Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, is on a tour of America. He says that he wants to “get out of my little bubble in San Francisco.” One supposes to learn about his customers and what life is like for normal people.
Zuckerberg stopped at Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal church on Sunday, where, as you may remember, Dylann Roof killed nine people in 2015. Writing on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg said that he learned while there about the importance of having a “strong community in place when a crisis hits.” And also that black people get stopped more by police officers than white people.
Heading north from the church, the Facebook founder visited North Carolina A&T State University today to take part in a new town hall series sponsored by the school’s chancellor, speaking to 200 students about fake news, Islamophobia, community, coding, and of course, diversity in tech.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that the tech community and industry has an issue with diversity,” Zuckerberg said in answer to a student’s question about what the industry should do to help tech become more diverse.
“We have to do a better job,” the CEO asserted, but tempered that by saying, “I think it’s going to take a little while.”
To explain why having coders of color in Silicon Valley was going to take so much time, Zuckerberg said, “You can’t just expect that you’re going to have a normal recruiting team go out and try to get folks and you’re magically going to solve a diversity problem that we have.”
“We need to make sure we train our hiring managers,” Zuckerberg added, saying, “If they have the choice between can I get the first person who’s good who could be on my team and I need to ship this product or would I rather put in an extra amount of time to get diversity, a lot of them have different pressures.”
Zuckerberg continued, saying that Facebook makes every one of its managers enroll in a course on unconscious bias; the CEO explained that he feels that “a lot of people who think they care about diversity actually still have a lot of these biases.” He went to note, “It’s often people who think they’re doing the best who are doing the worst.”
He concluded his remarks on the topic by saying, “If you focus on doing the best work that you can, then there’s a lot of opportunity out there.” If that really was the case, however, would the student have had to ask a question on improving diversity in tech?
After stumbling a bit over his answer on diversity, Zuckerberg did receive applause for his answer to a question on how he felt about Facebook Live being used as a check on police, “I feel great,” Zuckerberg said, “If we’re not going to give them body cameras, then we’ll give everyone a Live camera.”
Circling back to the diversity issue later on in the session, Zuckerberg took a question that asked what Facebook planned to do to forward social justice, particularly with respect to strengthening HBCUs. He responded by saying, “I’d almost put the question back to you and ask: are there things that you need in the push and the activism that you’re doing personally that we need to be doing better?”
The student who asked the question told Zuckerberg that he had a lot of ideas for ways Facebook could improve, and promised to talk to the founder after the Q&A session. It seemed that the students got a lot out of Zuckerberg’s stop; here’s hoping that the Facebook CEO learned just as much.