SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook, the world's most popular social network, released statistics on the makeup of its workforce that do not reflect the demographics of its users around the globe.
The lopsided numbers are just the latest from a major Silicon Valley company to paint a stark picture of an industry sector dominated by white men and are sure to escalate an already heated debate over the lack of diversity in the tech industry.
Nearly 70% of Facebook employees are men and 57% are white. Asians make up 34% of employees.
But Hispanics represent just 4% and African Americans are just 2% of Facebook's workforce.
When it comes to technical employees, the numbers are even more grim. Eighty-five percent are male, 53% white and 41% Asian. Hispanics make up just 3% and African Americans just 1% of the workforce.
At the top of the company, the statistics are no better. Seventy-seven percent of senior level employees are men, 74% are white and 19% are Asian. Hispanics account for 4% and African Americans for 2% of employees in high level positions.
"We build products to connect the world, and this means we need a team that understands and reflects many different communities, backgrounds and cultures," Maxine Williams, Facebook's global head of diversity, said in a blog post.
Technology is a key driver of the U.S. economy. It makes the products from iPhones to Google search that Americans use every day. Yet the companies that make these products do not mirror the demographics of the United States in race, gender or age.
The pressure is especially high for Facebook. Its users span races and cultures around the globe, and the majority of Facebook users are women, making it crucial for Facebook to have a diverse workforce, said Stanford fellow Vivek Wadhwa, author of the upcoming book Innovating Women.
Facebook finds itself in a bigger and brighter spotlight because its No. 2 executive is Sheryl Sandberg, one of Silicon Valley's most prominent female leaders and the author of the best seller Lean In.
She told USA TODAY earlier this month that the lack of diversity in male-dominated corporate America is "pretty depressing."
"Clearly Facebook has to step up now and do something about these numbers. They have to lead, not follow," Wadhwa said. "And not because it doesn't look good or that Sheryl Sandberg has been so vocal on this issue. Facebook has to do this for its own good and for its long-term growth."
For years Silicon Valley companies have resisted sharing diversity statistics with the public. But in recent weeks several companies led by Google released numbers under pressure from civil rights activist Jesse Jackson. He appeared at the shareholder meetings of Google and Facebook to demand the companies release the information.
"They must set specific, measurable goals, targets and timetables," Jackson said in a statement. "We will measure their results and hold companies publicly accountable."
Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as a meritocracy, a place where anyone with smarts, initiative and a great idea can make it, regardless of race, nation of origin, religion, politics, socioeconomic background or sexual orientation.
But statistics released by Facebook, Google and LinkedIn have exposed a stark reality: Hispanics and African Americans are still not taking part in this digital revolution.
Wadhwa says he gives credit to these companies for "coming clean" and taking steps to diversify their work forces.
Facebook says last year it launched a diversity team which has led to more hires and lower attrition for underrepresented groups. It has also formed partnerships with key groups to find more women and people of color. It's also offering training to employees in unconscious bias.
"We have a long way to go, but we're absolutely committed to achieving greater diversity at Facebook and across the industry," Williams said.