Facebook is touting a diversity myth
A view from Andy Pemberton

Facebook is touting a diversity myth

Rich white men are all too often the minority that's being empowered.

Hats off to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

At last, a chief executive of a major corporation – this one currently valued at $373bn – has the courage to make a real stand for diversity in the workplace. 

You see, Zuckerberg is deeply worried about minorities. 

In a recent statement to his employees, Zuckerberg "leaned in" on the issue of accepting other people’s views.

In this case, the minority he was concerned about was white male billionaires. 

You may not know this, but white male billionaires make up less than 1% of the US population. 

The very particular minority Zuckerberg had in mind was Peter Thiel, the man who invented PayPal. 

"Zuckerberg will not boot Thiel off the board at pro-diversity Facebook, despite his unsavoury views and questionable actions. Why? Because of diversity"

Thiel also happens to be an early investor in and board member of Facebook. (Fun fact: Thiel is one of eight members of Facebook’s board, all of whom are white and six of them men. Another member of that board, Marc Andreessen, recently made a statement on Twitter that appeared to support colonial rule in India.)

Thiel, you will recall, is the man who funded Hulk Hogan’s action against Gawker as an apparent act of revenge after the gossip site outed Thiel as gay. Gawker was shut as a result of Hogan’s legal case.

It’s the same Peter Thiel who in the past has suggested that democracy is "overrated" and who, in 1998, co-authored the book The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus, which criticised Stanford University’s valuing of campus diversity.

According to the publisher’s synopsis, the book also argued "campus hysteria over date rape – a phenomenon that has been greatly exaggerated – [was] leading to more unjustified restrictions of student liberties".

Thiel most recently pledged over $1m dollars to the campaign of Donald Trump, another white male billionaire. Thiel spoke on his behalf at the Republican National Convention earlier this year. 

The Trump presidential campaign has endorsed banning Muslims from entering the US, building a wall on the border with Mexico, and locking up political opponents and threatening journalists.

Trump, who likes to talk about groping women, doesn’t seem to like foreigners, although he does like Vladimir Putin. But then he’s a white male billionaire too.

Facebook’s staff is 52% white and 67% male. 
The company’s workforce is 2% black, 4% Hispanic, 38% Asian and 33% female

But, happily, Zuckerberg will not boot Thiel off the board at pro-diversity Facebook, despite his unsavoury views and questionable actions.  

Why? Because of diversity. 

In a note to his employees, Zuckerberg wrote: "We care deeply about diversity. That’s easy to say when it means standing up for ideas you agree with. It’s a lot harder when it means standing up for the rights of people with different viewpoints to say what they care about." 

Especially when what they care about is "less diversity". 

Luckily, Zuckerberg is not making this brave stand alone. Another rich white guy, also from Silicon Valley, is supporting Thiel. 

Sam Altman is president of celebrated incubator Y Combinator. He doesn’t like Trump and once compared him to Hitler. But he defends Thiel’s right to support the "Hitler-like" Trump, because of diversity. 

It is merely a coincidence that Thiel is also a part-time partner of Y Combinator. 

Some critics don’t understand this. They claim Zuckerberg and Altman are manipulating the diversity issue to suit their own ends. 

As one critic wrote: "Let no person who claims to give a damn about diversity and inclusion in one breath even begin to support and apologise for Thiel in another." Another wrote: "Women applying to Y Combinator, take a good look at their principled stand against a partner who supports a sexual predator."

According to its July 2016 "diversity update", Facebook’s staff is 52% white and 67% male. The company’s workforce is 2% black, 4% Hispanic, 38% Asian and 33% female.

And just look at the good work they do in their local San Francisco community. Facebook splashed $350,000 in grants donated to local non-profits this year and last. It got new thermal-imaging cameras for the local fire district and more. 

Facebook’s revenue in 2015, meanwhile, was $17.9bn.

Facebook says its mission statement is to "give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected".

It’s hard to see how this "mission" is being furthered by supporting a man who is, in turn, actively promoting a candidate believed by many to be racist and sexist. As others have pointed out, an act in support of racism is a racist act. An act in support of sexism is sexism.

So is Zuckerberg a white supremacist or raging sexist? Possibly not.  

But perhaps, as comedian Samantha Bee has pointed out, it’s easy to write off someone else’s bigotry when it does not apply to you. 

So can I humbly suggest an amendment to Facebook’s mission statement?

Perhaps it could run like this: "Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected unless one of our rich white male pals says otherwise."

Lean in to that.

Andy Pemberton is the director of Furthr
@andypemberton