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Mark Zuckerberg Whitesplains Diversity to Black College Students in North Carolina

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has been on a tour of all 50 U.S. states to reach out to folks outside of Silicon Valley and learn a little more about what their lives are like —and how they feel about things like community and tech, presumably to make Facebook better at serving them. However, at a recent stop at a university in North Carolina, a discussion about diversity became uncomfortable to watch.

As reported by Gizmodo, a PhD student at North Carolina A&T State University asked Zuckerberg, ““What do you intend to do about that and what advice would you give to us as minorities to strategically navigate the entrepreneurial world so that we can be included?” Zuckerberg responded first by saying, “Frankly, I think that that’s our problem to figure out.” OK, cool. Taking responsibility. Then he goes on to talk about the unconscious bias training going on at Facebook while explaining the importance of diversity. Something these students probably already know something about.

However, where he really kinda put his foot in it was when he said that, “There’s a very clear dynamic in the world right now where there’s way more demand for engineers than there are engineers.” Uh… As Gizmodo points out:

Research suggests the opposite: that there’s not a shortage of engineers or STEM field workers in general. That’s doubly true for black college graduates. Although black students reportedly earn 4.5 percent of all computer science and engineering degrees, they make up only 2 percent of the Silicon Valley workforce. Yet Zuckerberg told these students that there are more than enough jobs for them.

It’s much like I said in my piece yesterday about producer Gavin Polone. Rather than speaking in wishful platitudes, how about focusing on the concrete steps the company that he created and own can take right now? For example, at the very top of his presentation, Zuckerberg praised A&T State for its strong engineering and science community saying that, in his research on the school, he discovered “you guys graduate more African-American engineers here than almost any other college in the country.”

He’s standing in a place teeming with human resources. He should use them. Hire them. Make it a point to go there first, and other schools like it next time you need a new wave of fresh talent. Many of them might not feel comfortable going to Facebook to apply, because in 2015 Facebook listed 145 black employees out of 8,446. It’s the least black tech company among its peers, and falls behind Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple. So that means Facebook has to go to them. Facebook can’t wait for them to come to the company and then wonder why they’re not showing up.

Unconscious bias training is a great start, but it’s not as if they don’t know what the numbers are, and it’s not as if they can’t do the research to find out where the talented black students in STEM are. They just have to make the decision to do it. They have to decide to make it a priority.

(image via screencap)

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