More than 225 black students from San Francisco, Oakland and the Peninsula toured the Facebook campus and listened to panel discussions for the Black at Facebook event in celebration of Black History Month. The event happened one day after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admonished “disrespectful behavior” at the company’s headquarters.
The Black Employee Resource Group at Facebook planned the event weeks before the company controversy. The event put a spotlight on the fact that the percentage of minorities in the tech industry is still very low.
Black employees said during Friday’s event that Zuckerberg’s response speaks for itself, and there is a great need to encourage students to pursue tech careers.
“The mission of the Facebook is to make the world more open and connected, and in order for us to do that successfully we need perspectives from people of all backgrounds,” said Aaron Moses, Community Engagement Manager.
“So it’s important for all cultures and backgrounds to be represented in our employee base in order for us to fulfill that mission.”
This week Zuckerberg called the behavior of whoever scratched out a "Black Lives Matter” messages on the company’s famous no-rules signature wall both “disrespectful” and “malicious. And he said he is investigating.
“We’ve never had rules around what people can write on our walls,” Zuckerberg wrote Thursday in the post. “We expect everybody to treat each other with respect.”
It’s also pretty clear this is not the first time this has happened, as Zuckerberg noted “several recent instances” of the behavior.
“I was already very disappointed by this disrespectful behavior before, but after my communication I now consider this as malicious as well,” he wrote.
He said the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t negate people of other ethnicities, rather it addresses the historic and specific issues of racism against black people in the United States.
While many people on social media cheered that Zuckerberg took his employees to task, others noted disapprovingly that Facebook's staff is only two percent Black.
During a Q&A following a panel discussion at today’s Black History Month celebration, a male student asked Black employees how they feel being a minority at the company.
“When you’re walking around campus does it come out more as a pride thing, or do you feel uncomfortable occasionally being kind of outnumbered?”
A panelist responded with advice to each student, saying, “From every step forward in your life from here on out you will be one of few people of color in every situation….It’s not necessarily a bad thing for you, it doesn’t hinder your success, but its something you just have to be aware of.”
The event recognized the racial disparity within the company by encouraging students to enter the career pipeline and help create more tech equity or, as one employee said, “tequity.”
“The big inspiration to me is the fact that they didn’t let the small population of African-Americans here steer them away. In fact it motivated them further,” said Henry Davis, a junior at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco.
“Today is opening me to the many different departments and interactions you can have.”