed by the National Football League requiring teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and other senior football operation jobs.

The Rooney Rule -- which was enacted in 2003 -- has proven successful: 22 percent of NFL coaches are now African American, up from 6 percent before the regulation was put into effect.

Diversity, or the lack thereof, in Silicon Valley has created a rash of criticism for some of the industry's top technology companies. Female engineers at Facebook and Twitter filed lawsuits alleging unfair working practices. Ellen Pao, a former partner at venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, sued the firm alleging gender discrimination. Pao lost her case but has since filed an appeal. These high-profile lawsuits and discrimination complaints have placed additional emphasis on the treatment of women and minorities in the workplace.

The findings in Facebook's diversity report are not unique among tech companies. Twitter last July revealed that 70 percent of its workforce was male and that 88 percent of its employee base was white or Asian. Earlier this month, Google released its own diversity report, saying that only 30 percent of its workforce is female. Latino workers make up 3 percent of Google's employee base, and African American workers represent 2 percent.

The US population is 63 percent white, 13 percent African American, and 17 percent Latino, according to the US Census Bureau. Half of the US population is female.

Technology companies are now seemingly making a concerted effort to address diversity issues in the industry. Google, for instance, has pledged $150 million to focus on diversity initiatives this year. Apple CEO Tim Cook, whose company last year revealed that its workforce is 70 percent male, said the industry in general hasn't done enough to attract women. He added that diversity, in addition to being an ethical charge for a company, is one that could boost its financial standing.

"The most diverse group will produce the best product, I firmly believe that," Cook said last week on the sidelines of his company's Worldwide Developers Conference. "If you believe as we believe that diversity leads to better products, and we're all about making products that enrich people's lives, then you obviously put a ton of energy behind diversity the same way you would put a ton of energy behind anything else that is truly important."

For more on diversity in the technology industry, click here for CNET's special feature "Solving for XX."