The first step in fixing a problem is admitting that you have one.
Facebook has done that, confessing late Wednesday that the vast majority of its workforce is male and white, especially in its upper ranks. Men make up 69 percent of Facebook's employees globally and 77 percent of its "senior-level" employees, the company said.
That percentage jumped to 85 percent when considering only "tech" employees, which include highly paid computer programmers and exclude lower-paying sales, public-relations and marketing positions. Silicon Valley stereotypically puts women in those jobs.
By way of comparison, women make up about half of the earth's population and the majority of Facebook users.
Facebook also gets no points for racial diversity, despite being headquartered in the cosmopolitan, multicultural San Francisco Bay Area: Whites make up 57 percent of the company's U.S. workforce and 74 percent of its senior ranks. Asians account for another 34 percent of Facebook's U.S. workforce.
The yawning gender divide in Silicon Valley is hardly new, but the attention tech firms are starting to pay to the problem is. Google and Yahoo issued their own gender and racial diversity reports in recent weeks, which were no more encouraging than Facebook's. Only 30 and 37 percent of the workforces at Google and Yahoo, respectively, are female.
These firms are required by law to disclose their gender and racial breakdowns to the federal government, but not to the public. So why air their dirty laundry now? Lately, civil rights activists, including Jesse Jackson, have been pressuring Silicon Valley to do more to diversify its ranks, writing letters to company boards and attending shareholder meetings.
Facebook in its press release touted all the things it's doing to try to build diversity in the industry, including "unconscious bias training" for workers and partnerships with groups like Girls Who Code and the National Society of Black Engineers.
Facebook already has enough PR headaches, for stuff like its privacy practices and paying a negative tax rate. Encouraging diversity, and maybe even hiring more people from underrepresented groups, could help Facebook polish its public image a bit without having to collect less data or pay more in taxes.