The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Facebook’s workforce grew more diverse when it embraced remote work

Maxine Williams, the company’s chief diversity officer, said the unexpected benefit to expanding remote work options was that it helped the company improve diversity

People from underrepresented groups were more likely to opt to work remotely, according to Facebook's chief diversity officer. (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg News)
Placeholder while article actions load

Facebook was one of an array of companies to dramatically restructure remote work during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing employees to continue working from home while they avoided the spread of covid-19.

Now, Facebook Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams said there was an unexpected benefit to that workplace overhaul: it helped the company recruit and retain workers from underrepresented groups.

In the United States, remote job offers were more likely to be filled by people of color, people with disabilities and veterans, according to the company’s annual diversity report. Around the world, candidates who accepted remote job offers were also more likely to be women, the company found.

Among existing employees, people from underrepresented groups were more likely to opt to work remotely, according to Williams. She said the company is still studying why people from underrepresented groups are choosing remote work, but speculated some workers are seeking to locate where they feel more at home.

“Silicon Valley was never a place where Black people were predominant,” Williams said in an interview with The Post. “So you are seeing people choose places like Atlanta, New York.”

For some workers, office mandates aren’t just a pain. They’re harmful.

The report illuminates how the workforce at Facebook, which last year renamed itself Meta, is evolving as the company continues to expand its remote work options after pandemic-induced lockdowns subside. After more than two years of letting employees work from home, Facebook, like many companies, is evaluating the impact of these changes.

Facebook gradually made some remote options more permanent last year. Any Facebook worker can now ask to work remotely, and nearly 90 percent of such requests are granted, according to the company. Employees who opt to work remotely may receive an adjustment in their pay if they move to a location with a different cost of living.

Workers can also choose to work at home, under rules determined by their individual teams. Roughly 75 percent of Facebook teams have employees working together from different geographic locations, according to the company.

Between 2021 and 2022, Facebook saw slight jumps in the share of Black, Hispanic, multiracial and Asian employees in its U.S. workforce, while White workers dropped by 1.5 percentage points, according to the report. Leaders at the company also became more diverse, with the share of Black and Hispanic managers increasing by less than half a percentage point, it said. The share of women leaders increased from 35.5 percent in 2021 to 36.7 percent in 2022.

Overall, the share of women in the workforce increased to 37.1 percent in 2022 from 36.7 percent in 2021, according to the report.

Remote work might be particularly attractive to people of color who are more likely to experience subtle — and often unintended — expressions of bias, known as microaggressions, in the workplace. They might, for instance, be mistaken for another colleague of the same race or be pressured to discuss a traumatizing news event related to their community. Working from home is a layer of protection against these situations.

Some working mothers and people with disabilities have said the flexibility of remote work has allowed them to thrive at home and in their careers in ways that their old 9-to-5 schedule in the office didn’t.

A survey from Future Forum, a Slack-backed consortium, found 86 percent of Hispanic workers and 81 percent of Asian and Black workers in the United States preferred a hybrid or remote work option, compared with just 75 percent of White workers. Meanwhile, 52 percent of women around the world reported that they wanted work location flexibility at least three days a week, compared with just 46 percent of men.

But Facebook’s continued push to diversify its workforce is likely to face some challenges, especially as tech companies slow their hiring amid concerns of a looming recession sparked by rising interest rates.

Silicon Valley braces for tech pullback after a decade of decadence

The social media giant’s stock has declined more than 50 percent since the beginning of the year as it faces a barrage of marketplace pressures, including competition from upstarts such as TikTok. Facebook executives have already indicated that they are reevaluating their current workforce makeup to address the mounting pressures.

Williams, the company’s chief diversity officer, said Facebook has strategies to continue diversifying its workforce despite the company’s mounting economic challenges.

“Look it’s been a challenge from the jump. That’s the truth,” she said. “We are very hyper focused on how are we going to do this given the current environment.”

Loading...